By Chani Ezagui
I am still in shock and pained by the recent loss of my mother, Mrs. Chaya Basha Shuchat of blessed memory. It is not just me, as well thousands of people that she has touched. While we were sitting shivah we heard countless stories told by those she has inspired and continues to inspire.
The Hebrew date of my mother’s passing was the 29th of Iyar, during the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot known as sefiras haomer, when we count the days in anticipation of receiving the Torah. Each day represents another one of G-d’s attributes. My mother passed away on the 44th day of the Omer, which represents the attribute of gevurah sheb’malchus – strength within majesty. This attribute represents my mother perfectly. She was strong and persistent to carry out G-d’s will in a royal manner.
There is a saying in the Torah, ein melech b’lo am. A king is not a king without people who voluntarily accept his rule over them. A king is someone who connects with people and gets them to follow his leadership. My mother connected with people in a real way. It wasn’t just a hello and good bye. If you told my mother you were worried about something, she would follow up with a phone call and see to it that the problem was resolved. She worried about others. She would go about helping people physically and slowly influence them spiritually. She lived by the motto, “Dem shtikel broit is deiner vi meiner (This piece of bread that I have is yours just as it is mine, with emphasis on yours first.)
While growing up in my parents’ home we never sensed there were differences between people. To our parents everyone was equal. My parents warmly accepted people into their home and treated them as family, regardless of their background or situation. Our home was truly the home of Avrohom and Sara, open from all four directions.
While sitting shivah in the dining room of my mother’s home, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe we hosted so many guests in this small room.” I imagined it to be so much larger. I guess it was like G-d’s home, the Beis Hamikdosh. No matter how many people were there, there was always enough space for everyone.
My mother wasted no time. My phone in Florida would ring at the crack of dawn. It was Ma telling me to call someone or do something that was important, or to relate to me someone’s sorrows or simcha and act upon it. She wouldn’t let go; she would call back until things got done.
You would think that after my dear father, Reb Kalman Shuchat a”h, passed away, my mother would slow down, but that wasn’t the case. She increased in vigor to help and teach others.
Vehachai yeetain el liboi- and the living shall take to heart!
My mother always made me feel like I was an only child and I am sure she made my siblings feel the same. She would hang up the phone with the words “My Chanala, I love you.”
I take her life to heart and she will always be alive for me by continuing the life that she pursued.
As mentioned, my parents did tremendous amount of hachnasas orchim, opening their home to everyone and anyone. For many people who came to Crown Heights for the first time to experience a Shabbos, their first stop was at our home. She received many beautiful letters about her work in organizing children’s Shabbos gatherings (mesibas Shabbos), which she was very involved in even before she got married.
Where did my mother get this passion for others and enthusiasm?
Her connection to the Rebbe was commendable. While I was sitting with her during her last moments in the hospital, her eyes opened for a moment. I played the song “Sheyiboneh Bais Hamikdash” with the Rebbe and other niggunim (Chassidic melodies), and she gave a big smile and then cried. Niggunim always made her happy. When we were children she schlepped us to every farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) and anything that had to do with the Rebbe. She wanted to instill in us a strong sense of identity, as chassidim of the Rebbe. She has had loads of correspondence with the Rebbe even before she was married. That’s why she was driven in every area of her life, to open her home, to bring Jews closer to their creator, wherever she went and in any way.
I was lucky to have my mother come to us in Palm Beach, Florida, three times this year for simchas. She didn’t just come. She was actively involved, she became friends with people in our community and called them when she went back home. She taught children when she saw we needed help.
Yes, this is how my mother will live on and I am asking you to help me.
I live in an area where 60% of the families are intermarried. We currently have many children ages fifteen months to six years enrolled in our Jewish School of the Arts, a state-of-the-art preschool as well as Hebrew school combined with after school activities. For afterschool we pick up children from seven different public schools each afternoon. We plan to expand our school, to accept infants and add an additional grade each year.
Currently we are maxed out in our existing building and we are not able to accept more children. We have a campaign for expansion and our target is $180,000, to be able to accept more children right away. Please help us!
My mother, Mrs. Chaya Basha Shuchat, will live on with the good character, hiskashrus, generosity and hospitality that will be instilled in the children. No child will be turned away. Each child will be given a fair chance to get a top-notch Jewish education at the Chaya Basha Jewish School of the Arts and after-school program.
As my mother would say, “Did you take care of it already?” There is no time to waste. Please help my mother’s life be a living one.
May Hashem bless you with Health and Nachas, in a revealed way!
Please make checks payable to the Jewish school of the Arts,
844 Prosperity Farms Road
North Palm Beach, Florida 33408
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