JNet volunteers from around the world convened in Crown Heights…
By Mendel Sasonkin
It didn’t occur to me how powerful this simple decision would be. I was doing what every Lubavitcher does, volunteering to help another Jew. Now it’s a decade later and when Sylvia told me that she couldn’t learn anymore I was devastated!
I was a typical newlywed living in Crown Heights when my husband asked me if I knew about JNet. He already had a study partner for a while and asked me if I would be interested as well. I had spare time, so I said sure, why not?
My new chavrusa (study partner) was Sylvia.
Sylvia is a wise elderly lady. She would say thank you when we finished and never complained if I called a few minutes late. Throughout the week I was busy, so we decided to learn on Saturday night after Shabbat ended. This turned out to be a great blessing for me. We started learning and it proved to be a pleasant experience. We learned Chassidic insights on the weekly Torah portion and many talks by the Rebbe. She was fascinated to see that the Torah teachings are applicable today and we would brainstorm together to make what we learned relevant to our lives. Thanks to her I was “living with the times”! As mothers and especially Shluchos (Chabad emissaries) we have many responsibilities and we are constantly busy nourishing others. Finding time to nourish our own spiritual selves can seem an almost impossible task. This was my spiritual anchor and thanks to JNet, I never felt “out of it”.
We were very consistent and almost never missed a week in over ten years! She was hospitalized a few times, but she made sure to bring along her book for our study session! When I would go to the Kinus Hashluchos (Chabad’s annual women’s convention) I would bring along copies so we shouldn’t miss a week. My children knew not to disturb when I was learning with her and I would’ve probably ignored them if they did. It happened a few times that she called and one of my children would say, mommy can’t learn this week, she just had a baby! Those were the few times we missed.
Although Sylvia lives under an hour away from me, It was not until a few years into our studying that I met her for the first time. My mother came to visit and wanted to meet Sylvia, so we went together to see each other for the first time.
Unfortunately, Sylvia is now physically unable to study (she is over 90!). It is hard to re-adjust life without this important partner. I was thankful to JNet for setting me up with another chavrusa right away. I Highly recommend everyone to have their own chavrusa, definitely for the student’s sake, and more so for ourselves! Don’t get discouraged if a few don’t work out. For some students, even the few times that you learn can have a powerful impact on their lives. You may be surprised at how much it can mean for you as well.