Esther Neft

Community Leader 

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.

In the city of Dnipro, where I come from, I received a diploma in International Economics. Later, I developed an interest in Torah and Judaism, and they became the primary focus of my life. I spend several years in full-time Jewish study, which transformed my life and led me to work at the Shiurei Torah Lubavitch organization. I organized programs for teenagers, including “Sunday Meetings,” Shabbatons, and camps. We went on excursions with the group, and participated in the annual International Shabbaton for teenagers in New York City, organized by the global organization CTeen. After getting married, I enrolled in the Machon Chana Seminary in Brooklyn. Recently, my husband, Rabbi Shmuel Neft, became the director and rabbi of the [email protected], a position that involved being an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. So now I find myself as the young rebbetzin of the [email protected] synagogue and community.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING IN ONTARIO?

We moved to Toronto from New Yorker few months ago, and are are settling near our synagogue, in the North York area. We are excited to live in this neighborhood since there are many Jewish Russian-speaking families here, and we are looking forward to develop and growing the community.

WHERE DOES YOUR FAMILY COME FROM?

My family is from Ukraine, from the city of Dnipro, (formerly Dnepropetrovsk). My great-grandfather and great-grandmother observed Jewish traditions. They celebrated holidays in their home, baked matzah for Passover, observed Shabbat and all the festivals. Two of my great-grandfathers, Genin Viktor Romanovich and Dudnik Simon Solomonovich, went through the whole war, and my grandmother was a front-line nurse. We still have the orders and medals bestowed upon my great-grandfathers, and the medical bag that belonged to my great-grandmother – as priceless family heirlooms. To this day, there remains a large Jewish community in Dnipro, as well as the largest Jewish center in the world – the famous Menorah Cultural and Business Center, the world's largest Jewish complex, – which opened in 2012. My family still lives in this city.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME? DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?

Before the birth of my son, I was free to study Judaism and was busy working with Jewish teenagers. But now my son Menachem Mendel is 4 months old, so spending time with him is currently my main (and favorite) hobby. He likes very much when someone sings nigunim for him - Jewish tunes. He, just like my husband and I, is also an emissary of the Rebbe. So he joins us on our excursions to get acquainted with Jewish families in the areas. Most recently, I began giving Torah lessons for women in our community. In order for the lessons to be engaging and comprehensive, I spend a lot of time preparing. I enjoy the process of researching and transforming the material into a logical sequence of knowledge and information about Judaism, so that the concepts will be easy to understand and the lesson filled with deep meaning.

IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A “L’CHAIM” WITH ANY PERSON, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

Of course, I would have dreamed of talking with the Rebbe. In all the stories I read about meeting people with the Rebbe, everyone talks about his unusually deep eyes. I would like to look at them, to tell him about what is currently happening in my life. It is known that to everyone who came to meet the Rebbe would receive a blessing, and if it was after Shabbat or a festival he himself distributed to those present a “cup of blessing” (wine from his own glass). I would very much like to receive this wine from the Rebbe for blessing, as well as his words of wisdom.

WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE JRCC AND ITS PROGRAMS SO FAR?

I believe that the JRCC organization is very successful in strengthening Judaism among Russian-speaking Jews, and this is the mission that the Rebbe defined for our generation. I am grateful to be part of the JRCC, and to have the opportunity to organize various programs together with rabbis, staff and volunteers of the center.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

My husband, Rabbi Shmuel Neft, and I are working on getting acquainted with as many of the Jews in the Rockford area as possible so that we can organize the most suitable and engaging programs for children and adults. Our plan is to continue doing this work, which is connected to hastening the coming of Moshiach, until the coming of Moshiach. And then I’m sure we’ll be given even more interesting work to do!