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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Lubavitch’

Achdus with Chabad

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I don’t know how they do it. But I am jealous of them. Chabad is perhaps the most successful group in Orthodoxy at raising money for their causes. Their sources are often not even the wealthy Jews of Orthodoxy. And their organizational skills are legendary. They are probably better than anyone at maximizing the “bang for the buck.”

This is the one thing that struck me about a recent article in the Forward:

Chabad operates 1,000 preschools worldwide, including 300 in Israel and 400 in the United States. In 2010, Chabad launched a special early childhood initiative called The Machne Israel David and Lara Slager Early Childhood Initiative. In the past two and half years, this fund helped in the creation of 45 new preschools (most in North America, and two each in Argentina, South Africa and Australia). There are plans to create another 100 over the next four years.

While it is true that their emphasis on reaching out to secular Jews of necessity requires them to disengage from areas of high Orthodox concentration and thereby have less contact with wealthy Orthodox philanthropists – that doesn’t mean they are going to be successful at raising funds from the secular and unaffiliated Jewish philanthropist.

But – necessity is the mother of invention I guess, and somehow they manage to appeal to those donors to fund their projects.

As I have said many times, no one can touch Chabad outreach in terms of sheer numbers. They have probably gotten more people to be observant, than all the other Kiruv groups put together. And it is projects like the above that enable them to do it.

This is why I am jealous of them. Not in any harmful ‘evil eye’ sense. I am jealous that the rest of Orthodoxy cannot match them. We have done rather well in recent years raising money among our own for various projects. But it is no secret that we are still very far from having the money we need just to support one institution – Jewish education.

I don’t have to convince any Orthodox parent – even the more affluent ones – about the pressures of tuition. That is a subject that has been well covered here before. Long story short, tuitions are so high that even families with incomes well into 6 figures are sometimes given scholarships. Especially if they have a big family. It is also no secret that tuition does not cover the typical school budgets. Nor do most of those budgets even pay their teachers what they deserve.

Not that Lubavitch doesn’t have similar problems. But that’s because the huge sums of money they raise for outreach purposes do not go towards their communities own educational needs. That money goes almost exclusively for outreach programs and schools.

Nonetheless, the fact that they are so successful at spreading out and spreading the word of God through His Torah is something to be admired.

I have not dealt with Chabad in quite some time. But those who been reading this blog for awhile know of my criticisms – not the least of which is their obsession to one degree or another with their Rebbe as Moshiach. Even though he died well over a decade ago. Although things have quieted down quite a bit on that front, I don’t think they have given up on that very troubling idea.

Among other criticisms I have of them is one that bears on the subject of this post. They are not really integrated with the rest of Orthodoxy. While there is definitely some cross fertilization between us, it is not because they actively seek it. To the extent that they do, they tend to do it only on their own terms. Or on an individual basis and not an organizational one.

The evidence for this is the fact that unlike the rest of Orthodoxy, their children – with rare exception – attend only their own Chabad schools. They have built an empire of separation. Which is an irony of sorts when you consider that their primary concern is outreach to fellow Jews. But the truth is that outreach is so important to them that consider integration with the rest of Orthodoxy to be of secondary or tertiary importance. At least that is what it seem like to me.

One reason they are so separated from the rest of Orthodoxy – is the way they do outreach. Every Jewish soul they reach is convinced to believe that Chabad equals Judaism. They never distinguish (at least not at first) between an exclusively Lubavitch Minhag and Halacha. They teach their own customs as though they were Halacha. So that in most cases, if someone becomes religious through them, they become a Lubavitcher. Their community grows through outreach while their members become just as separated from the rest of the Orthodox community as are Lubavitchers from birth.

And so it goes. Chabad continues to be wildly successful at outreach while having little to do with the rest of the Orthodox community unless they are in control. Like the annual Simchas Torah concert they host for Chicago on Chol HaMoed Sukkos. It is their event.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was in elementary school in Detroit at Yeshivath Beth Yehuda – a pioneer Torah U’Mesorah school – two of my very beloved teachers there were Lubavitcher Chasidim. And Lubavitchers sent their children to that school. We were integrated. I believe that the same thing was true all around the country through most of the sixties (with the possible exception of New York where separate schools may have already existed). Lubavitch was just one type of observant Jew among many types that attended the same schools.

As they grew in number here in Chicago – and feeling that mainstream day schools and high schools did not pay sufficient attention to Chabad in general and the Rebbe in particular they started setting up their own schools which focus heavily on Chabad and the Rebbe.

Fast forward to today and we have 2 girls high schools right across the street from each other. One Lubavitch and one Beis Ya’akov. And the girls have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I don’t see that as progress. I see it as contributing to the divide between us. Year after year; class after class.

And that bothers me. Chabad’s strengths would serve all of us well If we could become more integrated. It would take a lot of tolerance on both sides. And it would take a willful and purposeful approach to doing so. And a bit of compromise. Lubavitch would have to stop being so proprietary and the rest of Orthodoxy would have to become a little more tolerant. Their efficient fundraising and organizational skills would serve Judaism as a whole much better if we could integrate and use those skills for common purpose. And integration with the rest of Orthodoxy would expand Chabad’s outreach to even greater heights combining and sharing with other non Chabad outreach groups. Making them both more effective.

I’m not saying that this is all that doable. There are certainly many obstacles. Some of which may be insurmountable. But I wish it were. Wouldn’t it be great for example if those two girls’ schools would combine? I’d love to see it. But it will probably never happen.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

200th Anniversary of the Alter Rebbe Celebrated by Renewed Chabad Presence in Hebron

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Marking the 200th anniversary of the yartzeit of the Alter Rebbe – Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi who founded the Chabad movement – the Jewish Press’ Yishai Fleisher interviewed one of the special emmissaries who have become the hallmark of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement to talk about the man who started it all, what his passions were, and where Chabad is headed.

Rabbi Danny Cohen is not just one of the hundreds of inspiring, dedicated, courteous and enthusiastic rabbis of Chabad who give themseles in service to the Jewish people across the globe. His is a mission under fire, serving not only his community, but the hundreds of visitors – and soldiers – who descend on his historic city each year, standing as a beacon of stability and spirituality in a place which puts up a daily fight for survival. Rabbi Cohen is the Chabad Rabbi of Hebron.

Listen here for the full interview from the Mittler Rebbe’s/Menucha Rachel’s shul, including how a boy from Brooklyn who became an IDF soldier came to be a Chabad rabbi and Hebron “settler”, as well as the history of Chabad in Hebron.

Fleisher and Rabbi Cohen spoke about the imprisonment of the Alter Rebbe, who was imprisoned for 53 days in Russian prison, to be freed on Yud Tet Kislev.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman was accused by the Russian government of treason for sending money to the Land of Israel, to support Jewish settlement there. At the time, Russia was at war with Turkey, which maintained control of the Holy Land, and Russia accused the Alter Rebbe of sending money to support the Turkish government, which he later proved to the authorities was untrue.

“What’s fascinating is that [supporting the Land of Israel] was the main accusation that brought him to jail in the first place, … and not only doesn’t he say ‘maybe modify that action, maybe tone it down’, being that he was the founder of Chabad and the one that planted and started the whole Chabad philosophy, maybe he would be thinking spiritually this is not what he should be doing, he should be doing something else,” Rabbi Cohen said. “But not only does he not stop and tells his chassidim to continue, but he writes in the Tanya that what saved him from jail and what took him out was the fact that he gave tzedaka to Eretz Yisrael.”

According to Rabbi Cohen, the Alter Rebbe had a great love for the Land of Israel, and considered moving there, but decided to forego the opportunity due to his obligations to his chassidim. “When the Maggid passes away, the Alter Rebbe is appointed as the leader of Chassidim in that area, and even though he had a strong urge and wanted very much to make aliyah, to move to the Land of Israel, being that he was responsible for [Lita], that’s why he stayed there,” Rabbi Cohen said.

Rabbi Cohen credits Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Baal HaTanya with developing a philosophy by which Jews develop their own personal and unique connections to God. While the great rabbis are charged with teaching and guiding their followers and adherents, “I’m not going to do it for you, this is up to you,” Rabbi Cohen said.

Finishing with a “dvar Torah” – a word of Torah – Rabbi Cohen said: “Two hundred years is definitely a day to be marked, it’s a day of completion… It says that Yaakov Avinu didn’t pass away – the Gemara asks, what do you mean he didn’t pass away, there was a funeral, eulogies. Was that for nothing – no! It means that if his children are alive, he is alive. When 200 years later, you see that Chabad, despite all the obstacles and challenges of recent years and throughout the years… going through communist Russia and going through the fat of America, and the fact that today in a physical way Chabad does not have a Rebbe to go and visit and see, but yet, that it’s just increasing… thousands of people are … going out to the four corners of the earth, 200 years from the Alter Rebbe, and it’s all based on his teachings and his ideas, we know we’re on the right way for [redemption], with G-d’s help.”

Lubavitch Rabbi Escapes Unscathed from Totaled Car in Icy Birobidzhan

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Fellow Chabad emissaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States called it a clear Holiday of redemption miracle – as Lubavitch emissary and rabbi of the Jewish community of Birobidzhan Rabbi Elihau Riss, 22, escaped unharmed after the car he was driving was crushed under the wheels of a heavy truck that slid on the icy road, at -8 degrees Fahrenheit.

The accident took place today, Tuesday, in Birobidzhan, which was established by Soviet Tyrant Joseph Stalin as a Jewish Republic. Rabbi Riss, who had worn his seat belt, stayed in his grotesquely crushed car after it had been hit directly by the swerving truck. Rescue teams released him completely free from injury.

Rebbetzin Devorah, Wife of Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Aide Rabbi Yehuda, Laid to Rest

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Rebbetzin Devorah Krinsky, wife of chief aide to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, passed away on Friday night at the age of 74.

Rebbetzin Devorah returned her soul to its maker after the Friday night Kiddush was recited at her bedside, surrounded by her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky – who still serves as Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel educational and social services – and their children.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s parents, Rabbi Zev and Etta Kasinetz, provided space for early Lubavitch work from their home in Brooklyn’s Brownsville in the late 1930’s and 40’s, according to an article in Chabad’s COLlive.

She was described by COLlive as the pillar of her home, and a constant partner in the work of her husband.  “Her warmth and humor, her quick wit, practical common sense, and her concern for others complemented her dignified comportment,” the article written on the  occasion of her death said.

Rebbetzin Devorah is survived by Rabbi Yehuda, her children Rabbi Hillel Dovid of Crown Heights, Mrs. Sheine Friedman of Crown Heights, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Crown Heights, Rabbi Levi of Lubavitch of New Hampshire, Mrs. Chana Futerfas of Crown Heights, Rabbi Shmaya of Crown Heights, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as her brother Rabbi Moshe Kasinetz, founder of Suburban Torah Center in Livingston, New Jersey.

Rebbetzin Devorah’s funeral took place on Sunday at noon, leaving from Shomrei Hadas Chapels and passing by Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.  She was laid to rest at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.

The shiva house is located at 729 Montgomery Street in Brooklyn, and will be open from 11am on Monday through Friday.

COLlive listed prayer times at the home as follows:

Shachris: 8:00, 8:45, 9:30, 10:00

Mincha: 15 Minutes before sunset

Maariv: After nightfall

Those wishing to send condolences to the family are also encouraged to write to krinskyfam@gmail.com.

Flood of Chabad Outreach After Sandy

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Despite damage and loss of power, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis in areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy are redoubling their efforts to reach out in their communities and provide a helping hand to Jews in need.

According to a report on Chabad.org, Chabad rabbis are keeping their Chabad houses open and functional, even without electricity.

Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Atlantic County, is keeping tabs on his community through social media, and has been sighted riding around  the streets of Atlantic City, NJ on a construction truck stocked with provisions such as food and water.  His Chabad House has erected a makeshift soup kitchen without electricity, and is sending volunteers to provide whatever assistance they can throughout the community.  Rabbi Rapoport has even established a relief fund to provide financial assistance to victims of the storm.

He’s even planning a communal Shabbat dinner this week.

Rabbi Yisroel Stone, co-director of Chabad of the Lower East Side in Manhattan, reported a total lack of power and water in his chabad house, but has been providing rides and food to Jews in the area.

In Long Beach, N.Y., Rabbi Eli Goodman said his family is safe, but their apartment is destroyed. The water in the synagogue’s social hall is “head high” said Goodman, director of Chabad of the Beaches and educational director of the local Bach Jewish Center.

The Chabad House of South Brunswick, NJ will be postponing its 10th anniversary celebration to focus on providing relief assistance, dropping off the kosher food meant for the party around town instead, for those in need.

Volunteers for the Rabbinical College of America-Chabad Headquarters of New Jersey and its Rutgers Jewish Outreach program also handed out kosher food, in their case to students of Rutgers who had been evacuated from their dorms.

Senior citizens also saw a ray of light courtesy of Chabad, with Chanie Zaklikovsky of the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe, NJ distributing self-heating kosher meals at the local senior center on Wednesday.

Rabbi Zalman Duchman and his family, of Chabad of Roosevelt Island, NY, spent their post-hurricane time offering support to the elderly, even inviting patients from the long-term medical facility on the island over for a lunch.

Chabad Women Rocking in ‘Bulletproof Stockings’ (Video)

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Rocking custom sheitels and opaque tights, and walking the sidewalks of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe have the Hasidic world talking – and singing along to the tunes of their Hasidic alternative rock girl band, Bulletproof Stockings.

Featured in the New York Post and the Times of Israel in the last month, Shusterman, the recently widowed mother of four boys under the age of 8 and Wolfe, a young divorcee, appear the picture of Chabad normalcy.

But while their influences are rather “unorthodox” – Radio Head, Jane’s Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they are not.  While they do not appear to fill the conventional roles typically adhered to by the women of Chabad Lubavitch, and have raised concerns that they may be poor role models to young Jewish women, Shusterman and Wolfe maintain their commitment to doing things Torah-style.

Their soulful crooning is women-only, in accordance with the rabbinic prohibition of “kol isha”, making live singing performances by women off-limits to men.  They said they don’t view the restriction as a limitation, however, viewing it rather as an opportunity for women to commune in an environment of free expression.

In their interviews, the duo said they hope other Jewish women will get musical, and shed the misconception that Jewish women do not sing or perform.

Shusterman is a veteran percussionist on the indie rock scene who found Chabad Lubavitch in September 2001, when a chassid handed her a flyer for a Sukkot event in Crown Heights.  She fell in love with Jewish spirituality, and a man she met that night, and ended up the wife of a rabbi and mother of four boys.  Her husband passed away in the spring.

Wolfe was a rebellious teen who left the Chabad path her music-loving ba’al teshuva parents had forged for her. She came back to observance after a year in Israel, and ultimately returned to Crown Heights in 2008 after her marriage fell apart.

Wolfe, the singer and song writer, says her songs are inspired by the Torah and by her Lubavitch faith.  She says she prays before she writes lyrics, asking God to inspire her with messages which will be meaningful to her audience.

Listen to Bulletproof Stockings on Myspace.

The Evolution Of American Orthodoxy: An Interview with Yeshiva University Librarian Zalman Alpert

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Books. Some people love them; others claim they can do without them. For Zalman Alpert, they are essentially his life.

For the past 35 years, Alpert has served as a reference librarian at Yeshiva University (YU). Educated at Columbia University’s School of Library Services and New York University’s School of Education, where he attained a master’s degree in Modern Jewish History, Alpert is one of those individuals who knows a little (sometimes a lot) about everything. Over the years, he has contributed articles to such works as Encyclopedia of Hasidim; Jewish American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia; Encyclopedia of Jewish American Popular Culture; Midstream; and The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: In your three decades as a YU librarian, what would you say was your most interesting experience or encounter?

Alpert: Well, one recent one took place last summer when I noticed a Catholic priest in the library. I started talking to him, and through conversation it became clear that his mother was a little girl during the Holocaust, was hidden by non-Jews, and never came back to Judaism. She adopted the Catholic religion and eventually married a Catholic in Poland.

For some reason, however – I guess because of the pintele yid inside her – she and her husband moved to Israel in the 1960s or so. This young man was born there and attended Israeli schools, but the family later left Israel and moved to a Polish enclave in New Jersey. Subsequently this young man returned to Poland, studied for the Catholic priesthood, got a doctorate in Old Testament studies using the Hebrew he had acquired in Israel, and is now a professor at a Catholic theological seminary in Poland.

I couldn’t really get this priest to admit he felt Jewish although he knew the halacha and didn’t deny he was Jewish. He said he came to the library to familiarize himself with midrashic literature because he wanted to see how the Jewish rabbis interpreted the Bible.

Have you ever met people in the library who would otherwise never dare step in YU due to ideological reasons?

Absolutely. In fact, many of the more interesting people I have met over the years are chassidic rabbis from Williamsburg. The Pupa dayan, for example, was here, as was the spiritual head of the Organization of Young Satmar Chassidim.

They come because everything is in one place, and many of them don’t want to go to the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) for theological and halachic reasons. In recent years, though, there’s been a marked decrease in the number of chassidim who come here because of the availability of such databases as HebrewBooks.org, Otzar HaHochma, etc.

Many people claim JTS’s library is far better than YU’s. True?

If you’re doing research that requires use of old manuscripts, JTS is better. But if you’re doing research that involves books published in the last few hundred years, I would say YU compares favorably to JTS and in some areas is even better.

Why does JTS have a better manuscript collection?

They started building their collection a lot earlier than YU. When Solomon Schechter took over the seminary in 1902, he brought part of his library with him, which included a lot of Cairo Geniza fragments. Also, Schechter brought faculty members with him who were very interested in creating an academic library, and they went to Europe actively seeking manuscripts and rare books.

In contrast, YU’s college was first created in the 1920s and the Jewish studies graduate school only started in the late 1930s. YU’s library only really became very professionalized after World War II.

How many Jewish books does YU own?

I would say 300,000-400,000. We also have something like 50 incunabula, which are books printed before 1500.

You possess something of an interesting family background. Can you share?

My parents were Holocaust survivors from Lithuania/White Russia. In Europe, my father was part of the Lubavitch community, but my mother came from a misnagdic background. I attended Lubavitcher school in New Haven for many years growing up, and then went to YU later on.

Do you consider yourself Lubavitch?

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, said there were three sorts of Lubavitcher chassidim: chassidei ha’geza, i.e., people descended from Lubavitcher chassidim; chassidei ha’nusach, i.e., people who live their lives according to Lubavitcher minhagim; and chassidei Lubavitch, which I imagine means people who study Chabad chassidus and have a personal connection to the Rebbe. I would put myself in the first two categories.

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