Back in the 1950’s, Chabad’s outreach efforts (the Rebbe referred to it as “Uforatztah” or “Hafatzas Hamayonos Chutzah” – spreading the wellsprings of chassidus to the farthest corners of the earth) were scorned by the rest of the haredi world.
Chabad was roundly rebuked for its alleged “bitul Torah” – for spending time reaching out to others rather than studying Torah. There are enough Responsa by enough Litvish gedolim to attest to the anti-kiruv atmosphere of the day.
Eventually, others in the Orthodox community realized that kiruv was not only acceptable and desirable but indeed an obligation for every Torah-true Jew. Responsa from gedolim like Rav Moshe Feinstein and others appeared calling for setting aside time for outreach, for kiruv.
Today, we see a variety of Jewish outreach movements in the U.S. and other countries. This is a good thing – and it can only be attributable to Chabad’s pioneering example. Unfortunately, we have also seen jealousy and rivalry exhibited toward Chabad by some other Jewish outreach groups, and this is not a good thing.
Why do we not look back and learn a lesson from the ahavas Yisrael that Chabad always displayed? Rabbi Yisrael Jacobson, a prominent Chabad leader, assisted in the establishment of many non-Chabad educational institutions. When Yeshiva Torah Vodaath was in dire need – on the verge of bankruptcy – and the banks were going to repossess the school’s building, an urgent appeal for help was made in the press. The Rebbe called Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars – equivalent to millions today – to resolve the problem.
My sister was executive secretary to Dr. Joseph Kaminetzky at Torah Umesorah in the 1960’s when Olomeinu, the children’s monthly magazine (founded to compete with the Talks and Tales children’s magazine published by Chabad since 1942) was in danger of shutting down due to financial problems. The Rebbe called Dr. Kaminetzky and donated the amount of money needed to save Olomeinu.
When Torah-observant Jews fight and denigrate each other, especially while engaged in such a sacred task as kiruv, does it not set the worst example for those very Jews in need of being brought closer to their faith?
How prescient was the previous Rebbe, who forecast in the 1940’s: “First the Orthodox, haredi, and yeshivish Jews will mock us [Chabad] for our outreach activities, and then they will fight us. Eventually they will join us [in outreach work]. At the end, they will claim that they were the pioneers who established the concept of Kiruv-Outreach.”
It’s time to stop trying to revise history. If someone has a problem with anything about Chabad, why not discuss it with a Chabadnik? Why not talk it out intelligently? This author, for one, is happy to discuss any matter with any serious individual seeking to learn about Chabad.
May we merit to see achdus (unity) in the entire Jewish community, and may this lead to the final Redemption through the righteous Moshiach.
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Lately, I’ve been reading some very strange things in various Jewish media outlets about the history of kiruv (outreach) in America. I’ve had to read some of these articles several times over just to be certain my eyes weren’t deceiving me.