Shlucha Chanie Klein of Eilat will be speaking at the Kinus Hashluchos banquet about her intensive efforts to help the 70,000 displaced Israelis in her city.
By Bruria Efune/Chabad.org
To most Israelis, Eilat is so far away that it might as well be in another country. The nearest big city is Be’er Sheva, and that’s a three hour drive away, through mostly empty desert.
Chanie Klein says that’s why Israelis of all backgrounds are so much more relaxed and open to learning more about Judaism in this city—just as they would when they’re backpacking around the world and bump into Chabad anywhere else. There’s a peace about the city that makes it the ideal place for exploration and growth, and that’s what she always aims to provide as co-director of Chabad of Eilat.
The resort-city emissary is scheduled to be a featured speaker on Sunday evening, Feb. 4, at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos) in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her speech is expected to have an in-room audience of more than 4,000 women and will be broadcast to hundreds of thousands more who will tune in worldwide to the webcast on Chabad.org.
In normal times, Chanie and her husband Rabbi Mendi Klein serve 50,000 Jewish locals and thousands of tourists who flow through the city each year. They offer Jewish education programs, visits to schools, Shabbat meals, holiday programs, and more to inspire Jewish living.
They also serve thousands of Israel Defense Forces troops stationed year-round at eight nearby military bases. The number of soldiers in the region has more than doubled since the start of the war with Hamas in October.
Since the murderous terrorist attacks on October 7th, Klein has been busy with an entirely new focus: taking care of displaced families from both the Gaza Envelope communities as well as the cities and towns in the far north of Israel that have been evacuated amid attacks from Hezbollah.
Klein isn’t new to the world of being a Chabad emissary. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wis., where her parents, Rabbi Yisroel and Brocho Devorah Leah Shmotkin, have been emissaries of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, since before she was born.
“My parents were always so wholly dedicated to the Rebbe’s mission,” says Klein. “I grew up admiring them, and wanting to do the same.”
It wasn’t just watching her parent’s activities; the young Chanie Shmotkin also felt directly empowered by the Rebbe’s instructions to every Jew.
“Even as kids, we were all given missions. The Rebbe told us all to make our bedrooms into a “Cheder Tzivos Hashem,” a room belonging to G‑d’s army. We brought to our rooms a charity box and Chitas–containing a prayer book, Chumash, Psalms, and Torah–and instantly our own rooms were part of repairing the world. The Rebbe told us that everything we did mattered.”
The young Klein felt empowered by her parent’s love for the Rebbe’s mission, and the Rebbe’s message that every Jew has the power to add light and inspire goodness in this world.
Over the last fifteen years in Eilat, Klein got to do exactly that–and when a new challenge popped up at her door, she was ready to tackle it head first.
Immediately after Simchat Torah, the tiny coastal city suddenly absorbed 70,000 displaced Israelis distributed between 44 hotels.
“They arrived with no time to pack, full of trauma,” says Klein. “Then they were placed in hotels with no school or programs for their children. The needs were endless, and no one was efficiently addressing it.”
Klein set to work, first with the very basics, baby gear for new mothers, and then washing machines for the hotels so that the displaced could wash the little clothing they had. Then she opened a preschool in her home and soon expanded it to a children’s program in every hotel.
Within a month, Klein was directing regular programs in all 44 hotels, including daily children’s clubs, bedtime circles, weekly challah bakes, women’s circles, and more. She was also continuing to serve IDF troops, holding classes and challah bakes for women soldiers and providing a home-away-from-home for all.
“These are the people who tended to and guarded the Land of Israel with their own hands,” Klein says. “They’re holy Jews, of course we need to do what we can to give back to them.”
Asked how she’s feeling about walking onto the big stage in New York, Klein only says she’s grateful that she can bring the story of the thousands of displaced Israelis to the forefront, and hopes that she can continue to do her job as the Rebbe’s emissary to every single Jew.
“This year’s Kinus comes when the Jewish people worldwide, especially in Eretz Yisroel, are experiencing tremendous upheaval. The Shluchos have been on the frontlines, addressing the physical and emotional challenges of their communities nonstop,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Chairman of the International Conference of Shluchos and Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch. “We hope spending time with and hearing from fellow Shluchos at the Kinus will infuse them with new strength to continue their critical mission.”
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org