Memorial candle (illustration)
Memorial candle (illustration)Thinkstock

Rivky Berman, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who inspired many throughout her lifelong struggle with illness, passed away Sunday at the Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, at the age of just 29, the Chabad website reports.

Born in Stamford, Connecticut, to Rabbi Yisrael and Vivi Deren, Rivky Deren grew up in an atmosphere where serving G‑d with joy and sharing Judaism with others was paramount even when things were not easy.

Rivky was one of several siblings who were born with Blooms Syndrome which affected her growth and also caused her to be prone to many illnesses.

Nevertheless, throughout her life Berman maintained a spunky, upbeat attitude and a unique ability to share the hope and joy that defined her life with others, and she did so in blog posts, personal counseling and in every venue available to her

Reflecting in a video posted to her blog on the medical hurdles she had faced, she maintained, “I dealt with it, I am here, and I have an incredible life . . . I don’t see those things as issues. I see them as challenges. Those are challenges that G‑d gave me—and anyone else that has that challenge—because He truly believes that I can take that challenge and I will fulfill that challenge . . . I was given something that only I was given because G‑d thought that I can handle it.”

She underwent a successful lung transplant and married Rabbi Shmulie Berman in the summer of 2012, and the young couple looked forward to establishing themselves as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, something her family had devoted themselves to since great-grandparents, Rabbi Sholom and Chaya Posner moved to Pittsburgh in the mid 1940’s to head the Chabad educational system in that city.

The Bermans moved to North Carolina where Rivky had once been hospitalized waiting for her lung transplant. There, they helped with undergraduate programming at Chabad of Duke and were instrumental in the founding of Chabad at North Carolina State University.

In 2015, she was found to have lymphoma and was once again admitted to the hospital. Even from her hospital room, she continued to reach out, organize, and serve—orchestrating an entire Purim celebration from the confines of her bed.

Despite her illness she remained active, recently joining the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative advisory committee with the hope of advancing inclusion for people with disabilities and emphasizing the equality and value of everyone in the community.

In addition to her parents and husband, Rivky Berman is survived by her siblings, Rabbi Yossi Deren, Rabbi Asher Deren, Rabbi Chezky Deren and Chanie Backman. She was predeceased by her siblings Shlomo Aharon Deren, Blumi Deren, and Rabbi Mendel Deren.

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