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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson’

‘Turning Judaism Outward’ for Gimmel Tamuz

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

A rabbi known for taking the ‘long, short way’ has written an exhaustive biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, in time for Gimmel Tamuz. The Hebrew date of the passing of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the third day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz is marked by Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim around the world with special events; thousands fly to New York to visit the Rebbe’s gravesite.

The Rebbe was one of the most influential Jewish leaders of his generation, establishing a worldwide network of emissaries. To this very day, thousands are sent out with their families to remote places around the globe to reach out and help Jews across the spectrum, drawing many closer to their roots. His impact on history – Jewish or otherwise – has yet to be measured.

Numerous materials are published for the special day as well. This year, ‘Turning Judaism Outward’ written by Rabbi Chaim Miller, has joined them. It is an elegant tome in the Gutnick tradition that chronicles the Rebbe’s entire life from 1902 to 1994 and beyond in 590 pages — in short, a massive work. It is also an incredibly scholarly work, not one of simple slavish praise nor written in the style of compromised language one sometimes finds in texts focused primarily on a specific content area.

Because Rabbi Miller is a Chossid with a secular, academic background — his texts are among those used at New York University and Yeshiva University — he is uniquely qualified to attempt what many would call an impossible task.

This year marks the 20th since the Rebbe passed away, leaving his office in “770″ – the affectionate name and address of the building in which Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters is located — 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Spiritually it often seems as though the Rebbe never left. The Chassidic-Carribean-African-American neighborhood is still a swarm of Chabad-Lubavitch activity around the clock. The Rebbe’s shluchim (emissaries) and their families are in and out of the neighborhood for various reasons throughout the year and they continue  to carry out their activities around the world. Regional and international conventions are held annually, with the number of attendees and new Chabad Houses growing more with each passing year.

Likewise, new books and materials are churned out each month from headquarters – including new items in all kinds of languages about the Rebbe and his life. So why another one?

“Everyone who has written about the Rebbe’s life picks and chooses the bits they personally feel are impressive. That’s the ‘short, long way,’” explains Rabbi Miller, compiler of the Gutnick Chumash (Pentateuch). “You get some nice information but in the end you lack a really substantial picture. It’s a bit like eating the dessert before the main course – it tastes good to start with, but then you don’t feel satisfied.”

Meyer Gutnick, director of Kol Menachem, which published the biography, added the organization felt it was important to “address the Rebbe’s life in its entirety, with all of its paradoxes and mysteries,” impossible a task though it might be.

Rabbi Miller candidly discusses in the foreword the difficulty he faced in gathering primary sources for his work: “By the time interest in the field began to gain momentum around a decade ago, there was almost no one alive who personally remembered the Rebbe from this period, except for a few individuals who were small children at the time.” Instead, he was forced to track down the Rebbe’s movements and activities much as would any other historian, or ‘private eye’ – using the Rebbe’s personal notebooks, his personal correspondence, academic records, his mother’s diaries, memoirs from Chassidim with whom he was closely associated and his Russian passport, among other items.

In meticulous language similar to that of a post-doctoral researcher, Rabbi Miller notes that he “sought to render the narrative with as much scrupulous objectivity as possible. While it is almost inevitable that personal bias will influence an author in some way or another, my goal has been to offer a detached and dispassionate account of events as they transpired…

Yahrzheit for Lubavitcher Rebbe Expected to Draw 50,000 Visitors

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Tens of thousands of Jews are expected to visit the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Tuesday, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (z”l), who passed away 19 years ago.

Thousands stood in the rain Monday night at the Queens gravesite at the beginning of the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

The Rebbe was arguably the most influential rabbi in the past generations. He is credited with reinvigorating a decimated Jewish people after the devastation of the Holocaust and creating the largest Jewish organization in the world, with more than 3,300 social, religious and educational institutions in 80 countries.

Women behind Bars Get Three Days of Jewish Studies

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

For Jews in prison, incarceration can keep them isolated from their family and their faith. But thanks to the Aleph Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit, they and their loved ones receive some much-needed help from an organization that has been providing assistance for more than three decades.

In fact, the institute’s Yeshiva in Prison program recently expanded to include a visit for the first time to female prisoners, said Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the institute.

The program spans three days of interactive classroom-style work. Yeshiva volunteers work with inmates in small groups or on a one-on-one basis to provide introspection using the Torah. Inmates learn how to live as a Jew despite their surroundings.

The program covers many topics, including Jewish law, ethics, explanatory prayer services, kosher dietary laws, faith and reason, and Kabbalah. Daily afternoon lectures focus on the idea of personal responsibility, self-control and the skills for accepting authority.

The idea is to help channel the inmate’s energies in a positive manner, which could improve a sense of personal responsibility, explained the rabbi.

THREE-DAY PROGRAM FOR WOMEN

Earlier this month, program volunteers Rebbetzin Chanie Lipskar, Judy Adouth, Leah Lipskar and Rochel Katz went to Coleman Federal Prison Camp near Orlando, Fla., for their first time teaching female inmates.

The three-day sessions included a full-day program—8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—of interactive classroom-style learning. The volunteers also divided the women into smaller focus groups, each concentrating on a prepared course subject by the teacher.

Katz said of the experience: “I’ve gained as much as the inmates have, if not more.”

She alluded to preconceptions regarding inmates and prison culture in general, and noted that they can often be misguided. “Some of the women were doctors, and lawyers—educated women with tears running down their faces in gratitude for myself and my colleagues taking the time to spend the day with them,” she said.

Chaplain Yolanda Garcia works there, and called the Yeshiva program “awesome.”

“I think the women felt a sense of womanhood being around Jewish female representatives,” she said. “I actually received a ‘thank you’ card from them. It taught them how to get along with each other and pray with each other.”

Garcia welcomed the opportunity for the program to return to the prison camp. Rabbi Lipskar responded that the group will absolutely come back to female prisons.

WORK THAT TOUCHES THOUSANDS

The Aleph Institute was founded 32 years ago by Lipskar’s uncle, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, at the request of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The organization says it regularly services more than 4,000 Jewish inmates and nearly 6,000 of their family members. The institute has 35 employees, including a dozen rabbinical positions and many volunteers.

“From a personal perspective,” said Lipskar, “it’s very rewarding to make a tangible impact in someone’s life at very challenging times. It certainly is very special.”

Beyond the Yeshiva program, the institute’s prison work encompasses a range of activities at the federal, state and local levels.

During the High Holy days, for example, it helps conduct more than 300 services in prison. Much of Aleph’s inmate advocacy work is related to basic issues, Lipskar said, such as inmate placement, medical concerns and what materials can be contained in a religious library.

The foundation does not provide lawyers or legal advice, but it can be involved in the legal process, he said, such as creating alternative programs for offenders. If a medical professional is found guilty of prescription fraud, for instance, Lipskar said the institute could suggest he work a certain number of hours at a rehab center, perhaps cleaning bed pans, to appreciate the damage he has done.

“We try to help people through the entire process, and to maintain familial relations,” said the rabbi.

To that end, the institute has a gift program, sending birthday or Chanukah presents to children in the name of the inmate. There’s even a pen-pal program to write to Jewish inmates, both of which add moral support to their prison stays.

In addition to its prison-related efforts, the institute has been helping Jews in the military for 20 years now.

It works with close to 5,000 Jewish service members and their families through Aleph Operation Enduring Traditions. That support could take the form of advocating for the rights of Jews, providing training to military chaplains, sending food packages to personnel and even distributing camouflaged pocket-size Torahs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-behind-bars-get-three-days-of-jewish-studies/2013/05/28/

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