On my recent trip in Milan, Italy, I had some time to finally interview Rabanit Bassie Garelik, the first shlucha (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Italy.

She and her husband, Gershon Mendel, were sent 63 years ago to rebuild the Jewish community in Milan after the war had devastated people's faith and hope for a Jewish tomorrow in Europe. There were only a handful of Chabad emissaries throughout the world at the time.

Rabanit Garelik was an American, born and bred with many of the amenities Americans naturally take for granted. For a Hasidic couple living in New York in the 1950s, Italy was as far away and foreign as the moon, but to the Gareliks, the place that would be their new home was incidental compared to the mission.

The men and women in Italy knew Jewish life was important—after all, it was an Italian wealthy Jewish family, the Zippel's, who first asked the Rebbe to send them a young rabbi—but in the Gareliks, they got something unexpected. Instead of a rabbi who stuck to ceremonials and a rebbetzin who quietly supported him, they discovered a dynamic couple who over the course of more than half a century would reshape the very meaning of Jewish life in Italy.

Rabbi Garelik, her husband and pillar of strength, passed away two years ago, but she continues as a trailblazer to teach, inspire and just move minds and hearts close to yiddishkeit (Judaism).

The Rabanit has often spoken of the hardships they had encountered as a couple at the beginning of their shlicut (emissary work) in Italy, and often she would feel frustrated and discouraged.

In a 1965 letter to her, she tells me, the Rebbe underlined the difference between seeding and planting.

Planting a tree is a much more laborious effort than seeding, but the results are longer lasting; the same is so in all human endeavors. “If, therefore, it sometimes takes longer for the effort to come to fruition, this is no reason for discouragement,” the Rebbe wrote in English. “On the contrary, the reason may well be that it is a case of ‘planting,’ where the ultimate results will be infinitely greater.”

The Rabanit eventually started a school run by her where she, until today knows well and embraces each child that has come there. She started a camp and, ten years ago more or less, started a seminar for girls from around the world, a one year program.

The Rabanit has become the heart and soul of the Italian Jewish community, her strong character and charisma attracts people from all walks of life and age.

Bassie Garelik has no fear to voice her opinion on all subjects, politics, marriage, religion and life, she has an open mind and is very worldly, reading articles and papers from all over the world.

She has become an inspirational speaker and her speeches are usually masterpieces leaving crowds in silence and glued to her words.

Her chassidishkeit is strong and the Rebbe is her guiding light, no matter who her crowd is she makes sure to always remind everyone where her heart is and what is her purpose in life, to bring the light of chassidus into this world and reminds everyone how important it is to learn, the real key to real knowledge and understanding what a Jewish life should be and lived.

Nonetheless she knows how to talk to anyone, religious and non who all adore her, one of her closest friends in Milan became the secular director of the school, she is not Jewish but she was one of those who pushed her to continue the Rebbe's work even when it seemed so hard.

When I asked the Rabanit what is her secret to her "success" and "fame", she answered me with a sweet smile, respecting others brought her to be liked, not preaching too much but doing and being an example, and accepting all kinds of different people without judging.

In this conversation I had the privilege of having with her, we really discussed a lot of different aspects in Jewish life, from politics to marriage, education and faith.

By the way, Rabanit Bassie Garelik is a big fan of Arutz Sheva.