Agudas Chasidei Chabad
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Agudas Chassidei Chabad (Union of Chabad Chasidim or Association of Chabad Chassidim also known by its initials "Aguch") is the umbrella organization for the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement. It administers three of the main Lubavitch offices: Machneh Israel, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, and the Kehot Publication Society. The chairman of the Executive Committee is Rabbi Abraham Shemtov.
The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn wrote in "Cheshvan, 5684" (Fall 1923) to the Chabad community in America instructing that they formally organize themselves into a community. He outlined the goals for this communal body, to "unify the Chasidim (adherents) of Chabad; to establish ordinances in every Chabad synagogue concerning the communal study of Chasidus... To establish Cheders for children and with God-fearing teachers. To establish Yeshivot for students to learn, from whom Torah may spread forth... and to support the organizations founded by the previous (Chabad) Rebbes."
The organization was incorporated in New York state in July, 1924, with the name "Agudas HaChasidim Anshei Chabad Beartzot Habris" (The Union of Chasidim, Members of Chabad), which was later shortened to "Agudas Chassidei Chabad Beartzot Habris veCanada" (Union of Chabad Adherents of the United States and Canada).
The first president of the organization was Moshe Eliezer (Morris L.) Kramer, and its secretary was Dovid Shifrin, who was one of the earliest Chabad Chasidim to arrive in America. The first offices were in Morris Kramer's pants factory at 643 Broadway, New York City. Upon Morris Kramer's death of in 1925, his eldest son, Chaim Zalman (Hyman S.) Kramer, became president. Today it is largely headed by Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov.
In 1926, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson immigrated to New York, and he was appointed as one of the vice-presidents. He played a leading role in the organization's activities for the next generation.
Among Agudas Chassidei Chabad's notable achievements during this time were developing the network of Nusach Ari synagogues in America; supporting the Lubavitch organizations and community in Russia and Israel; facilitating the visit of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn to America in 1929-1930; helping with rescue efforts for Rabbi Schneersohn at the outbreak of WWII; and helping with humanitarian relief and rescue during WWII, and in the post-war years.
Arrival of Rabbi Joseph I Schneersohn to America
In the winter of 1940, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn arrived in America. The members of Agudas Chassidei Chabad recognized that the Rebbe needed a home, and so they set out to purchase one. They also amended the articles of incorporation to include the following (From the Certificate of Incorporation, July 25, 1940):
First: The name of the corporation shall be AGUDAS CHASIDEI CHABAD OF UNITED STATES.
Second: "Agudas Chassidei Chabad" consists of the union of pious orthodox Jews whose conception of religion is piety, study, knowledge, mutual helpfulness and charity, all of which are practiced in a spirit of sincerity, cheerfulness, humbleness and modesty; with a full appreciation of and adherence to the spirit of Americanism and Democracy.
Third: The purposes for which this corporation is formed are as follows:
(a) To promote the religious, intellectual, moral and social welfare among its members and their families.
(b) To foster the spirit of Americanism among its members and families inculcating a love of Democracy and the basic principles upon which the American democracy is founded, all without any political affiliation or implication whatever.
(c) to foster the spirit of orthodox Judaism among its members and their families and among members of the Jewish faith.
(d) To establish, maintain and conduct a place of worship in accordance with the Chasidic ritual and mode of worship of the Jewish Orthodox faith, customs and traditions, for its members, their families and friends.
(e) To establish and maintain groups and study circles for the study and diffusion of the principles of Chabad Chasidism, to wit: devotion to the orthodox Jewish religion, study, learning, knowledge, mutual helpfulness and charity, all of which are to be practiced in a spirit of sincerity, cheerfulness, humbleness and modesty with a full appreciation of and adherence to the spirit of Americanism and Democracy.
(f) To support, maintain and conduct a school for the study of the Holy Law and maintain classes for the teachings of the customs and traditions of the Jewish Orthodox faith.
(g) The aforesaid mode of worship and all religious activities shall be under the jurisdiction of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, Chief Rabbi, of the Hierarchy of the Agudas Chasidei Chabad, and his successors.
(h) To acquire, own and maintain real and personal property to house its activities, and to provide a suitable place wherein the Chief Rabbi of the Hierarchy of the Agudas Chasidei Chabad may maintain and carry on the religious activities of said Hierarchy.
(I) To maintain branches in such states, territories, governments or countries as will be found necessary properly to carry on the work of this corporation but always subject to the laws of the States, Governments or countries in which such branches will be situated. To enroll members throughout the United States and Canada to assist in the purposes and activities hereinabove set forth.
Fourth: The principal office of said corporation shall be located at 770 Eastern Parkway, in the Borough of Brooklyn, City of New York.
Transition of Leadership to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn died in January 1950. One year later,his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, succeeded him as Rebbe and overseer of the various Lubavitch organizations.
Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad
During World War II, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was forced to flee from the USSR and went to Poland. He was given permission by the Soviet government to take many of his religious texts from his library with him. In March 1940, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak managed to escape Europe for the United States, but was unfortunately forced to leave his library behind. In the 1970s, many of the texts were recovered in Poland and were returned to Chabad. Today, the library is headed by Rabbi Shalom Dovber Levine and contains over 250,000 books.
- Row In Rostov. New York's Jewish Week, 14 November 2007.
- Chabad's Model of Outreach Gains Favor Among Fervently Orthodox. Uriel Heilman, JTA.
- Aguch's Chairman meets President Bush. Jewish Press, January 4, 2002.