By: Chana Prus

In the face of a devastating tragedy of this magnitude, it is hard to find words to express ourselves. Yet as classmates and friends of such a warm, vivacious, gentle, and kind-hearted person, we want to share some brief thoughts to underscore the depth of our loss.

Chana’s charm and grace were legendary. Classmates and friends worldwide are comforted with the memory of her infectious grin and giggle, and her unique way of seemingly always being in a good mood – she had a positive personality that encouraged us to look for the silver lining in tough situations. Chana’s consistently sunny demeanor persisted through her terrible illness, and remarkably, she often comforted us with her words of positive encouragement, strong faith, and unfailing grace and elegance.

Friendships were important to Chana, and we cherished the strong bond that we shared with her. A truly special friend, Chana supported us and was a thoughtful and attentive listener. She was a skilled conversationalist and actually thought before she said something. When posed with a sensitive question, Chana would often ask for a few minutes to think it over and then get back with an appropriate response.

In addition to her extraordinary warmth and generally happy disposition, Chana was a great friend because she was a lot of fun. She was adventurous, kind, exciting, fun to joke around with, and loved traveling. Among other places, she visited and worked at camps and on Shlichus in Denmark, Russia, Thailand, Japan, and across the US. She left behind legions of fans wherever she went and people worldwide were affected by her charming and gentle personality. Chana really loved children and was an energetic and responsible counselor, and her campers loved her.

Chana was a very social person, and we could count on her to host gatherings, farbrengens, reunions, bridal showers, tehillim groups, etc. etc. She inherited her sense of hachnasos orchim from her parents and grandparents, and when hosting an event was concerned that guests felt comfortable and entertained. She’d move from place to place, group to group, making sure that everyone was well fed and happy. Along with her family, Chana was a strong supporter of the community and strove to shop in Crown Heights stores. She also encouraged us to shop within the community to strengthen Crown Heights businesses.

Her support for the community did not stop there – Chana was a constant presence at class functions, and especially enjoyed participating in simchas. We all remember receiving phone calls from Chana reminding us about upcoming weddings and l’chaims, urging us to consider attending even though the timing was difficult or we were not particularly close with the Kallah. As classmates, Chana believed we should all join in the simcha of a fellow classmate.

Even though she was very social and loved meeting new people, Chana was private and authentically Tznua. Her acts of goodness and kindness were often the kinds that occur behind the scenes, and she made no attempt to gain attention or recognition for these actions.

One of Chana’s unique features was her elegance and polish. Chana was the perfect example of the way to get dressed, and we all looked to her for advice. She had a great eye and we often relied on her for a final touch – she’d often add a belt, bag, jewelry, or broach that would elevate different pieces of clothing into an ensemble that made us feel great. Chana complimented people generously and excelled at making comments that lifted our spirits.

Chana got engaged on her 21st birthday and remarked that it was her best birthday present ever. A little over a month before the wedding, she began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a terrible illness. Remarkably, her positive outlook continued in the face of intense hardship and suffering. Indeed, she purchased boxes and boxes of a book called “Healthy in Body, Mind, and Spirit,” a compilation of the Rebbe’s letters relating to health that is full of positive encouragement. Chana would generously hand this book out to her doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, as well as to friends and family. She wanted us all to read it and remain encouraged. She emphasized that everything happens for a reason and that all we needed to do was pray and do good deeds. Ironically, we often found that Chana was the one comforting us when we were upset. Her faith was truly exceptional. In the face of hardship, “Tracht gut vet zein gut” became her motto and way of life.

We cannot pretend to understand G-d’s ways, and are truly broken and distraught by this loss. These paragraphs are just a microscopic glance at the life of a brilliant girl whom we love and will cherish forever.

We created a fund named “Chana’s Touch” in Chana's honor. Because the letter "Nun" in Chana's name represents Taharas HaMishpacha, this organization will cater to Kallahs as they prepare for marriage.


My Cousin Chana

Getzy Markowitz

Writer's block rarely affects me as it does now. It is not a lack of ideas or words to articulate them that is the trouble. Rather, I simply do not know where to begin.

I dare not try to sum up 23 years in a few paragraphs; this is not an obituary. I will not lecture about the fragility of life; this is not a lamentation. It's not about celebrating a life. This is about someone who celebrated everyone's life, and meant the world to so many lives.

To live by Chana's propensity means to live eternally. It is hard to relate to her in past tense, because her presence is intense. She cannot be a memory, because we all can think of no one like her in memory. I guess the good L-rd appreciates good company.

As is the prevailing Chabad custom, she was not eulogized. However, the wailing was louder than words. She would greet everyone gracefully, but the thousands who turned out to say goodbye did so reluctantly.

In 1973 the Rebbe sent a condolence letter to a bereaving family. He honestly addressed their pain, and commiserated with them. He acknowledged the reality of death, how it takes our loved ones from our midst. However, he was adamant that no illness could affect the soul, the Neshama. A body may go through deterioration, but a soul will experience invigoration. We can never lose our loved ones. We can find them at our moments of sorrow, but what is more important, in our times of joy.

Chana would anticipate a Simcha, and when they would come, she wouldn't let them go. She was happy for another's happiness, and happy to make people happier. She shared wholeheartedly in your joy, and thus, elated it. Surely there are many moments of joy ahead, and naturally, Chana will not miss a moment. She will grace each occasion as she gracefully has. We look forward to greeting her.

My cousin had no airs about her. She was what you saw: a thoroughly kind and good person. She was the kind of person G-d sends us in His goodness. Her friends have established an organization in her honor. They named it "Chana's Touch." Hers was a special touch. She touched the lives of so many by making them feel special in her company.

At our family's celebrations a roll call of thanks is always a staple. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends travel the distance to celebrate our closeness. Today there are thanks, but regrettably so. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends have been arriving from the ends of the earth, because there is no end to what Chana meant to us all, and what she will always mean to us. No one is here to say goodbye, it's just a time when we must get together to say hello.

As her funeral cortege passed Lubavitch World Headquarters, I reminisced about the evening she was married at the location. She was going to build an everlasting Jewish edifice together with her dedicated husband Shmuli. She loved children, and apparently children adored her. The offspring of the righteous are their good deeds. Unfortunately, Chana was not blessed with descendants, yet she has everlasting heirs. She was simply a good person who did good things.

People of all walks keep referring to Chana as an inspiration. She really is. It was Chana who inspired and facilitated my very first mission to Tokyo, where she had taught Jewish children during her post-seminary year. The path I have chosen since is founded on her sincere concern and belief in me. Thus, my life's ambition of bringing Jews closer to their true selves is dedicated to my cousin who brought me in touch with my true self.

She had a heart of gold. Now, the living must take to heart. As her soul ascends to heavenly heights, we await her return to our earthly home. We know that each positive resolution and good deed could cause the resurrection of the dead. Chana would put a smile on your face. May it be in her honor that the Almighty finally abolishes death, and wipes away all tears forever.

Do a Mitzvah. It'll bring her back.


Will the sun shine again?

By Chaya M. Klein

Dedicated in the memory of Chana bas Aharon Leib

The sky above is heavy and gray; it echoes the pain in my heart.
A beautiful life has ended this day, will the sorrow ever depart?

When will the sun shine once again? When will it thaw the deep cold?
Why can’t I hear the song of the birds? Why do my limbs feel so old?

Time will pass and time will heal, everyone says this is so
She’s gone on to a better place; no more sorrow will she ever know.

Hashem has a plan they tell me, all He does is solely for good
Her time here was all her soul needed, its purpose to fulfill as it should.

I hope and I pray that this melancholy will lift, that my lips will smile again
I wish her to be remembered forever more, for the beauty she carried within.

She touched many lives in a short time, her compassion a true revelation
Gentle humanity glowed in her eyes, her faith gave divine inspiration.

Some day the sun will blaze anew, in skies that are clear blue and bright
The stars will twinkle and sparkle too, in the dark velvet sky of the night.

The melodies of the birds will resonate, my step will grow lighter once more
I have faith that Hashem will heal me, though I may see no more than before.

I cannot presume to understand His ways, to comprehend all He does know
My purpose is simply to trust in Him and let Him sustain me wherever I go.

In His infinite goodness and kindness, in His great love of every single Jew
May He bring Moshiach quickly to free us, return our loved ones to me and to you.

© Copyright Chaya M. Klein 2008