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Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, 6th leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Hasidic Judaism, and then his successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson were responsible for focusing Chabad's activities on outreach. Each sent out large numbers of rabbinic emissaries, known as "Shluchim", to settle in places across the world for outreach purposes. The centers that these Shluchim established were termed "Chabad houses." Rabbi Schneerson was a pioneer in the field of Orthodox Judaism outreach (Kiruv).
Chabad has been active in reaching out to Jews through its synagogues, and various forms of more direct outreach efforts. The organization has been recognized as one of the leaders in using free holiday services to reach out across denominations.
Chabad, with its dozens of Chabad Houses throughout the Israel, where yeshiva programs for Israelis, Russians, French, and Americans, reach out to thousands. Followers of Chabad can be seen attending to tefillin booths at the Western Wall and Ben Gurion International Airport as well as other public places, and distributing Shabbat candles on Fridays.
Chabad rabbis and their families are sent to teach college students, to build day schools, and to create youth camps. Many of these efforts are geared towards secular or less religious Jews. Additionally, unmarried rabbinical students spend weeks during the summer in locations that do not yet have a permanent Chabad presence, making housecalls, putting up mezuzot and teaching about Judaism. This is known as Merkos Shlichus.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson also initiated a Jewish children's movement, called Tzivos Hashem (lit. "Army [of] God"), for under bar/bat mitzvah-age children, to inspire them to increase in study of Torah and observance of mitzvot.
Rabbi Schneerson also encouraged the use of modern technology in outreach efforts such as Mitzva tanks, which are mobile homes that travel a city or country. The Chabad website, chabad.org, a pioneer of Jewish religious outreach on the Internet, was started by Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen and developed by Rabbi D. Zirkind.
In June 1994, Rabbi Schneerson died with no successor. Since then, over two thousand couples have taken up communal leadership roles in outreach, bringing the estimated total number of "Shluchim" to over four thousand worldwide.
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- Fishkoff, Sue. "‘Praying without paying’ becoming a more popular option among shuls", Texas Jewish Post. Accessed September 22, 2007. "Many people credit Chabad-Lubavitch with spearheading the movement for free holiday services across the denominational spectrum."