Feb 22, 2017
Rayna Clark, 69, OBM
Mrs. Rayna Clark, influenced by the Rebbe and known for her open home in Pittsburgh's Chabad community, passed away.
By COLlive reporter
Rayna Clark, an ardent Lubavitcher and a beloved mother, grandmother and friend to many, passed away on Wednesday, 26 Shvat, 5777.
She was 69.
Clark became enamored with the Rebbe and Chassidic teachings as a student at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women in New York.
Rabbi Alter Metzger, Professor of Jewish Studies, invited her to spend a Shabbos in Crown Heights. It was a formative experience that was followed by many other visits as she connected with families in the community.
Clark soon moved to Crown Heights and got married. She continued her studies at Stern and graduated with a degree in education, with the Rebbe’s blessing.
After graduation, she moved to Pittsburgh, where she and her husband became vibrant members of the Chabad community, hosting many guests over Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim. She worked as a math teacher at the Yeshiva Schools and Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh.
On a return trip to Pittsburgh, after visiting Crown Heights, Clark and her husband were left injured in a serious car accident. The Rebbe expressed concern, even sending a bottle for the couple to make a l’chaim. In response to a letter soon after, the Rebbe wished them besoros tovos. A year later, they had a baby girl.
Clark and her family later moved to Monsey and then to South Fallsburg, NY. In both communities, she always ensured that her home was open to those in need of physical and spiritual comfort and guidance. Her incredibly friendly and open manner made her many friends and admirers along the way.
In 1991, she returned to the Pittsburgh community as a single mother with 3 children where she purchased a home across the street from the Lubavitch Center on Wightman St. Her home became a warm and inviting place for people to stop by and they did frequently.
Taking a job at Pinsker’s Judaica, the only Judaica store in Squirrel Hill, she became a fixture in the community. Visitors to the area found a welcoming and friendly presence who was excited to help them explore Judaism, introduce them to others in the community, and find them places to stay for Shabbos.
As a single mother, she had a special place in her heart for women in similarly difficult situations. When a single mother from West Virginia visited the bookstore looking for books on Judaism, she invited the mother and her two daughters to stay with her family for a Shabbos and then connected them with the greater community. Because of her welcome, that family moved to the area, became observant and integrated into the community.
During Rayna’s time in Pittsburgh, she developed a wide network of friends and thrived as a member of a Chabad womens’ theatrical group, Kol Isha, and other organizations. As a friend to many and an avid supporter of the Chabad community, she volunteered to help in a myriad of ways, including hosting an annual fundraiser for the Chabad Yeshiva, and regularly visiting the elderly and sick.
Rayna approached everyone with kindness and care – friends, newcomers as well as strangers in need of money or food. She did not just give them what they needed, she also took the time to talk with them and dispense advice and strength.
Despite the many challenges that Rayna faced, she did not complain and was never bitter, always smiling and looking forward to her next opportunity with optimism and openness.
Her next opportunity took her to Los Angeles in 2002, where she would live for 8 years. There, she worked as a librarian for a local girls high school. She transformed the school’s library into an inviting and homey space filled with comfortable furniture and more books gleaned from many trips to garage sales, flea markets, and second-hand stores.
In 2010, she returned to Pittsburgh, to the community that always held her close. This time, as a dorm mother at the Tzohar Seminary for Chasidus and the Arts, she took loving care of the girls who studied there, giving them guidance and friendship as she shared her experiences with them.
In 2012, Rayna was diagnosed with cancer. While she had to leave her position at Tzohar, the seminary has since dedicated their annual artists showcase to her, in the hopes of her refuah shaleimah.
In her final months, Rayna said goodbye to her dear friends in Pittsburgh in order to live near her daughter and grandchildren in Washington, DC. Her second daughter moved from California to the DC area to care for her. Even as Rayna grew more ill, she continued to form new deep friendships every day. Among people in the Washington DC area, she became known simply as “Bubby.”
This article only scratches the surface in telling about the many lives that were affected by Rayna’s kindness. Each of the hundreds of her contacts has their own story of a deep connection to Rayna. Her phone was always ringing, with people calling to laugh and talk things through, to share their problems and to hear the thoughtful advice that she selflessly dispensed. Even as her health declined, she always focused on the needs of others and shared the wonderful parts of her days in order to brighten theirs.
Rayna experienced the world with a deep sense of awe at the beauty of others’ accomplishments and the world around her. We hope to carry that awe with us in our memories of her. She will be deeply missed by her children, grandchildren, friends, and the many people she touched along the way.
She leaves as her legacy countless friends and admirers and an abiding commitment and love for her Chassidic way of life and her ultimate mentor and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rayna is survived by her children, Chani Laufer - Chevy Chase, MD, Yehuda Clark - Brooklyn, NY and Devorah Leah Clark - Santa Barbara, California, and four grandchildren, Moshe, Shoshana, Ari and Erez.
The Levaya will take place tomorrow, Thursday at 2 PM at Ohev Shalom -- The National Synagogue, at 1600 Jonquil Street, Washington, D.C.
She will be buried at the Judean Gardens Cemetery in Olney, Maryland at 4 PM.
Donations can be made in her honor to the Tzohar Seminary for Chassidus and the Arts at http://www.tzoharseminary.com/donate.
Baruch Dayan Ha'emes.