In the spring of 1955, the Rebbe introduced the idea of women’s learning classes, encouraging women emissaries to assume the role of adult education teachers. At that time, I was still a newlywed – having been married in September of the previous year – and my husband and I were just starting out as Chabad emissaries in Cincinnati, Ohio. Being so new to the task at hand, I didn’t consider myself ready to be one of those teachers. However, at the urging of Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov, I made a phone call to a friend in an effort to organize a class. She suggested the names of three young women to join, and thus was started the first Chabad “Women’s Study Group.”
We grew from five to thirty women, who met on a regular basis to learn. We also organized luncheons and dinners for women from various walks of life. Throughout this time, the Rebbe provided constant support and encouragement and became effectively our program chairman.
Meanwhile, my husband started classes for college students at the Hillel House at the University of Cincinnati, while I learned with the girls in their dormitory. As well, my husband was invited to teach the Talmud by the students of Hebrew Union College, the Reform rabbinical school. When my husband asked if he should do this, the Rebbe replied that he should, but that “the students should come to you.” Indeed, they came to our apartment regularly for the next ten years.
After a time – this was in the summer of 1956 – I went to New York on my own to visit my parents and took the opportunity to have an audience with the Rebbe. Upon walking into the room, he asked me in Yiddish, “Why are you so pale?” I was shocked, because I thought I looked so good in the new clothes I had just bought for the occasion! I really didn’t know what to answer, but I told the Rebbe that I was newly pregnant and this may be why I was looking pale. The Rebbe asked me if I had household help. I didn’t, as we couldn’t afford it. Nonetheless, the Rebbe said that we should hire someone. (more…)