“I remember my mother saying to me that some people were living normal lives though we were living an insane reality,” says Edith Rhodes, now 80, describing her journey between concentration camps as a child. Saved by her quick-thinking Aunt Riva, who later married her father and raised her, and her ability to blend in with the groups of women though she was just a child, Rhodes was one of the few children to survive the camps. In the Nissan N’shei Chabad Newsletter, Rhodes documents her family’s capture, and eventual escape from Europe.
“I didn’t really want to speak about the war,” says Rhodes. “When I was asked to speak for schools, I knew it would be too difficult for me.” Yet at the urging of her granddaughter Samantha, Rhodes did share her experiences in the 2014 documentary “Grandma’s Untold Story,” and spoke about them for the first time in May of 2014 to a live audience at Chabad of Northern Palm Beach Island.
The Rebbe himself had recently escaped Europe’s ashes when he established Gan Yisroel to be a “camp on the outside and a yeshivah within.” It was a revolutionary concept in 5716 (1956) to leverage the beautiful rural surroundings and the warmth of Chassidic life to nurture children’s spiritual growth, while engaging them in their favorite summer activities.
But the Rebbe had discovered a creative solution to the dilemma of America’s long summer vacation. Unlike Russia where kids learned year round, with time off only for Pesach and Tishrei, American kids had three months off, and were surrounded by the influence of “the street.”
The Rebbe explained: “Camp could be an opportunity to do what the yeshivah couldn’t do. It could be an island; it could provide an overall 24-hour experience.”
The Pesach N’shei Chabad Newsletter issue features some history of Gan Yisroel, along with excerpts of the Rebbe’s sichos about the key role summer camp can play in a child’s development. One surprise benefit the Rebbe spoke about was that kids would get a break from their “mothers who would otherwise spoil them unnecessarily…which is not at all healthy for the children, not spiritually or physically.”
This issue also launches an inspiring ten-part supplement exploring the famous Chabad dictum, Tracht gut vet zein gut. A compilation of thoughts, experiences, knowledge and Torah sources, this supplement delves into the origins of the phrase—the Tzemach Tzedek was the first to utter it—and how to channel the sentiment in an effective way (hint: towards Hashem). Tracht Gott, vet zein gut, says Rabbi Zalman Goldberg. Think G-d! Rather than wishing for a particular outcome, it turns out that the saying contains the wisdom to improve bitachon.
Faygie Fellig, cover artist, describes how she learned the power of words from a day at the beach. Miriam Feldman advocates shifting self-talk to more positive, gentle, and affirmative –especially before Pesach. She shares her mantra, “Hashem makes it easy for me to prepare for Pesach,” to allow for creative solutions for completing the myriad tasks before this holiday of freedom. Chanie Gorkin describes her “Worst Day Ever,” and Dr. Joseph Trachtmann tells how he helped a woman who had been in a coma for months to regain her vision by using her mind.
A reader shares, “The way I see it, tracht gut vet zein gut is the antithesis of worry. Having been in a position of responsibility from a very young age, I learned to worry as a child—it felt, and still feels, like I’m doing something about a situation, even when that something is only anticipating what might go wrong….”
To learn more about accessing bitachon, the importance of camp, and Rhodes’ riveting journey, get your new issue of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter, the one with the three birds on a branch. You can also download an e-version or subscribe in time to receive it by mail by visiting www.nsheichabadnewsletter.com.