by Shoshanna Silcove
An eclectic crowd of standing room only of over four hundred women gathered for an evening of remembrance and inspiration in Melbourne last week. The gala event was the result of a collaboration of Rivkie’s Project, a tzedaka organization established in memory of Rivkie Barber OBM, and Mikveh Chaya Mushka.
The evening was chaired by Yehudis Krasnjanski to mark the first yartzeit of her dear friend and beloved shlucha Rivkie Barber who passed away after a short illness. Mrs. Krasnjanski became emotional when describing Rivkie Barber as a woman who was always laughing and making others laugh.
“Whenever times got difficult for her,” Mrs. Krasnjanski explained, “Rivkie would do something to support the mikvah. This particular mitzvah was very close to her heart.”
Rivkie’s Project was established in the week of Shivah last year as a campaign to increase awareness and also to raise the funds needed to maintain the physical amenities of the Chaya Mushka Mikveh. Funds for the evening went towards ongoing renovations. Rivkie’s friends have already donated specifically for one showcase bathroom that will be dedicated to Rivkie Barber, to be used by Kallos and other women new to the Mikva. Construction and refurbishment will begin shortly.
Timmy Rubin, longtime mivkah lady extraordinaire, regaled the audience with her usual aplomb and humor and reminisced about the mivkeh’s humble beginnings. She facilitated a panel discussion of three women, Jennifer Smorgon, Amanda Danby, and Keren Rabah. Each woman answered the question, ‘What do you tell women when they ask you why you go to mikveh?” and shared their own personal feelings of inspiration about the mitzvah.
The keynote speaker, Allison Josephs, founder and star of the Youtube sensation ‘Jew in the City’, mesmerized the audience with poignant and humorous stories of her own personal journey to Yiddishkeit. She described growing up in a fully assimilated home living the American Dream. Her search began at eight years old when she asked her parents ‘what are we here for?’ No answers would come until a high school Hebrew teacher began to teach her Torah. She went on to become the producer of ‘Jew in the City’, a Youtube series that focuses on smashing negative stereotypes of Orthodox Jews, especially women.
The spiritual inspiration of the evening was equally matched by the delicious catering of beautifully presented finger foods and desserts. Each woman surely came away with a positive perception of the mitzvah of tarahas hamishpacha and a warm feeling of camaraderie. “I have never seen an event in Melbourne that was so well attended,” one woman remarked, “and not just the Chabad crowd, but women from all different walks of life came.”