by Shoshanna Silcove
Focusing on the theme of ‘Achdus, Together as One”, two hundred women from around the Australian continent gathered this past weekend of Chof Av, in the Yarra Ranges of Melbourne for the twenty second annual Nshei Chabad convention.
Women came to the convention this year in anticipation of the well-known acclaimed international guest speaker Dina Hurwitz. Some had been following her on her blogs and videos online, while others had only heard of her reputation as an inspirational shlucha. Expectations for an inspiring experience were high and no one would walk away from this convention with those expectations unfulfilled.
The beautiful mountainous air and lush greenery along with the comfortable rooms, the ‘goody bags’, and abundant delicious catering, all painstakingly arranged by the tireless Melbourne Nshei Convention organising committee, made everyone feel relaxed and pampered.
Dina Hurwitz started off on Shabbos night by telling her and her family’s story. We heard about how she knew her wonderfully loving and talented husband since she was 14 when she told her parents that she was going to marry that boy who lived across the street. Even then she was drawn to his boundless simcha, many talents, and his enormously loving and open heart. “Yitzi was a person who could do everything, sing, dance, and he was always so full of simcha that he practically danced when he walked!” she told us wistfully. Life as a young shlucha was challenging but good as she and Yitzi worked to build a family and a Chabad House in Temecula, small town in California.
The audience remained riveted as Rebbetzin Hurwitz described the details of her husband’s diagnosis with ALS and how very quickly life changed for her and the entire family. In her authentic and unassuming way, sometimes with tears, but also with laughter, Dina’s account took the audiences’ breath away. Her inspiring message of hope, joy, resilience, bitachon, and love gave us a living example of a woman who is facing almost unimaginable challenges on a daily basis with strength and positivity. Mrs. Hurwitz is not in denial and not at all unrealistic. She presents herself as an ordinary Jewish girl, who grew up to get married and go on shlichas, but one who is able to cope with an extraordinarily difficult situation by applying the great teachings of our Rebbe, and Chassidus about how to live a life of faith in Hashem. Dina Hurwitz’s talks throughout the convention were all equally inspiring, intense, often humorous, yet poignant, leaving the ladies feeling exhilarated as we all seemed to travel on part of her journey with her.
Interspersed with the guest speaker were various classes and workshops on a range of relevant topics as well as Torah learning. All were of very high quality and given by experienced teachers and professionals from the Jewish community.
At the Meleva Malka, in honour of Chof Alef Av, a video of the Rebbe discussing the life of his father Rabbi Levi Yitzchak OBM was shown. A Nshei Chabad convention is never complete without some fun and entertainment and this one was no exception. A game based on the popular Family Feud game, which was renamed ‘Family Food’ to keep in line with the convention theme of ‘Achdus, Together as One’, was a roaring success. The entire room of a couple of hundred women all became engaged in the great fun and laughter. The “Family Food” game was followed by a live musical concert by some of our musically talented Nshei women which spurred everyone into a long night of song and dance into the wee hours of the morning.
“All the Nshei Chabad conventions are fun and inspiring,” one woman commented as she was heading for the bus ride home, “but this one was life changing.”
The combination of the remarkable inspiration by the unique shlucha Dina Hurwitz, the excellent workshops, the exuberant fun and entertainment, and the beautiful catering all made the twenty second annual Nshei Chabad convention a memorable experience of achdus that Australian Jewish women will be taking inspiration from for years to come.