Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Goldie Plotkin was invited to speak at a Knesset meeting last month on the need for premarital counseling for Jewish men and women. Plotkin, who along with her husband, Rabbi Avrohom Plotkin, co-directs Chabad Lubavitch of Markham in Toronto, Canada, has been counseling young couples for more than 18 years and has recorded videos of her workshops for Chabad.org. This mother and grandmother described her most recent trip to Israel, the rather impromptu visit to the Knesset and the importance of communication for couples once wed.
Q: So how did the presentation in the Knesset come about?
A: I was in Israel for a community mission; we took several community members on a tour to Poland and then Israel. Two weeks before we were set to leave, I got a call from Susan Barth, the founder and director of B’Yachad B’Osher, the “Together in Happiness Center for Marriage Education.” She told me that she watches my workshops online and has begun offering premarital classes in Israel. She also mentioned that Knesset Member Yehuda Glick is proposing legislation to make premarital counseling mandatory in Israel, and that a committee meeting was scheduled for November 8.
I told her it was such a pity because I was only going to be in Israel until November 6. And she said, “You’re going to be in Israel? Cancel your return because I’m going to book you a flight back. You have to stay and speak to the Knesset.”
Q: Can you describe your address? What were some of the highlights?
A: I spoke in English, even though it was the Knesset [where most matters are undertaken in Hebrew]. I was the only religious representative who spoke; I gave the Torah perspective on marriage.
Other speakers included therapists, judges, doctors and a mediator, all of whom discussed marital problems in Israel, how they are climbing, and the affect this is having on families’ mental health and the economy. They were trying to impress on Yehuda Glick that this is legislation that must be passed.
Plotkin co-directs Chabad Lubavitch of Markham in Toronto (Photo: Eden Video)
Q: I understand that you got some very exciting news just before you started your talk.
A: Yes, I got text that my daughter back home in Canada was in labor. I said I’d like to ask all people of this holy place [Jerusalem] to say a blessing that my daughter should have an easy birth and the baby should be healthy, and everyone said “Amen.” My brother, Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, executive director of the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, joked that this was the first time that something was raised in Knesset and agreed upon that same day.
Q: How long have you been offering marital classes?
A: Marriage is my passion. I have taught brides about the importance and beauty of mikvah since I arrived in Canada 32 years ago. My husband and I turned it into a couple’s workshop 18 years ago, when we created a more expansive curriculum. Today, we run a six-week course that covers the mitzvah of mikvah and marital communication.
Why do we get married? To buy a house? To have kids? We get married because in Judaism, marriage is kadosh [“holy”]. And when a man and a woman stand under a chuppah, they bring G‑d as a third partner. When a husband and wife begin their journey with G‑d’s blessing, they’re already headed for success.
Susan Barth, founder and director of B’Yachad B’Osher, the “Together in Happiness Center for Marriage Education,” and Knesset Member Yehuda Glick (Photo: Eden Video)
Q: In your opinion, why is there such a need for these classes?
A: Sadly, I don’t know how many kids today are seeing great marital role-modeling among their parents and other adults, so it’s very important to give them the skills to succeed in marriage.
A lot of people know what not to do in a marriage, but that’s just the first step. We try and start at the basics through role-playing games, introducing different scenarios and more. We give each couple an envelope and ask them to write a letter to themselves about how they envision their marriage to be. We send it to them about four months into their marriage. The letter can serve as a reminder of the importance about treating your spouse with derech eretz—with respect and the love you share.
The Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] speaks so much about marriage, and that the foundation of the Jewish people is a stable home. The whole world is looking at what’s happening in Israel. . . . What’s the talk in the Knesset? We’re listening, we’re learning, we want to know. Because you are the light unto the nations. And the way you go is the way we go.
So this is the most crucial legislation you can pass. If our marriages fall apart, there goes the Jewish family. Who are we, if not for our homes?
Speakers included therapists, judges, doctors and a mediator, all of whom discussed marital problems in Israel, how they are climbing, and the affect this is having on families’ mental health and the economy. (Photo: Eden Video)
Q: What is the secret of a good marriage?
A: It’s all about relationships and shalom bayit, “peace in the home.”
Men and women come from different planets; they speak different languages. Communication is key, which is why we focus on communication skills in our classes. What makes people G‑dly is our ability to communicate our thoughts and our emotions. That said, you shouldn’t give your spouse the silent treatment; women tend to do this when they’re upset. But men can’t read minds . . . and who would want them to anyway?
When you learn how men and women think differently—and that there are different ways to speak and discuss important matters—we learn to adapt and make tiny changes that can have the greatest impact on a marriage.
Couples have to appreciate how deep and important this relationship is.
(Photo: Eden Video)
(Photo: Eden Video)