Nearly half a century ago, the U.S. Congress proclaimed 1978 as a year of education, and over the next four and half decades the president has annually proclaimed Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s Hebrew birthday, the 11th of Nissan, as education day in his honor.
Now, following the bipartisan tradition, U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that day, which this year falls on April 2, as a national “Day of Education and Sharing” to commemorate the life of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.
“On Education and Sharing Day, we honor the memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who devoted his life to outreach and teaching—building bridges, challenging us to grow, and championing tolerance and learning,” the White House said in a statement.
“Forced to flee Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, the Rebbe witnessed some of history’s darkest moments. But his faith and a lifetime of study had already taught him that education is both the antidote to hate and the cornerstone of humanity as a whole.”
One of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century, Rabbi Schneerson was born on April 18, 1902, in Mikolaiv, Ukraine, and grew up in Tzarist Russia, which became the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution.
In 1941, Rabbi Schneerson and his wife, Chaya Mushka, escaped from Nazi-occupied France—where they had previously moved after fleeing Germany—via Lisbon, Portugal, and arrived in New York.
“From Brooklyn, he turned pain into purpose and built a global movement devoted to education, fellowship and healing. His work established schools and community institutions dedicated to helping people reach their full potential,” the White House statement read.
“The Rebbe told us, “We must translate pain into action and tears into growth.” That is what education makes possible. Children are the kite strings that hold our national ambitions aloft—everything America will be tomorrow depends on how we deliver for our young people today.”
Rabbi Schneerson died in New York on June 12, 1994, at the age of 92.
Almost three decades after his death, Chabad is the largest and fastest-growing Jewish organization in the world, operating 3,500 institutions in more than 100 countries.