In a letter written to Rabbi Shimmy Weinbaum, Azerbaijan shliach Rabbi Mendy Leichter shares the story of his daughter Feigi, and joining the Chidon had such a powerful effect on a young shlucha in a far-away country.
Dear Rabbi Weinbaum,
I want to thank you.
You gave our daughter Feigi, shlucha to Azerbaijan, the gift of Chidon. We live almost 6,000 miles away—and yet, she was able to participate so fully that she made it to the Chidon gold trophy!
Wow. Merely writing these words fills me with tremendous emotion and gratitude, because this was not at all an easy journey for us.
I will share with you some of the hurdles that we overcame along the way:
Our first major difficulty was the language barrier. We are on shlichus in Azerbaijan, and our family speaks Hebrew, Russian, and Azerbaijani—not English. Feigi was first exposed to English through Hachayol Magazine and Chitas for Kids, though most of the English she now knows is from the Yahadus Book Series. Feigi worked hard, ultimately achieving a solid grasp of English steeped in Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit, and even a little Yiddish—all because of Chidon.
Another huge challenge was the tests. During the first two years especially, preparing for—and taking!—the tests in a new language and based in a completely different time zone, was really tough.
I’ll describe some details of Feigi’s first year in Chidon:
We worked hard to learn and study the material together. She committed herself to the goal, and invested much time and energy in the learning. Finally, we made it to the last stretch! The trophy test was held at 12:00 am Azerbaijan time, as part of the back-to-back schedule with the final test and gameshow event (which we eagerly watched online).
Needless to say, with all of the excitement, she took the trophy test after very little sleep and with much stress.
And then, we faced a huge hit: the winners were announced, but our Feigi didn’t win anything, not even a bronze.
Rabbi Weinbaum, this was one of our most challenging nights on shlichus.
After so many hours of hard, hard work, here we were with such a heavy disappointment.
But I knew that we wouldn’t break.
Baruch Hashem, many heart-to-heart talks later, Feigi agreed to register for the next year and try again. And so, we ordered the new book.
Except, even that was not so simple…
At the time, a war had broken out in Azerbaijan, and, along with Covid complications, the mail system around the world was not very reliable (to say the least). How were we going to get the book?!
Incredibly, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Rabbi Mendy Shanowitz from MyShliach and Rabbi Glick from Living Lessons (creator of the Yahadus Book Series), they managed to do the impossible, and the book arrived!
We were starting well after the rest of the Chidon world, and jumped full-swing into the learning. Mrs. Risa Brikman of MyShliach was there to support Feigi through the process, even sending her gifts of encouragement when additional hurdles arose!
Then, when the trophy test day arrived, we encountered some major technical complications. It would have been easy—and quite understandable!—to give up, but Feigi held on tight, and managed to complete the test. When the winners were announced, lo and behold, she won the bronze trophy!
Not only did she win, but you, Rabbi Weinbaum, with your special magic, announced her success on stage. And, after all of the hard work, complications, and unknowns, our Feigi felt like a million dollars—all the way in Azerbaijan.
From this point on, everything got easier.
With our previous experiences behind us, we made sure to arrange for the coming years’ books in advance. And once again, the amazing collaboration of Tzivos Hashem and MyShliach pulled it together for us! Baruch Hashem, the books arrived by Menachem-Av. We could finally begin learning at the beginning of Elul.
After an orderly schedule of learning, studying, and testing, we reached the trophy test once more. R’ Moishe Shapiro of MyShliach supported us through the process, and Feigi won her first gold trophy! We all gathered around our home computer, watching excitedly as the win was announced on stage.
This year, 5783, Feigi was fully motivated. Since we had already received the book one year prior, we again began learning in Elul.
And, as the final test approached, we decided to give Feigi the gift of experiencing Chidon in-person, and booked a flight to New York.
Let me tell you, the cost was well worth it! The warmth and love which Feigi received from the girls, counselors, and staff at the Ultimate Chidon Experience was truly special; memories to last a lifetime. She was even given the honor to speak at the banquet!
Then, back in Azerbaijan, we were blessed to experience another shining moment as we looked to our screens during the live awards ceremony. Feigi was proclaimed the second-time winner of the gold trophy!
At one point, Feigi turned to me and said, “Tatty, do you know what was so special about the Chidon Experience? 250 girls my age, from all over the world, came together to celebrate and support one another. They all get it. I felt like my hard work and achievements were noticed and appreciated.”
R’ Shimmy, the holy work that you do is simply amazing.
The feelings of motivation, unity, and holiness that we received from your shlichus will remain with us for a long time. Perhaps forever.
I wish to conclude this letter with immense gratitude to the Rebbe, who gave us the z’chus to be part of Chidon; to our head shliach Rabbi Berel Lazar for his constant interest and encouragement in Feigi’s chinuch (one young shlucha among many!); and to you, dear Rabbi Weinbaum, for leading Chidon in such a wonderful way.
A groise Yasher Koach! I truly cannot say it enough.
And to parents and supporters around the world: Your support of Tzivos Hashem directly reaches precious Yiddishe kinder.
Our Feigi’s experience is just one example of how Tzivos Hashem is motivating, uplifting, and uniting our children in the spirit of Torah and Yiddishkeit.
Please donate generously to Tzivos Hashem’s campaign at growthearmy.com.
Believe me, the investment is well worth it.
Rabbi Mendy Leichter