By Merkos 302 News Blog
Photos: Rivka Lifshitz
The sun shone brightly for nine-year-old Bracha Raichik one chilly afternoon last fall when she received a phone call from someone who introduced herself simply as Faigy Fellig from Crown Heights. Living on shlichus in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Chassidishe friends were hard for Bracha to come by and phone calls from like-minded girls were few and far between. Having been paired up with 19-year-old Faigy by Merkos Suite 302’s MyShliach for weekly chavrusa learning and farbrenging, Bracha’s Wednesday afternoons–in fact, her entire week–quickly took on a new dimension and soon became the highlight of the year to follow.
Last Thursday, Bracha was honored with the opportunity to express appreciation to Faigy from her place at the podium at MyShliach’s annual evening of appreciation. “I don’t go to a Lubavitch school so this is my weekly connection,” she explained to the crowd of 150 mentors and young shluchos. “I learn about things I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to learn about. We learn sichos and I also get a chance to improve my Yiddish. Faigy is very nice and also very consistent. I really appreciate all the effort she puts in.”
Bracha’s sentiments were echoed by 12-year-old Binie Harlig, shlucha to Henderson, Nevada, who described the way she waits all week long for the special phone call from Shternie Levitin, her “big sister” from New Haven, Connecticut. “MyShliach has not only given me a learning partner but also a Chassidishe mashpia,” she explained.
With a larger-than-ever number of MyShliach’s participants having flocked to Crown Heights for the Kinus, this year’s evening of appreciation was especially memorable. Observing as the young girls and their mentors prepared salads at the lavishly appointed salad bar, posed for photos together inside MyShliach’s signature photo booth, and decorated photo frames, Mrs. Malkie Wilschanski, director of the girls’ division, commented, “For many of them, it is their first time seeing each other face-to-face. Watching these meetings is indescribably heartwarming. The unspoken feelings and connection these girls have is palpable and very special.”
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, addressed the crowd, thanking the mentors for doing their part. “The Rebbe often described the young shluchos–specifically the girls–as dugma’os chayos. You are the ones setting the example and enabling these girls to live up to what the Rebbe wants of them,” he said.
“Though MyShliach has grown into a mosad that offers numerous other programs and services for the benefit of yaldei hashluchim around the world, the Ach/Achos Sheli chavrusa program still holds a most cherished spot in the minds and hearts of yaldei hashluchim and their parents,” notes Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos Suite 302. “It’s the focused attention and Chassidishe hashpa’ah these mentors provide that make all the difference.”
Mrs. Tzivi Kivman, shlucha to Mansfield, Massachusetts, described her daughter’s mentor, Dassi Mochkin from Rochester, New York, in the memento of thanks that was presented to each of the mentors along with a plush travel pillow. “She is caring, knowledgeable and makes [Sarale] feel so special to be a shlucha….”
From Caracas to California, China to Colombia, and dozens of countries in between, for many of the young shluchos, their mentors serve as a most crucial link, connecting them to a bas Chabad’s world of Chassidishe knowledge and hanhogos. Though high school and post-seminary girls are usually quite busy, many of them set aside an hour each week to make a difference in the life of a young shlucha. And what a difference.