After 50 years, women reconnect at Jewish Learning Institute class

Posted Tuesday, Sep 11th, 2018

 About 10 years ago, Vickie Block and her husband, Chuck, attended a Rohr Jewish Learning Institute adult education class offered through the Chabad of Northbrook.

Unbeknownst to Vicki, she was about to take a trip down memory lane.

Also at the class was Susan Sack, a friend of Block’s from childhood.

Sack said she asked Block if “she was who I thought she was” and mentioned she was a cousin of a person Block knew.

Once they shared their maiden names, the women realized they grew up together in West Rogers Park. They were three years apart at Boone Elementary School in the 1950s, and they both attended Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park, Sack said.

The women also realized that Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, who teaches the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute classes and is the rabbi of Chabad of Northbrook and Regional Director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, is the grandson of Frank Moscowitz, who was Block and Sack’s seventh and eighth grade science teacher.

After reconnecting, the Blocks and Sack began to meet for dinner every week before attending the the class, Sack said. When Block’s husband was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer, the three of them would read books and talk about death and the afterlife, Block said.

Sack said that what they learned about the rituals and practices associated with death, dying and grieving helped the trio cope with the death of Block’s husband.

“The lessons that we learned were very comforting. We did a lot of talking about it.” Block said. “(Sack) was part of the conversation with us over dinner or through the class. We just decided to explore further on our own.”

After Block’s husband died in 2016, the pair have remained close friends, traveling to Israel as part of a Rohr Jewish Learning Institute program, attending Rohr Jewish Learning Institute classes and Chabad of Northbrook events and having dinners together, Sack said.

Moscowitz said that during Rohr Jewish Learning Institute classes attendees focus on learning as much as possible about the given topic.

“When individuals come, maybe they come initially because of the topic or because of a specific class, but they are also looking for meaning,” Moscowitz said. “So it becomes a relationship with the students, with each other, with the case of Susan and Vickie it was something phenomenal.”

The institute offers six-week classes three times a year, Moscowitz said. The institute it is an international community with more than 1,000 class locations throughout the world with 17 class locations in Chicago, he said.

The classes are accredited on various topics including Jewish ethics, Jewish mysticism and philosophy and Jewish history and culture, according to the website.

Sack said she and Block sign up for all the classes that are offered through the institute to learn more about themselves and their faith.

“It’s an ongoing Jewish learning experience,” Sack said.

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