On Jewish Women, Education, Philanthropy


On Jewish Women, Education, Philanthropy

by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky - CHABAD LUBAVITCH HEADQUARTERS

February 16, 2009

Excerpts from Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky’s address at the International Conference of Chabad Women Representatives.

(lubavitch.com) Rebbetzin Chaya Moussia, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, took great personal interest in the well being of the Shluchim and Shluchos, and truly regarded them as family. She was aware of the various and respective difficulties they contended with, and was moved by their dedication. Like a mother, she always cared to know how they were faring—materially, physically. She wanted to know details about their struggles and their achievements, and had tremendous appreciation and respect for their dedication to their Shlichus. Often she expressed admiration for your resourcefulness. I imagine that now, during these hard economic times, she would take pride in your perseverance and determination.

The economy is a topic of concern to us all. At a time when Jewish philanthropy has suffered a major blow—not only by the financial crisis, but because of the scandal that has robbed Jewish philanthropy of so much, it compels all Jewish organizations that depend on public charities to fund their activities,  to take a closer look as to how they were handling their money.

There’s a lot to learn of course, and the economists will be chewing on this one for a long time. But I think that it illustrates, with striking clarity, the wisdom in the Rebbe’s general approach to tzedaka—that it be a truly collective effort. The Rebbe wanted everyone—every individual to participate in tzedaka giving, no matter his or her financial status. We saw this at the phenomenon of the “Sunday Dollars” during which the Rebbe asked each individual he met with to give tzedaka, and exhorted everyone to make a daily habit of it, regardless of the amount.

But keeping money, intended for the furtherance of Jewish matters, in endowments was clearly objectionable to the Rebbe. In all my years working in the Rebbe’s office it was anathema. 

Furthermore, the Rebbe insisted that if we are doing our job right in terms of supporting Jewish education, we should find that the need, or the demand, always exceeds the supply of funds. I once heard the Rebbe explain this position saying that if you have sufficient funds for Jewish education, it indicates that you are not doing enough. The Rebbe compared this to a healthy person who, having satisfied his hunger and thirst knows that he will soon be hungry and thirsty again. This is a sign of good health.

So it is, he said, regarding the financial support of Jewish education.  Though we would love to see all of our institutions secure with an endowment, the reality is such that the needs, the cries for help that are heard day by day, hour upon hour, are not yet being met. And who can tell a hungry child to wait until tomorrow, or deny a child a proper education, because our funds are salted away in an endowment fund, or tied up in some investment?

Permit me a word about organized Jewish philanthropy. Various Jewish philanthropic organizations. Jewish communal fund raising leaders need to recognize that the answer to Jewish continuity is to be found in reaching Jewish youth with an authentic Torah-true Jewish education that involves a real Jewish living experience.

There is no other way around it. We know, we’ve seen the results. And we are happy to share the experience we’ve gained through the achievements of Chabad Shluchim. And we invite them—leaders of the major Jewish philanthropic organizations—to join hands with us!

So many today, who’ve discovered that their own lifetime of savings or investments have gone, evaporated—benefiting no one—not themselves, nor any charity, are now wishing they would have given their money to a charitable cause. Many wistfully imagine what their millions might have achieved, had they only chosen to respond to the immediate needs of the hour that have slipped by. I cannot resist the thought: imagine what Chabad-Lubavitch would do today with a gift of several hundreds of millions of dollars, a tiny fraction of the monies recently lost. Imagine the dramatic difference we would see, immediately, in education and other areas of Jewish life that are starved for funds. The entire international landscape of Jewish life would change dramatically for the better.

Instead, we are learning of layoffs and cutbacks and downsizing. At the same time, Chabad Shluchim—though not spared the collateral damage of the crisis, continue to produce, to work and to achieve in no lesser degree than before the crisis. It’s not that our Shluchim, and Chabad-Lubavitch as a whole, are not affected by the worst economic crisis since who knows when. It’s just that cutbacks are not an option in Chabad, when the product we are talking about is life itself.  As the Rebbe expressed it: Chabad is in the business of saving lives. And when life is at stake, cutbacks are not an option.

Instead, the Chabad Shlucha is commited to work harder, more creatively, more passionately, more resolutely. And when others are certain she has exhausted all her reserves,  “She brings her food from afar . . .” (Proverbs) Mimerchak tavi lachma--the Chabad Shlucha amazes them with her strength, her sacrifice and her indomitable spirit.

You shluchos are the engine that propels the successful mission of your family. You are the ballast that keeps the stability—the equilibrium—“sanity” if you will—the joy of your family throughout the unique complexities of shlichus life. You are the ones who care and nurture your family with calm and warmth and love. And you are the very mighty anchor providing the compass and stability in the extraordinary everyday lives that you and your families lead.

Never forget to take care of yourselves as you take care of others. You must always be healthy and strong to keep the fires of  shlichus burning. The Rebbe needs you – the Jewish people needs you, happily and in good health. The world needs your light.

“Her light does not go out at night.” (Proverbs) Lo yichbeh ba-layla nerah—like the Rebbetzin, and like the kedoshim Rivki and Gabi Holtzberg, who continue to give light when darkness has set in, so too, are you, the Chabad Shluchos, who continually reach out to those in need, finding ever new and creative ways to draw in more Jewish souls, illuminate more lives, no matter the constraints. For you, the Chabad Shluchos, take your sustenance from a spiritual resource that never dries up.

This is your empowerment, these are the blessings of the Rebbe and the legacy of the Rebbetzin, that make it possible for the Mishna to say that the dancing of the Jewish women following the destruction of the Temple was the greatest of joyful holidays for the entire Jewish people.

May your dancing during this kinus and rejoicing tonight at this illustrious conference evoke that joy of 15 Av, and may it be the precursor, finally, to the ultimate joy.

 Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky is Chairman of the worldwide Educational and Social Services arms of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement

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