By Menachem Posner, Chabad.org Shavuot presented some problems last year…
Thirty-five shluchos from remote locations in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico enjoyed four days of rejuvenation, connection, and inspiration at a shabbaton in Morristown, New Jersey organized by Ufaratzta Circle, a project of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch’s Suite 302.
United by their common bond of vast geographic distance from the nearest fellow shluchos, Ufaratzta Circle provides a lifeline of connection through specially created WhatsApp and social media groups, webinars, and workshops. Last week’s shabbaton brought some of these shluchos under one roof for a Kinus tailored to suit their unique circumstances.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky welcomed the Shluchos at the Ohel with an inspirational message about the Rebbe’s vision of Shlichus as a means to reach literally every Jew, no matter how far.
Over the course of the weekend veteran Shluchos Vivi Deren, Chaya Teldon and Ufaratzta member shluchos Perl Krasnianski, Shani Katzman, Etel Weg and Estie Ciment farbrenged with the shluchos, sharing words of chizuk and inspiration. Sara Witkis, LICSW led a practical session addressing the unique challenges distance and isolation can bring to marriage and parenting.
“It means so much to the Shluchos to have this opportunity to connect.” said Chani Goldberg of Merkos Suite 302, Ufaratzta Circle coordinator. “One Shlucha who couldn’t stay for Shabbos flew in just to be at the Ohel with everyone on Wednesday when the pan kloli was read.”
“As a young Shlucha it was especially encouraging to see the “older” Shluchos who have raised beautiful families in their mekoimos hashlichus,” Said Miriam Hurowitz, Shlucha to Altuna, Pennsylvania, “and who are still on fire about their Shlichus even after all these years.”
“Ufaratzta Circle and Suite 302 didn’t miss a beat!” said Chaya Goldberg, Shlucha to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. “We were wined and dined to no end, and just when we thought we had no room to eat anymore we ate again! On china! With waiters! Simply unbelievable. The vaad thought of everything down to N’shei Chabad newsletters to read over shabbos.”
Rounding out the five-star retreat experience were an on-site shaitel salon, sponsored gifts, and a spa event with mani-pedis and massages. The real recharge, though, came from the shluchos simply being together, drawing support from one another, and knowing that when they go home, even though they are geographically far away, they are not alone.
Chaya Shapiro, Shlucha to Flagstaff Arizona summed it up as she got ready to leave. “What really made this Kinus so incredible was getting to meet fellow shluchos in similar situations, sharing in our struggles and our triumphs, laughing and crying together, inspiring and encouraging one another.”
“There’s so much potential in the friendships that formed over the kinus.” Said Devora Lea Levertov, Shlucha to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Ufaratzta Circle coordinator. “It’s created a whole new support system for so many women who live so far away, and an opportunity for continued friendships and networking and just a feeling of being a part of a bigger community- the Ufaratzta Circle community.”
“This weekend has inspired, inflamed and strengthened my passion to continue to bring yiddishkeit, Torah values, and the Rebbes messages to Jews throughout the state of Wyoming. I know that when I’m feeling isolated in my own makom hashlichus, I’m not alone,” said Raizy Mendelsohn, shlucha to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and one of the kinus coordinators.
Faigy Andrusier, Shlucha to Manchaster VT, echoed her sentiments. “A kinus like this reminds me in a very tangible and palpable way that I am not alone, I have sister Shluchos just like me.”