I first met Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory, after I had just become engaged to the Bronx borough president, Robert Abrams. Rabbi Mowshowitz, an acquaintance of Bob’s, arranged an appointment for us with the Rebbe, for us to receive a blessing prior to our marriage.

I remember arriving at 770 at midnight, but we did not enter the Rebbe's room until 3:00 AM. The Rebbe was very gracious, and that appointment started an ongoing relationship which continued for many years.

The Rebbe believed in women’s involvement in communal affairs. On one of our visits to the Rebbe, Bob, as a public officer, was describing his communal activities since he last saw the Rebbe. At one point he requested the Rebbe’s guidance on a particular communal issue. The Rebbe turned to me and asked, “So what about you? We are in the period of women’s liberation. You must have a view. What’s your opinion on the issue?”

Another story: One time, in the course of a farbrengen (public chassidic gathering), Bob presented the Rebbe with an honorary proclamation in honor of his birthday. He informed the Rebbe that he was bringing this proclamation on behalf of all the citizens of the Bronx, Jews and non-Jews alike. The Rebbe asked him, “Where is your wife?” I remember seeing Bob pointing towards the women’s section. Later Bob told me that he had told the Rebbe that I was right there, behind the glass window.

When I was forty-eight years of age I had only one child, Rachel, and my husband and I wanted another child. We went to a doctor who was considered an expert in the field, and she told us that we had less than a five percent chance of having another child. Throughout the time when we were visiting doctors and doing research on the possibility of having another child, we had not told anyone about this, not even our parents. We were hoping and praying alone that we would have another child.

Every year on Hoshana Rabbah (the final day of the holiday of Sukkot), we would come to the Rebbe to receive a traditional piece of honey cake and a blessing for a good and sweet year. That year we arrived directly from a funeral which Bob and I had attended; it was the first time we had not brought Rachel with us to the Rebbe.

My husband and I bring newborn Becky to the Rebbe.
My husband and I bring newborn Becky to the Rebbe.

Out of the blue, the Rebbe looked at us and gave us his blessing for “an addition to the family within the next year.” I was stunned. How could he have known that this is what we wanted? We had made no such request of the Rebbe, nor did we tell any of the Rebbe’s secretaries about our wish. It was tremendously encouraging to me, and many times throughout the year I thought about the Rebbe’s blessings, picturing the moment when the Rebbe gave us that special blessing.

Six weeks later, on Thanksgiving, I tested myself on one of those home pregnancy tests and it turned blue, indicating a positive result. I remember asking Rachel what color it was, and she said it was blue. I asked her again, “Are you sure it’s not white?” And she said, “No, Mom, it is definitely blue!”

I immediately went to the doctor’s office for a “real” test. Actually, it was our daughter’s pediatrician, because most doctors were not in on Thanksgiving Day. He called back to say that the test was positive . . . but there must be some mistake, because it simply could not be that I was pregnant! Instead, he advised that I take another test. Sure enough, the second test was positive as well. I was absolutely ecstatic.

A year later, in my fiftieth year, I gave birth to a wonderful girl, Binyomina, or Becky, named after my father-in-law, Binyomin, who was a very fine and special man.

The day I went to the hospital, Rachel, ten years old at the time, was at home. The phone rang, and Rachel answered. It was Rabbi Krinsky, one of the Rebbe’s secretaries, calling at the Rebbe’s behest. “Is everything okay with your mom?” he asked.

“I think so,” Rachel responded. “She went to the hospital a few hours ago. I think she is about to have a baby.” As it turned out, I was delivering our second child at that moment when Rabbi Krinsky called on the Rebbe’s behalf!

When Becky was a few months old, we went for our traditional annual Hoshana Rabbah visit to the Rebbe. Normally, the line of people waiting to receive the Rebbe’s blessings extended for three or four blocks along and around the Crown Heights streets, but the chassidim were always so very nice to us. When our car would arrive, somehow, somebody would come and lead us to the front of the line, sparing us the long wait.

We had the little infant in our hands. The Rebbe said, “I see you brought the addition to your family.” This was a year later, and the Rebbe used the exact words he had used one year earlier. I said that we wanted to thank the Rebbe very much for giving us this beautiful child.

Becky and me.
Becky and me.

“No, it wasn’t me,” the Rebbe said. And he lifted his hand and pointed towards the heavens.

This was the Rebbe, always shifting the focus away from himself. I remember another occasion when Bob presented a proclamation to the Rebbe, and he praised the Rebbe for all his work. The Rebbe’s response? “It is not me, it is the movement.”

The Rebbe was always focused on the other person, his sensitivity to others heightened to an incredible degree. He practically never left his house, but he knew all that was going on worldwide. This was one of his great powers, his great strength. When standing before him, you felt that you were the only person in the world. He never made you feel that he was greater than you; he brought out the best in you.

The Rebbe himself had no children, yet he gave so many people blessings for children. We are all his children.