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by Alisa Ungar-Sargon
Photos: Deja Views, Leah Boyarskiy
The Chicago Shidduch Group celebrated their tenth anniversary with the first annual Simcha Expo on Sunday, August 23rd. The Expo showcased over twenty local vendors, who all donated gift certificates to a raffle for attendees. After the vendors' fair, the program included a lineup of speakers from the Shidduch Group, the presentation of the Founder's Award to the organization president, Elana Bergovoy, and guest speaker Miryam Swerdlov.
The Expo took place in the cool hall of Congregation B'nei Ruven in Rogers Park. Among the high ceilings and exposed brick, attendees enjoyed refreshments and presentations from local vendors suitable for religious simchas.
Each vendor also donated a $100 gift certificate for the raffle. In attendance were Deja Views Photography, Sanela B Salon, Illinois Nut & Candy, Eliana's Custom Creations, Honey's Bunch Florist, and Chaya Wolf Set for Life Invitations, among others.
The Shidduch Group is the Chicago chapter of the International Shidduch Group Network. A nonprofit organization that aims to connect people across the globe, members follow the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teachings to help make matches for themselves, their children, and each other's children.
“It's very important to belong to a group like this,” says Menucha Gershon, an active member of the Chicago Shidduch Group. “The women support each other, and give advice, and help. It's an important thing because [matchmaking is] not an easy process and we like to be there for each other.” The Network's message is that by learning Torah together, davening for each other's children, networking and celebrating together, its members are able to draw down the mazal through the power of connection, sisterhood and Torah.
The Expo attracted more than just Shidduch Group Network affiliates. “I'm a community member,” says Shoshana Schnair. “I read the publicity, it sounded like a wonderful idea, and I just would like to be part of a group that would help all the young people find their right zivug.”
The Shidduch Group Network began in Chicago ten years ago and has since spread to six continents with over forty-five active Chapters, offering educational programs, conferences, publications and training for matchmakers. Since 2014, the Network has been involved in over a hundred successful shidduchim.
The second portion of the night featured Mrs. Swerdlov's speech entitled: “Six Steps from Stress to Serenity.” As a tour guide on international trips, head of a teenage summer camp, mother and community member, Mrs. Swerdlov has a rich offering of personal experiences that she shares with her audience to ease the strong mussar [instruction on self-improvement] she imparts.
Mrs. Swerdlov spoke conversationally with comedic interjections. With the aid of a handout, she listed the six qualities that allow a person to trust in Hashem while simultaneously working to improve herself: Faith, Truth, Courage, Responsibility, Self Love and Unity.
“This is my adage,” Mrs. Swerdlov proclaimed. “Live every day to the fullest. Every single day to the fullest. Do not allow a twenty-four hour period to go by without knowing … what you accomplished that day.”
Her main messages related to having faith in Hashem and believing in his utter control over the world: “If you really believe that the reason something is happening is because that's what Hashem decided, it has nothing to do with you. He is in charge.” This theme of emunah [faith] continued throughout the night with other speakers referring to it as the best course of action a person can take when waiting for a shidduch: to believe that Hashem is the only one who can truly affect change.
Members of the Chicago Shidduch Group presented the Founder's Award to Mrs. Bergovoy, a tambourine inscribed with the bracha [blessing] from under the chuppah [marriage canopy]. “It's ten years since Elana Bergovoy started this grassroots group of women,” says member Tziril Grossman, when asked why the Shidduch Group decided to present the Founder's Award this year. “She felt there was something missing in the community and that women needed to get together. When women connect with each other, magic happens. And it's all due to Elana.”
Mrs. Bergovoy thanked the organizers, donators, vendors, family and especially Dvora Schulman, vice president of the International Shidduch Group Network, for their efforts in supporting the Network. She also told Rabbi Nachman's story about the Jew who dreamed of a treasure and set out to find it, only to discover the treasure had been buried on his own property all along.
Mrs. Schulman spoke as well, offering details about the history of the Network and how it became the thriving enterprise it is today. She shared her personal success story about how she presented her daughter's profile on one of the Network's conference calls and a shadchanit was then able to make her match. “I know this shidduch was a gift from Hashem,” said Mrs. Schulman, “but I am hooked. Despite my full time job and my family, the Shidduch Group Network is my shlichus [higher purpose]. There's no work more difficult, nor more certain, of bringing the geulah.”
Like Mrs. Schulman, another attendee attributes her son's engagement to her involvement in the Chicago Shidduch Group – maybe. “Elana Bergovoy had some sort of event that she was doing and so she asked me to host it in my house,” says Rachelle Benjamin. “I'm a foodie, so I did a food demonstration and it was a really beautiful event ... Shortly after that my son got engaged! So it was like, wait a second, hey – was there a correlation between making this cooking show for the Chicago Shidduch Group?” Mrs. Benjamin assisted with the planning of the Simcha Expo, contributing to organizing the vendors and the ambition of the event.
The evening was emceed by Kreina Staal, who led the audience in a recitation of the Rebbe's kapitel (Psalm 114). Clara Chaya Epstein then sang two a cappella songs, inviting the audience to participate by giving a beat. “This Shidduch organization I think is an amazing concept,” said Mrs. Epstein. “It started with a few people in a living room and it became this impactful, amazing thing that just went and touched thousands.”
The International Shidduch Group Network has big plans for the future: “Last year, we became a 501(C)(3) tax exempt organization,” Mrs. Schulman said in closing. “We now have over forty Chapters around the globe. We've had two international conferences in Crown Heights, and dozens and dozens of teleconferences. We published our first book … Be'ezrat Hashem, with your help, we will see the creation of a shidduch office one day, we will have better technology to connect us globally, and worldwide events to bring us together more often. Because by connecting to one another with simcha [happiness] and Ahavat Yisrael [love of your fellow Jew], we will make more shidduchim and we will bring the geulah [Mashiach].”