Women Who Inspire Us

Women Who Inspire Us #2: Rivka Malka Perlman

Today’s post is the second in the Women Who Inspire Us Series.  Here’s last week’s post from Noa, in case you missed it.  You may also want to subscribe to my RSS feed, or “like” my Facebook page.  As always, if you would like to share your inspiration by participating in the series, please contact me.

I really enjoyed reading about today’s inspirational woman, who happens to live in the same town I do, and is the daughter of a family I knew in Cleveland!  It is a small, small world.  Today’s inspiration was shared by Jessi Franco, a stay-at-home-mom who enjoys cooking, art, and tying mitpachot (tichels) in original and funky ways.

1)  Who is a woman you find inspirational?
Rivka Malka Perlman

2)  What is her relationship to you?
She is a dear friend and “soul sister”

3) Where did you meet her?
At my best friend’s wedding in Monsey, NY.  She is my best friend’s aunt.

4) When did you meet her?
In 2006

5)  What is inspirational about her (it can be more than one thing, i.e. personality, actions, overcoming hardships)? Can you share a specific memory (or more than one)?

Women's Tichels, Headscarves, (image from cove...
Image via Wikipedia

What is inspirational about Rivka Malka? Well, I keep learning more and more.  Let me start off by telling you about when I first met her.

I was engaged to a Sephardi man and excited but apprehensive about tying my first mitpachat (headscarf.) In a place like Monsey, most women wear sheitals, but when I saw Rivka Malka in her beautifully tied tichel, her neshama really shined through.  I found out that her name was Rivka Malka, and queen (Malka) fit her well considering the regal way she wore her headwrap.

Hashkafically I have always leaned more towards tichels, and was eager to connect to someone (in America) about this. She was obviously a person who wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, and I admired that.  I walked right up to her, introduced myself, and told her that I wanted to wear tichels exclusively.  She told me she loves teaching new kallahs and selling tichels to raise tzedakah, but she lives “all the way in Baltimore,” well, that’s just where I live!

So I went to her a few weeks later for my first tichel tying lesson, and met her incredible (then) homeschooled family.  The more I got to know her, the more I admired her.  She danced at my wedding as if we were lifelong friends, although I had only known her for 2 months.  That’s the kind of person Rivka Malka is. Every Jew is like her lifelong friend.

Once I realized she wasn’t just any normal person, I asked if we could start learning Chassidus over the phone.  She chose To Heal a Soul from  the Piaseczna Rebbe, a sefer that still remains dear in my heart.

Casually, I discovered her encounter with illness, and again, grew to respect her more.  She triumphed and grew from her experience in a way some people only dream of.

When we joined the same shul, our families got to know each other, and I felt welcomed and loved by her entire family(who are now our regular babysitters).  She frequently ran Rosh Chodesh gatherings for women where we shared art and music (and tichel tying).  This was Rivka Malka’s way of giving us a dose of that special feminine spirituality that seems so natural to her.

Her warmth and empathy led me to ask her to be my doula, which she happily obliged to do.  She gave it her all, and dropped her MANY responsibilities to take a tour of the hospital with me before my labor, and to be there with me from the beginning to the very end.  She helped make my labor a spiritual experience, reciting tehillim and tefillos.

Recently, she took a job as director of WOW –a kiruv organization.  She gives it 100%, forming deep bonds with the attendees and hosting sometimes 40-50 people on Shabbos!

What is the most special thing about my dear friend, though?  Probably the fact that all I have just shared with you is just a small fraction of her deeds.  Ask her friends, family, and community, and you will be sure to hear hundreds and hundreds of incredible anecdotes.

6)  How has this inspiration affected your life? Do you think it has made you a better person? How so?
She inspires me all the time.  She has a very “hands on” approach to mothering, not in the over-protective sense, more in the “quality time” sense.  She loves family bonding, and you can see that by the way her children interact; they are all each others’ best friends!

I was struck by this once when we were eating there for Shabbos.  Her daughter told me that she had just had her birthday slumber party.  She was describing the activities, and when I asked who attended, she said with a big grin “Who else? My family!”  That is a byproduct of Rivka Malka’s love for her family.

Another thing she has taught me is when you have a spark of inspiration, go for it! And go for it full force!  She never half-does anything she commits to.  Recently she ran a bake sale with her family to for a soup kitchen in Israel.  When I asked her how she planned it, she said that within 5 minutes of being inspired she organized the sale for that day. They raised a few hundred dollars.

7) When do you find yourself thinking of this person? How do you feel when you think about her?
I find myself thinking of her often during my weaker moments, when I think I can grow a little.  I think to myself,

“One day, I want to be the kind of person Rivka Malka is: positive, warm, yet very refined.”

Sometimes the thought overwhelms me.  How can I possibly get there?  She has so much more spirituality than me!  Then I remember the quote from Rav Wolbe,

“Large mountains are made of small grains of sand”


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5 thoughts on “Women Who Inspire Us #2: Rivka Malka Perlman

  1. Beautifully written, Jessi. Our Sages say to “make yourself a teacher.” Clearly, you have chosen Rivka Malka as one of yours. But you are not just making “for” yourself a teacher. By choosing to emulate her refinement and Ahavat Yisrael, and by writing about the importance of these traits with such passion, you are also making “of” yourself a teacher. Keep it up! I wish you continued success.

  2. ok, I’m reading this and I’m blushing and feeling just a little like this is an out of body experience. Still, it’s a great time and place to say, Jesse, I love you and reading your words may actually give me energy to finish cooking for Shabbos, clean my kitchen and take care of the 15 boys who are sleeping over! And tomorrow your words of encouragment will probably keep giving me energy to try and live up to this picture. Thank you . Jesse you’re a mother from the original definition of motherhood. Complete devotion and care for your family. They are so blessed to have you. I’m so blessed to know you

  3. I am totally in AWE that you found this post about you, Rivka Malka! I’m so glad that you found inspiration in it (you inspired someone, who then inspired you with her recounting your inspiration, how cool is that?). I hope your Shabbos is wonderful, and I would love to meet you in person someday!

    Ruti Mizrachi, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I’m sure Jessi appreciates them. :)

  4. If Rivka Malka is who I think she is, then all I can say is she and her entire family are incredible neshamos who are changing the world, one act of chessed at a time.

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