Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch
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Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (Hebrew: מרכז לענייני חינוך, lit. Central Organization for Education) is the central educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Founded by the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, in 1943, the organization was initially directed by his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. Today Rabbi Sholom Mendel Simpson serves as Chairman.
One of the its most publicized divisions is the Merkos Shlichus division, which dispatches pairs of young rabbinical students, colloquially known as Roving Rabbis, to small and isolated Jewish communities around the world. A total of 400 students participate in the rabbinical summer visitation program, building Jewish awareness and spreading Torah knowledge. To date, the program has sent students to more than 150 countries.
Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch has these divisions:
- Central Chabad Lubavitch Library — home to 250,000 books and over 100,000 letters, artifacts and pictures
- Chabad.org — an online repository of Jewish knowledge and information that attracts one million users per year
- Jewish Educational Media (JEM) — the broadcast and film production division of the Lubavitch movement, founded in 1980
- Jewish Learning Institute — provider of adult-education courses in hundreds of cities worldwide
- Jewish Learning Network (Jnet) — a telephone study-partner program begun in 2005
- Kehot Publication Society and Merkos Publications — established in 1942, these publishing divisions have produced more than 100 million volumes in a dozen languages
- Merkos Shlichus — the Rabbinical Student Visitation Program, which sends 400 "Roving Rabbis" to strengthen Jewish awareness in communities worldwide
- National Campus Office — coordinator of Chabad on Campus, a network of more than 100 Chabad Jewish Student Centers on university campuses worldwide, as well as regional Chabad-Lubavitch centers at an additional 150 universities worldwide
- National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education
- Office of Education — a guidance, training and service center for administrators, educators, students and parents of Chabad-Lubavitch educational institutions
- Shluchim Exchange — an online service founded in 2005 to facilitate communication among over 1,500 Chabad shluchim
- Shluchim Office — coordinator of Chabad's worldwide shaliach program
The Rabbinical Student Visitation Program began in 1943, when Rabbi Schneerson dispatched the first pairs of students to ten cities in Upstate New York. Cities in California were added to the program in 1944, as were cities in the Southern United States in 1945. By 1948, the summer program numbered 20 students and 100 American cities. Students were also sent to Jewish farmers residing throughout the Northeastern United States, many of whom were European immigrants. The students were sent in pairs, usually one American student and one European-immigrant student.
In the early 1950s, the Rebbe added international destinations to the summer program, personally consulting maps and planning the itineraries.
Currently, 400 Roving Rabbis participate in the annual summer program. They distribute thousands of mezuzot, other religious articles such as tefillin and kosher food, and tens of thousands of Jewish information packets each year.
The students interact with both individuals and families. They often go door to door, teaching women how to light Shabbat candles and showing men how to put on tefillin for the first time. They speak about Jewish education, answer questions, and give bar mitzvah lessons.
Their visits are often anticipated by the local population. On their 2010 swing through the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, for example, the two Roving Rabbis were summoned to the office of Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman, who is Jewish. Eman spoke with them about Jewish heritage, listened as they blew the shofar (it was the Hebrew month of Elul, when the shofar is blown daily in synagogues), and donned a pair of tefillin. After completing their visit to the islands, the students returned to the Prime Minister's office so he could put on tefillin again, and he asked them to arrange for him to have his own pair of tefillin.
The Roving Rabbis share their experiences and communicate with each other on their own blog site.
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