Shluchim Help Woman Fulfill Her Last Wish

Isolated in an assisted living facility in Peru, Illinois, 100 miles from Chicago, Selma Rosenberg longed for a visit from a rabbi. On the day before her death, she finally got her wish.

from by Menachem Posner:

Selma Rosenberg had lived a long and rich Jewish life. Born in 1922 in Philadelphia, she was raised in a robust Jewish milieu where Shabbat, Jewish holidays and community set the rhythm. After her marriage, she and her husband, Paul, relocated to Cheltenham, a suburb north of the city. There, she was an active member of her community and her congregation, and served two terms as president of the local chapter of Hadassah.

But all that was in the past.

Approaching her 95th birthday, home was now in an assisted-living facility in Peru, Ill., where her son had moved with his family. Surrounded by cornfields, Peru once had a Jewish community with a small but active congregation and a rabbi in nearby Spring Valley. But that had dwindled over the years.

By the time Selma had arrived in Peru—100 miles from Chicago, the nearest big city—a rabbi occasionally visited to conduct services for the few remaining stalwarts and made it a point to visit her as well. But that stopped, too, and it became rare for Selma to see a Jewish face.

Still, she had visitors. Her daughter in-law, who lived nearby, would come with the grandkids, and her son from Virginia made sure to call and see her as often as he could. And there were kindly local folks who made sure to visit residents in the facility. Among them were pastors of various Christian denominations, who included her on their rounds.

One priest, in particular, tried to convince her to convert to Christianity. “I’m happy to speak to you,” Selma told him during his last visit, “but you’re wasting your time. I was born a Jew, and if G‑d had wanted me to be something else, He would have made other arrangements.”

Recalling Her Mother’s Candles

In the spring of 2017, while on the phone with a friend, Marcia, Selma mentioned that it had been a long time since she had seen a rabbi and how meaningful such a visit would be.

Marcia conveyed Selma’s wish to her niece, Naomi, who promptly logged on to to find the closest Chabad center to Peru. Naomi discovered Rabbi Chaim Telsner, who had recently founded a Chabad center in Normal, Ill., about 60 miles to the south.

The rabbi called the number given to him, but there was no reply. After a few weeks, on May 6, a Friday, he decided to pop in. He took with him a pair of battery-operated Shabbat candles (most facilities do not allow real flames) and a challah baked by his wife, Chabad House co-director Rochel Telsner.

Once there, he found Selma in the dining room.

“I cannot believe it!” she gushed with an enthusiasm that belied her nearly 95 years. “It has been a long time since I have seen a rabbi.”

The two talked for more than an hour. They chatted about Selma’s childhood, her children and grandchildren, her life experiences . . . and she clutched that challah with joy.

When he gave her the plastic candles, Selma shared memories of her mother’s own Shabbat candles and then proceeded to rattle off the blessing said before they are lit.

The two parted as friends, the rabbi resolving to visit the following Friday with his children.

But G‑d had other plans. Selma lit her candles that evening, ushering in the Shabbat Queen. The following night, after Shabbat had departed, she passed away in her sleep.


  • 1. chills wrote:

    Often times we see big business touted on these sites
    and we forget how priceless these stories are!!!
    Thank you very much for sharing this with your viewers.
    It reminds us what we (as Chabad) are all about and what our dear Rebbe wanted from us, what he knew was needed most in this world.
    This little tale cannot be bought… this act of kindness is now forever placed in the basket of wonderful deeds… just one more and it can tip the scale. Let us not forget that these actions is what will bring the geula. I can understand the desire for great success in business but it is most necessary to remember that the money is not going to bring Moshiach… what is done with the money can. Helping shluchim certainly makes them partners in their shlichus .. this is what our Rebbe wants from us. What Hashem is waiting for!!
    This is not coming from a shliach soliciting … it is coming from a proud chabadnik who gets all choked up with emotion when I read and hear these stories.

  • 2. Mind blowing! wrote:

    What a wonderful story this is . . warms the heart to read it:)
    Well done Chaim Moshe, you must feel SO amazing at what you accomplished!
    May you have so much nachas Miriam!
    Its the kind of thing you read in story books . .
    Truly a beautiful and inspiring article!:)

    From someone, from loooong ago in London, England:)


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