Close to a thousand women packed a hall in Stamford Hill, London, last week to hear Mrs. Chaya Gourarie, a sister of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, share deeply personal aspects of the case and an uplifting message of hope and faith.
Sponsored by Bais Brocha, an organization servicing women from all parts of England, the event drew an extraordinary number of participants, according to key organizer Mrs. Menucha Weiss.
By R. B.
Yesterday I was worried. Technically, I still could be. Would be. Although of course, shouldn’t be. But yesterday was yesterday and I won’t talk more about it today. Because today evoked a change in me.
Let me start from the begining.
The story that has taken over our lives in the past, namely, six months had arrived in my hometown to be retold once more. A huge annual event was taking place, in honor of a special chassidic (non- Chabad) organization which provides post-natal care to mothers of new born babies at a beautiful mother and baby home.
The evening is always well attended, many showing up to appreciate the Chessed almost every mother has benefited from. Expecting a large crowd, the venue was a large hall, one of the largest in the area.
But not large enough. Because this year, the guest speaker for the event was Chayale Gurary, sister of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. It was definitely not something the community wanted to miss and swarms of women and girls streamed into the room, like water cascading over rocks at the bottom of a gushing fountain. They came from everywhere in all shapes and sizes; Bobov, Belz, Satmar, Litvish, Sqver, Ger and of course, Chabad. My heart overflowed as fast as the crowd did, with love and amazement at the display of achdus. I felt proud to be a Jew and proud to be a Lubavitcher.
The hall filled so fast, I was glad to have a seat. Because once the first speaker had started, there were no empty chairs left and benches had to be brought in. By the time Mrs. Gurary began to share her thoughts, there was standing room only. But all matters surrounding me were pushed to the back of my mind along with those poor ladies standing at the back of the hall. I turned my attention toward the stage, to the woman who to me, stood as a pillar of immense strength and determination, alone on her platform, but helping to support so many with her inspiration.
It was my first time hearing the story from an almost firsthand perspective. Of course, in the limited time she had, Mrs. Gurary did not do the entire sorrowful tale justice but glazed over the finer details to speak about what only she, as a family member could- how the Rubashkins (and their immediate family) were dealing with the situation.
And as she went on to describe in detail Sholom Mordechai’s hardships, his trials, his Nisyonos, his unshakable Emunah in the face of Russian-like cruelty, not a sound filled that huge room. Not from the chairs, not from the benches, not from the very back standing row. To say a single word would be desecrating the Kiddush Hashem Sholom Mordechai makes every second that he sits in his cell.
It was when Chayale started to paint a picture of the family’s reaction so far to this tragic episode in their lives, that I took a moment to close my eyes and picture Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin’s face. A blurry image of him filled my brain and then slowly, fuzzily, my father’s face replaced it. I shook my head free of the image and opened my eyes with a start. It dawned on me in that moment the truth of the Rubashkin story, as Mrs. Gurary rightfully stated many times during her speech. It is not a case against the Rubashkin family, but a case against the entire Jewish people! This could have been my father, your father, or uncle or cousin or friend or brother-in-law. It is a direct attack a every person possesing a Neshoma.
The truth of her words had hit home, it seemed, to many of the attendees. I noticed some shaking their heads, others staring vacantly at the stage, their mind’s elsewhere…
Many more points were brought out during her encouraging and emotional talk. But while I went home with many messages and strong feelings, I couldn’t help but lift up my eyes heavenward. First in supplication to G-d, a plea to send redemption and to create a miracle to procure Rubashkin’s release. Look at Your people, I mouthed silently, how they have stripped themselves of all previous pride to gather together today as one. Trashing all frivolous arguments, petty rivalry to stand up for a fellow Jew. Never before have I seen such Achdus; it is touching to the point that my soul actually feels warm. This alone should stand in the defense of Sholom Mordechai up high.
The stars were coming up as I ended my wordless prayer. The image of Sholom Mordechai flitted in and out of my mind, merging constantly with that of my father’s.
A surge of gratitude suddenly flooded my heart as I vowed to appreciate always every blessing and source of happiness that I had in my life. All previous anxieties suddenly looked foolish and selfish in face of such pain and they melted away.
Yesterday I was worried. But today I am thankful and will always continue to be, no matter what life throws my way. Because really, is there any hurdle that Hashem cannot breach?