I live in a village called Radlett, in Hertfordshire, England. Now, if you live in America or Israel, you’ll probably be asking, “Where’s that?” The truth is that if you are part of a Charedi community in England, you might very well be asking that same question.
Radlett is a leafy suburb, comprised of 8,000 inhabitants and located about a 15-minute drive from Edgware, the nearest Charedi community. Remarkably, one third of Radlett’s inhabitants are Jewish. As you walk through the picturesque valley, you’ll see our own kosher butcher and that the large, elegant houses are peppered with mezuzahs. Radlett’s Jews are mainly fiercely traditional and passionately pro-Israel, attending High Holiday services with immense pride. There are several families who are more committed, and we run weekday Shacharis services three times a week. On the main street, there is a large Reform synagogue, a Chabad center and the Orthodox synagogue, of which my husband is the Rabbi.
As many of you might know, being the Rebbetzin of an “out-of-town” community has its ups and downs. On the one hand, you are part of a warm, non-judgmental community who accepts you as you are and looks up to you for your Jewish knowledge. The classes that I lapped up in seminary have a new importance when I try to translate the ideas in our discussion groups for our members in 2018. You get to see the highs and the lows of life flash past your eyes in quick succession: births, bar mitzvas, funerals and then back again; seeing the cycle of life spinning at break-neck speed. Your actions take on more meaning. A shiva visit, a Refua Shleima call, a smile at a kiddush—even an extra thank you—is appreciated and often savored by its recipients. Your run-of-the-mill kindness becomes your Rebbetzin super-power.
And then, there’s the schlepping. Like many other mums, I spend a significant part of my time “taxi driving”. But living “out of the area”, our driving miles exceed most. We don’t have the luxury of walking or cycling to school, or even being part of a carpool, as none of my children’s friends live within walking distance. We are almost always exclusively responsible for all our children’s transport requirements—school days, parties, get-togethers, auditions, rehearsals, last minute rambles—the lot!
And this, my dear reader, is the point of this article. For this is where you come in. Behind every out-of-town Rebbetzin is a group of her loyal supporters. These are the mums who will not just send their child to the most convenient playdate; they’ll send their kid to you, and maybe even drive one way. They’ll invite your child for Shabbos time after time without keeping count. They’ll take your kid after school when you’re stuck in traffic, and before school when you arrive too early. These are the mums who will include your son in their WhatsApp group even though you aren’t around the corner. They’ll include your child in the rotation even though you might not do your turn. They might even make the trek and spend Shabbos in your home, even though their husband’s chavrusahs will miss out that week. These mums are to us ‘out-of-town’ Rebbetzins like Robin was to Batman—trusted friends who will go the extra mile for you, with a smile, because they understand. As Rabbi Akiva said of his wife Rachel, “What is mine and what is yours—is hers.” To these mums, we Rebbetzins say: Thank you!