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Chava Green

Chava Green is a doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religion with a focus on Jewish Studies and feminist ethnography.  She received her B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and studied biblical texts and Jewish Mysticism for two years in Jerusalem and Tzfat.  Her research considers the relationship between feminism and Hasidic mystical texts in the formation of gender discourse in the Chabad Hasidic community.
Chava received a grant from TIJS to attend the International Conference of Shluchos.

Brooklyn, NY

My First Time at the International Conference of Chabad Shluchos
By Chava Green
            Chabad is an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic sect characterized by its mystical philosophy, outreach activities and international presence. Being a Chabad Rebbetzin (wife of a rabbi/rebbe) is not a tag-along position to the Rabbi nor a job in any simple sense of the word.  Chabad Rebbetzins are called “Shluchos,” which translates blandly into English as “Emissaries,” but it takes more than a word to capture the affective response this word conjures.  A Shlucha is a woman on a mission.  She lives her life based on the teachings of the Rebbe, the religious and spiritual leader of Chabad-Lubavitch, in a way that often demands self-sacrifice and the use of all of her resources. Her position running a Chabad center could bring her to any location in the world where she raises a large family, cooks for tens or hundreds, teaches classes, runs a preschool and Hebrew school, and strives to maintain her own religious inner world.  Every year on the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, on Chof Beis (22) Shvat, the international community of Shluchos gather in Brooklyn, NY to recharge, learn, and return to their communities inspired.
The goals of the conference participants are diverse.  Some attend every session, taking notes and asking questions. Some who come from far away mainly want to see friends and family.  Others use this opportunity to buy a new wig and to go shopping. Some come just for the closing banquet where there are inspirational speakers and an international role call. As both a Shlucha and a scholar I tried to get a taste of it all. My favorite part was meeting shluchos from all over the world. Over the weekend, I spoke to women from Belgium, Italy, South Africa, California, Canada, England, and the list goes on.  Each one has her own story and yet all share a common goal.  There is a pervasive feeling of being at a family reunion.
One of the main themes from the speeches and sessions was the concept of “tracht gut vet zein gut,”- think good and it will be good. Different shluchos spoke about the importance of maintaining one’s positive outlook and actively controlling one’s thoughts as a key method in overcoming life’s hardships and staying connected to your goals.  My friend, Miriam Lipsker, the Shlucha for Emory University, said that in the past the talks were all about people’s successes but over time the younger generation of shluchos pressed for more discussion of the struggles people go through as well.  The Thursday night dinner had a hilarious video of the things Shluchos google, like- ‘how to text 200 people at once,’ ‘is it legal to teach a class on as your own,’ ‘how to buy a property with $10,000,’ ‘can i feed 56ppl with 6 chickens’.  We were crying from laughter.  But then the talks started and we were just crying. One woman spoke about getting diagnosed with leukemia, another had secondary infertility and the rest were equally heart breaking.  As I was leaving the hall later that night I overheard a woman say to her friend, “We should have bentched (blessed) that girl!  Do you know how much power we have in this room full of shluchos?!”  I felt this sentiment over the weekend- the tremendous power of being surrounded by women who live their lives on miracles and are determined to change their small portion of the world.