Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am a stay-at-home mom living in an out of town community. Our rabbi and rebbetzin are wonderful, but since they have double-digit children and limited resources, they cannot provide more than the basics for our tiny community. Thus, there is no eiruv and no women’s shiurim and the Jewish day school does not provide any programs for pre-school children. I live on a lovely tree-lined block full of kids playing and mothers socializing and our library has plenty of activities for mothers and their toddlers, but none of these people are observant Jews. As our toddler cannot walk the winding country roads without a stroller for back-up, I am effectively shut out of the community on Shabbos. My husband has always relied on me to be the spiritual backbone of our family since he grew up secular and has trouble keeping up with a minyan or a shiur peppered with yeshivish verbiage, and yet here it is difficult for me.
I found out that a Chabad house just over the boarder of our town has a regular Wednesday night Tanya class that is open to all ages and genders. I had been to that Chabad house before for a Chanukah party and noticed that its lavish construction featured a playroom with giant glass doors leading to the open living room where the shiur was likely held. Therein lay the solution to our isolation and alienation problems. I thought we would go to the Wednesday night shiur as a family and partake of the wisdom imparted while my son heard it from the playroom. To my great consternation, after my husband shared our plan with the rabbi, he instantly forbade it. He insisted we hire a babysitter, even though we tried to tell him that our son was well behaved when he was surrounded by toys, but he would not hear of it. He pointed out quite profusely that this was not a class for young children. I tried explaining via email and Facebook that I was the only woman in my area who was Torah observant and that the burden was unreasonable and unsustainable, but they completely ignored me.
Mrs. Bluth, if that class was really not for children than why is this Chabad house allowed to make exceptions for its own children? If children shouldn’t be there than shouldn’t donor monies be used to pay for a proper shul building, and let the rabbi pay for his own housing from his salary, like the rest of us? I don’t understand the logic of buying shiluchim mansions while their shuls and services are not sufficient for the needs of the people. Do you really believe that if my husband was Mark Zukerberg, we would have been told to hire a babysitter?
I believe this sends a message that because we are not financially viable and can offer little to the upkeep of the shul, thus we be unworthy of any considerations from it. The rabbi’s insistence that we hire a babysitter also reeks of condescension and has caused me to feel a great resentment toward this Chabad house and the so-called shiluchim sent there to serve and assist. Here they are, living in the lap of luxury on tzedakah money, while they pick and choose who is worthy of their attention.
My husband keeps defending them. He believes that, as human beings, the shiluchim are justified in snubbing us since we are working class and unlikely to produce donations large enough to be worth their outreach. I find that totally unacceptable!
The acidic tension of your letter is palpable and as I read and reread your letter, there seemed to be a deep resentment stemming from jealousy that convoluted your core complaint. If you are put out because you feel the shluchim are negligent in their duties towards the need of the community they were sent to minister to, and in particular your own need of their service, then your course of action should be to contact someone at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn and make them aware that you are having a problem with their representatives. However, if I am correct that you are equally disturbed that these people live a grander lifestyle than you think they should and that it goes against all that Lubavitch and Chabad stand for or espouses to represent, then I believe, it points to a personal failing on your part.
I totally agree with you that these Chabad shiluchim are not performing the service they were sent to do in your community by ignoring your request to attend the shiur and finding a way to help you care for your son during that time, as it is the only outlet for you to get the chizuk you need. However, they cannot be held responsible for the fact that you are the only observant Jews in your area. What they are beholden to do is help you find a solution whereby you can attend the shiur without any hardship or expense. What I will not bend to is agreeing with your reasoning as to why the shiluchim are living in a mansion when you are struggling. This is not for you or me to discuss or even consider as anything to do with your problem. There are many legitimate reasons for the grand property of the Chabad house – it may have been a bequest or donation to Chabad to be used in that fashion and that has nothing to do with your complaint.
Sit down with yourself and examine where your heart truly is. As the Torah observant woman you say you are, there should be no room in your soul for jealousy. Call the main office of Chabad and ask them to reach out to their shiluchim to do the right thing by you and don’t let the great good this wonderful organization does in the name of Torah and Judaism be marred by one misadventure.