Menachem Mendel Schneerson

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For the third Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch dynasty, see Menachem Mendel Schneersohn.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson2 crop.jpg
Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the Lag BaOmer parade in Brooklyn, 1987.
Synagogue 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
Began 10 Shevat 5711 / January 17, 1951
Predecessor Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn
Personal details
Born April 5, 1902 OS (11 Nissan 5662)[1]
Nikolaev, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire (present-day Mykolaiv, Ukraine)
Died June 12, 1994 NS (3 Tammuz 5754) (aged 92)[2])
Manhattan, New York, USA
Buried Queens, New York, USA
Dynasty Chabad Lubavitch
Parents Levi Yitzchak Schneerson
ChanaYanovski Schneerson
Spouse Chaya Mushka Schneerson
Semicha Rogatchover Gaon

Menachem Mendel Schneerson (April 5, 1902 – June 12, 1994), known to many as the Rebbe,[3][4] was an Orthodox rabbi, and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe. He is considered one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.[5][6][7][8]

As leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he "took an insular Hasidic group that almost came to an end with the Holocaust and turned it into one of the most influential and controversial forces in world Jewry,"[9] with an international network of over 3000 educational and social centers.[10][11] The institutions he established include kindergartens, schools, drug-rehabilitation centers, care-homes for the disabled and synagogues.[12]

Schneerson is noted for his contributions to Jewish continuity and religious thought,[13] as well as his wide-ranging contributions to traditional Torah scholarship.[14] He is recognized as the pioneer of Jewish outreach.[15][16]

In 1978, the U.S. Congress designated Schneerson's birthday as the national Education Day U.S.A.,[17] honoring his role in establishing the Department of Education as an independent cabinet-level department.[18] In 1994, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his "outstanding and lasting contributions toward improvements in world education, morality, and acts of charity."[19]

Life[edit]

1902-1923[edit]

Menachem Mendel Schneerson was born on Friday, April 18, 1902, equivalent to 11 Nissan, 5662, in the town of Nikolaev.[20] His father was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, a renowned Talmudic scholar and authority on Kabbalah and Jewish law.[21] His mother was Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson (nee Yanovski). He was named after the third Chabad rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, from whom he was descendent in direct paternal lineage.

In 1907, when Menachem Mendel was six years old, the Schneersons moved to Yekatrinislav (today, Dnepropetrovsk), where Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was appointed Chief Rabbi of the city. He served until 1939, when he was exiled by the Soviets to Uzbekistan.[22] Schneerson had two younger brothers, Dov Ber who was murdered in 1944 by Nazi collaborators and Yisrael Aryeh Leib, who died in 1952 while completing doctoral studies at Liverpool University.[20]

Schneerson who was described as a slim boy with blond hair,[23] was gifted with extraordinary intelligence and empathy.[24] During his youth, he received a private education and was tutored by Zalman Vilenkin from 1909 through 1913. When Schneerson was eleven years old, Vilenkin informed the boy's father that he had nothing more to teach his son.[25] At that point, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak began teaching his son Talmud and rabbinic literature, as well as Kabbalah. Schneerson proved gifted in both Talmudic and Kabalistic study and also took exams as an external student of the local Soviet school.[26] He was considered an Illui and genius, and by the time he was seventeen, he had mastered the entire Talmud, some 5,894 pages with all its early commentaries.[27]

Throughout his childhood Schneerson was involved in the affairs of his father's office. He was also said to have acted as an interpreter between the Jewish community and the Russian authorities on a number of occasions.[28] Levi Yitzchak's courage and principles were a guide to his son for the rest of his life. Many years later, when he once reminisced about his youth, Schneerson said "I have the education of the first-born son of the rabbi of Yekatrinoselav. When it comes to saving lives, I speak up whatever other may say."[29]

Schneerson went on to receive separate rabbinical ordinations from the Rogatchover Gaon, Yosef Rosen,[30] and Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (also known as the Sridei Aish).[31]

1923-1941[edit]

In 1923 Schneerson visited the sixth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn where he met his middle daughter, Chaya Mushka.[32] The couple became engaged in Riga in 1923 and married in 1928 in Warsaw, Poland. Taking great pride in his son-in-law's outstanding knowledge, Yosef Yitzchok asked him to engage the great Torah scholars that were present at the wedding, such as Rabbi Meir Shapiro and Rabbi Menachem Ziemba, in learned conversation.[33] The marriage was long and happy (60 years), but childless.[24]

Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn are both descendants of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch.[34] Schneerson later commented that the day of his marriage bound the community to him and him to the community.[35]

After his marriage to Chaya Mushka, Schneerson and his wife moved to Berlin where he was assigned specific communal tasks by his father-in-law, who also requested that he write scholarly annotations to the responsa and various hasidic discourses of the earlier Rebbe’s of Chabad-Lubavitch. Schneerson studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at the University of Berlin.[36] He would later recall that he enjoyed Erwin Schrödinger’s lectures.[37] His father-in-law took great pride in his erudite son-in-law's scholarly attainments and paid for all the tuition expenses and helped facilitate his studies throughout.[38]

During his stay in Berlin, his father-in-law encouraged him to become more of a public figure, yet Schneerson described himself as an introvert,[39] and was known to plead with acquaintance not to make a fuss out of the fact that he was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson.[40]

While in Berlin, Schneerson met Joseph B. Soloveitchik and the two formed a friendship that remain between them years later when they both emigrated to America.[41][42][43][44] He wrote hundreds of pages of his own original Torah discourses,[45] and conducted a serious interchange of halachic corresponded with many of Eastern Europe's leading rabbinic figures, including the talmudic genius known as the Rogachover Gaon.[46] In 1933 he also met with Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro, as well as with talmudist Rabbi Shimon Shkop.[47] During this time he would keep a diary in which he would carefully document his private conversations with his father-in-law Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, as well his kabalistic correspondence with his father, Levi Yitzchak Schneerson.[48]

In 1933, after the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Schneerson left Berlin and moved to Paris, France were he continued his religious and communal activists on behalf of his father-in-law, Yosef Yitzchak. He continued studying mechanics and electrical engineering at the ESTP, a Grandes écoles in the Montparnasse district and graduated in July 1937 with a degree. In November 1937, he enrolled at the Sorbonne, where he studied mathematics until World War II broke out in 1939.[49]

Yosef Yitzchok, also recommended that Professor Alexander Vasilyevitch Barchenko consult with Schneerson regarding various religious and mystical matters,[50] and prominent Rabbis, such as Yerachmiel Binyaminson and Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler turned to Schneerson with their queries regarding the reconciliation of different rabbinic and kabalistic opinions.[51][52]

On June 11, 1940, three days before Paris fell to the Nazis, the Schneersons fled to Vichy, and later to Nice, where they stayed until their final escape from Europe in 1941.[53]

1941-1950[edit]

In 1941, Schneerson escaped from Europe via Lisbon, Portugal.[54] On the eve of his departure, Schneerson penned a treatise where he revealed his vision for the future of world Jewry and humanity.[55] He and his wife Chaya Mushka arrived in New York on June 23, 1941.[56]

Shortly after his arrival, his father-in-law appointed him director and chairman of the three Chabad central organizations, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, Machneh Israel and Kehot Publication Society, placing him at the helm of the movement's Jewish educational, social services, and publishing networks. Over the next decade, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok referred many of the scholarly questions that had been inquired of him to Schneerson and he became increasingly known as a personal representative of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok.[57]

During the 1940s, Schneerson became a naturalized US citizen and, seeking to contribute to the war effort, he volunteered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, drawing wiring for the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63),[58][59][60] and other classified military work.[61]

In 1942 Schneerson launched the Merkos Shlichus program where he would send pairs of yeshiva students to remote locations across the country during their summer vacations to teach Jews in isolated communities about their heritage and offer education to their children.

As chairman and editor in chief of Kehot, Schneerson published the works of the earlier Rebbe’s of Chabad. He also published his own works including the Hayom Yom in 1943 and Hagadda in 1946.[62]

In 1947 Schneerson traveled to Paris, to bring his mother, Chana Schneerson, back to New York with him. He remained in Paris for several weeks were he established a school for girls and worked with local organisations to assist with housing for refugees and displaced persons.[63]

Schneerson often explained that his goal was to "make the world a better place," and to do what he could to eliminate all suffering.[64] In a letter to Israeli President Yitzchak Ben Tzvi, Schneerson wrote that from when he a child "the vision of the future Redemption began to take form in my imagination – the Redemption of the Jewish People from their final Exile, a redemption of such magnitude and grandeur through which the purpose of the suffering, the harsh decrees and annihilation of Exile will be understood..."[65]

1950-1951[edit]

After the death of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn in 1950, Chabad followers began persuading Schneerson to succeed his father-in-law as Rebbe on the basis of his scholarship, piety, and dynasty.[66][67] Schneerson was reluctant, and actively refused to accept leadership of the movement. He continued, however, all the communal activities he had previously headed. It would take a full year until he was persuaded into accepting the post by the elders of the movement.[68]

On the first anniversary of his father-in-law's passing, 10 Shevat 1951, in a ceremony attended by several hundred rabbis and Jewish leaders from all parts of the United States and Canada, Schneerson delivered a Hasidic discourse, (Ma'amar), the equivalent to a President-elect taking the oath of office, and formally became the Rebbe.[69] On the night of his acceptance, members of the Israeli Cabinet and and Israel’s Chief Rabbi's sent him congratulatory messages.[70]

During his inaugural talk, Schneerson said "one must go to a place where nothing is known of godliness, nothing is known Judaism, nothing is even known of the Hebrew alphabet, and while there to put oneself aside and ensure that the other calls out to god."[71] When he spoke to Forward journalist Asher Penn that year, he said, "we must stop insisting that Judaism is in danger, an assertion that does little but place Jewry on the defensive. We need to go on the offensive."[72]

As Rebbe, Schneerson would receive visitors for personal meeting, known as "yechidus" twice a week, during Sunday and Thursday evening. These meetings, would begin at 8pm and often continue until five or six in the morning and were open to anyone.[67][73] Schneerson, who spoke several languages including, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, Russian, German and Italian, would converse with people on all issues and offer his advice on both spiritual and mundane matters.[74] Politicians and leaders from across the globe came to meet him, but Schneerson showed no preference to one person over another. His secretary once even declined to admit John F. Kennedy because Schneerson was already meeting simple folk who had requested appointments months prior.[12] These meetings were discontinued in 1982 when it became impossible to facilitate the large number of people. These meetings were then held only for those who had a special occasion, such as bride and groom for their wedding or a boy and his family on the occasion of a bar mitzvah.[74]

During the coming four decades as Rebbe, Schneerson would deliver weekly addresses, centered on the weekly Torah portion and on various tractates of the Talmud. These lengthy talks which he delivered without text or notes could last several hours.[75][76] During these talks, Schneerson demonstrated a unique approach in explaining seemingly different concepts by analysis of the fundamental principle common to the entire tractate.[77][78]

1951-1994[edit]

In 1951 Schneerson established a Chabad women's and girl's organisation and a youth organisation in Israel. Their mission was to engage in outreach directed to women and teens respectively. In 1953 he opened branches in New York, London and Toronto. In a marked departure from an entrenched tendency to limit high-level Torah education to men and boys, Schneerson addressed his teachings equally to both genders.[79] He addressed meetings of the organisations, and led gatherings exclusively for women. Schneerson would describe the increase in Torah study by women as one of the "positive innovations of the later generations".[80]

That same year Schneerson sent his first emissary to Morocco, and established schools and synagogue for the Moroccan Jewish community. In 1958 Schneerson established Schools and synagogues in Detroit, Michigan, in Milan, Italy and in London, England. Beginning in the 1960’s, Schneerson instituted a system of "mitzvah campaigns" to encourage the observance of ten basic Jewish practices, such as Tefillin for men, Shabbat candles for women and loving your fellow for all people.[81]

In 1964 Schneersons mother, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson died.[82] Since bringing her to New York in 1947, Schneerson would visit her every day and twice each Friday and prepare her a tea.[83] Following her death, Schneerson began to offer an additional weekly sermon in her memory. These sermons, consisted of original insights and unprecedented analysis of Rashi's Torah commentary, which were delivered at the regular public gatherings. Schneerson gave these sermons each week until 1992.[84]

During his decades of leadership, Schneerson worked over 18 hours a day and never took a day of vacation.[85] He rarely left Brooklyn except for visits to his father-in-law's gravesite in Queens, New York. Schneerson was opposed to retirement, seeing it as a waste of precious years.[86] In 1972, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, instead of announcing a retirement plan, Schneerson proposed the establishment of 71 new institutions to mark the beginning of the 71st year of his life.[87]

In 1977, during the hakafot ceremony on Shemini Atzeret, Schneerson suffered a heart attack. At his request, rather than transporting him to a hospital, the doctors set up a mini-hospital at his office where he was treated for the next four weeks by Dr. Bernard Lown, Dr. Ira Weiss and Dr. Larry Resnick.[88]

In 1979, during the Islamic Revolution and Iranian hostage crisis, Schneerson directed arrangements to rescue Jewish youth and teenagers from Iran and bring them to safety in the United States.[89] The radical Islamic hostilities toward the United States was seen by Schneerson as an act that could lead to a general weakening of American influence around the world and that would encourage future challenges against the U.S. and its allies.[4][90] As a result of Schneersons efforts, several thousand Iranian children were flown to safety from Iran to New York.[91]

In 1983 Schneerson launched a global campaign to promote awareness of the supreme being and observance of the Noahide Laws among all people,[92] arguing that this was the basis for human rights for all civilization.[93] Several times each year his addresses were broadcast on national television. On these occasions Schneerson would address the public on general communal affairs and issues relating to world peace such as a moment of silence in U.S. public schools, increased government funding for solar energy research, U.S. foreign aid to developing countries and nuclear disarmament.[94]

In 1986, Schneerson began a custom where each Sunday he would stand outside his office and greet people briefly and give them a dollar bill, and encourage them to then donate to the charity of their choice.[95] Explaining his reason for encouraging charitable giving among all people, Schneerson quoted his father-in-law who said that “when two people meet, it should bring benefit to a third.”[96] People on line would often take this opportunity to ask Schneerson for advice or request a blessing. Thousands of people attended this event each week, which lasted up to six hours, and is often referred to as "Sunday Dollars."[97]

On February 10, 1988, Schneersons wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson died.[98] During the week of shiva Schneerson wrote a will in which he bequeathed his entire estate to Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the Chabad umbrella organisation.[99] A year after the death of his wife, when the traditional year of Jewish mourning had passed, Schneerson moved into his study above the central Lubavitch synagogue on Eastern Parkway.[100]

During a talk in In 1991, Schneerson spoke passionately about the Messiah and told his followers that he had done all that he could to bring world peace and redemption, but that it was now up to them to continue this task: "I have done my part, from now on you do all that you can." A few months later, when a reporter from CNN came to meet him at dollars, he said “Messiah is ready to come now. Its up to us to add more in acts of goodness and kindness."[101]

On Sunday, the 26th of Adar II 1992, Gabriel Erem, of Lifestyles Magazine, told Schneerson that on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday they would be publishing a special issue and wanted to know what his message to the world was. Schneerson replied that "'Ninety,' in Hebrew, is ‘tzaddik,’ which means ‘righteous.’ And that is a direct indication for every person to become a real tzaddik - a righteous person, and to do so for many years, until 120." This message, Schneerson added, applies equally to Jews and non-Jews.[102]

The following day Schneerson suffered a serious stroke while praying at the grave of his father-in-law. The stroke left him unable to speak and paralyzed on the right side of his body. During this time, the hope that Schneerson could be revealed as the Messiah (Moshiach) became more widespread.[103][104]

The Rebbe's Tomb: Schneerson's burial place next to his father-in-law and predecessor in Queens, NY.
RabbiMenachemMendelMedal.jpg

On June 12, 1994 (3 Tammuz 5754), Schneerson died at the Beth Israel Medical Center and was buried at the Ohel next to his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, New York.[105][106] Shortly after Schneersons death, the executors of his will discovered several notebooks in a draw in his office, in which Schneerson had written his scholarly thoughts and religious musings from his earliest years.[107] The majority of entries in these journals date between the years 1928 and 1950 and were subsequently published.[108]

Following age-old Jewish tradition that the resting place of a tzadik is holy, Schneersons grave-site is viewed by many as a holy site, and has been described by the Yedioth Ahronoth as "the American Western Wall", where thousands of people, including both Jews and non-Jews,[12] come to pray each week.[109][110]http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/nyregion/jews-make-a-pilgrimage-to-a-grand-rebbes-grave.html?_r=1& Many more send faxes and e-mails with requests for prayers to be read at the grave site.[111]

A child announces one of the 12 verses.
Waving to children at a Lag BaOmer parade.

Global leadership[edit]

United States[edit]

Schneerson spoke of America's position as a world superpower, and would praise its foundational values of '"E pluribus unum'—from many one", and "In God we trust."[112] He called on the government to develope independent energy, and not need to rely of totalitarian regimes whose countries national interests greatly differed from the US.[113][114] Schneerson also called for the US Government to use its influence on countries who were receiving its foreign aid to do more for the educational and cultural needs of their deprived citizens.[115][116]

Schneerson placed a strong emphasis on education and often spoke of the need of a moral educational system for all people. He was an advocate of a Department of Education as a separate cabinet position from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.[117] Schneerson proclaimed 1977 as a “Year of Education” and urged Congress to do the same. He stated that education “must think in terms of a 'better living’ not only for the individual, but also for the society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values. Education must put greater emphasis on the promotion of fundamental human rights and obligations of justice and morality, which are the basis of any human society"[118]

Following Schneerson's urging, the Ninety-Fifth Congress of the United States issued a Joint Resolution proclaiming 1978 as a Year of Education and designating April 18, 1978, as "Education Day, U.S.A.".[119] Each year since, the President of the United States has proclaimed Schneerson's birthday as "Education Day, U.S.A." in his honor.[120]

During his life, Schneerson had great influence on numerous political leaders from across the aisle, many of whom would seek his advice. He was visited by Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors, Senators, Congressmen and Mayors. Notable among them are John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr,Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Jacob Javits, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, David Dinkins and Joe Lieberman.[61][121]

Israel[edit]

Schneerson always took an interest into the affairs of the state of Israel, and did whatever was in his power to support the infrastructure of the state, and advance its success.[122][123] He was concerned with the agricultural,[124] industrial and overall economic welfare of Israel,[125] and sought to promote its scientific achievements, and enhance Israel's standing in the international community.[126] He consistently expressed enormous recognition for the role of the Israel Defense Forces and stated that those who serve in the Israeli army perform a great Mitzva.[127]

In 1950 Schneerson encouraged the establishment of Israel’s first automobile company. By 1956, the company was responsible to 28% of Israel’s exports. Schneerson also established a network of trade schools in Israel to provide Israeli youth, new immigrants and holocaust survivors with vocational training and livelihood. In 1954 Schneerosn established a school for carpentry and woodwork. In 1955 he established a school for agriculture. In 1956 he established a school for printing and publishing and in 1957 a school for textiles.[128]

Although he never was in Israel, many of Israel's top leadership made it a point to visit him.[129] Israeli President, Zalman Shazar, would visit Schneerson and corresponded extensively with him as would Prime Minister Menachem Begin who came to visit him before going to Washington to meet President Carter.[130] Ariel Sharon who had a close relationship with Schneerson,[131] often quoted his view on military matters and sought his advice when he considered retiring from the military. Schneerson advised the general to remain at his post.[132] Yitzhak Rabin,[133] Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu[134] also visited and sought Schneersons advice, and Schneerosn stated his nonpartisan policy many times, warning of any involvement in politics.[135][136]

Schneerson publicly expressed his view, that the safety and stability of Israel were in the best interests of the United States, as Israel is the front line against those who want the anti-west nations to succeed.[137] He was opposed to land for peace, which he called an “illusion of peace,” saying that it would not save live, but harm lives. Schneerson stated that this position was not based on nationalistic or other religious reasons, but purely out of concern for human life.[138] Benjamin Netanyahu said that while serving as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in 1984, Schneerson told him: "you will be serving in a house of darkness, but remember, that even in the darkest place; the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide…" Netanyahu later retold this episode in a speech at the General Assembly, on Sept 23, 2011.[139]

Just before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Schneerson called for a global Teffilin campaign, to see that Jews observe the Mitzva of Tefillin as a means of ensuring divine protection against Israel's enemies.[140] Speaking to a crowd of thousands of people on May 28, 1967, only a few days before the outbreak of the war, he assured the world that Israel would be victorious.[141] He said Israel had no need to fear as God was with them, quoting the verse, "the Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers."[142]

After the Operation Entebbe rescue, in a public talk on 16 August 1976, Schneerson applauded the courage and selflessness of the IDF, "who flew thousands of miles, putting their lives in danger for the sole purpose of possibly saving the lives of tens of Jews”. He said “their portion in the Hereafter is guaranteed”.[143][144] He was later vilified by ultra haredi rabbis for publicly praising the courage of the IDF and suggesting that God chose them as a medium through which he would send deliverance to the Jewish people.[145] Schneerson protested vehemently against those elements within the ultra haredi society who sought to undermine the motivations and actions of the soldiers.[146][147]

He corresponded with David Ben-Gurion on the issue of Judaism in the State of Israel, asking the Prime Minister to ensure that Israel remains Jewish. He lobbied Israeli politicians to pass legislation in accordance with Jewish law on the question "Who is a Jew?" and asked that they add the words "according to Halakha" to the declaration so that it state that "only one who is born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Halakha is Jewish." This caused a furore in the United States. Some American Jewish philanthropies stopped financially supporting Chabad-Lubavitch since most of their members were connected to Reform and Conservative Judaism. Controversial issues such as territorial compromise in Israel that might have estranged benefactors from giving much-needed funds to Chabad.[148]

Soviet Jewry[edit]

Schneerson greatly encouraged the Jews who were trapped behind the iron curtain. He sent many emissaries on covert missions to sustain Judaism under Communist regimes and to provide them with their religious and material needs.[149] Many Jews from behind the iron curtain would correspond with Schneerson, sending their letters to him via secret messenger and addressing Schneerson in code name.[150]

Schneerson, who had an intimate knowledge of the Soviet government and their tactics, opposed demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jews, stating that he had evidence that they were harming Russia’s Jews. Instead he advocated quiet diplomacy, which he said would be more effective.[151][152] Schneerson did whatever was in his power to push for the release of Jews from the former Soviet Union and established schools, communities and other humanitarian resources to assist with their absorption into Israel. On one known occasion he instructed Sen. Chic Hecht to provide President Ronald Reagan with contact information of people who wished to leave so that he could lobby their release.[153]

Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Schneerson called for efforts to rescue children from Chernobyl and founded a special organization for this purpose.[154] The first rescue flight occurred on August 3, 1990, when 196 children were flown to Israel and brought to a shelter campus. Since then, thousands of children have been rescued and brought to Israel where they receive housing, education and medical care in a supportive environment.[155]

Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency said that Chabad Lubavitch was an essential connector to Soviet Jewry during the Cold War,[156] while Shimon Peres has stated that it’s to Schneersons credit that "Judaism in the Soviet Union has been preserved."[157]

Legacy[edit]

Impact[edit]

Schneerson initiated Jewish outreach in the post holocaust era and believed that world Jewry was seeking to learn more about their heritage. He sought to bring Judaism to Jews wherever they were and was the first person in all of history to try reach every Jewish community and every Jew in the world.[15] British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said of Schneerson "that if the Nazis searched out every Jew in hate, the Rebbe wished to search out every Jew in love.”[158] He oversaw the building of schools, community centers, and youth camps and created a global network of emissaries, known as Shluchim.

Today there are Shluchim in 49 of the 50 US States, in over 80 countries and 1000 cities around the world, totaling more than 3,600 institutions including some 300 in Israel.[159][160] Chabad is very often the only Jewish presence in a given town or city and it has become the face of Jewish Orthodoxy for the Jewish and general world.[161]

Schneerson's model of Jewish outreach has been imitated by all Jewish movements including the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Haredi.[162][163] His published works fill more then 200 volumes and are often used as source text for sermons of both Chabad and non-Chabad rabbis.[14] Beyond the Jewish world, Peggy Noonan has written that moral issues would be better addressed by leaders such as Schneerson then by politicians,[164] and since his death, Schneerson has been referred to as the Rebbe for all people.[12]

Recognition[edit]

Schneerson’s contributions to education and the betterment of mankind have been recognized by every president since Richard Nixon. In 1978, Schneerson became the first – and only – rabbi to have a US national day proclaimed in his honor, when the US congress and President Jimmy Carter designated Schneersons birthdate as “Education Day USA.” Each year since, the President has called on all Americans to focus on education in honor of Schneerson. In 1982 Ronald Reagan also proclaimed Schneerson's birthday as a "National Day of Reflection," and presented the "National Scroll of Honor" that was signed by the President, Vice-President and every member of Congress.[165][166]

Numerous public officials attended Schneerson's funeral, including New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Benjamin Netanyahu and the entire staff of the Israeli consulate in Washington.[167]

President Bill Clinton penned a condolence letter "to the Chabad-Lubavitch community and to world Jewry" and spoke of Schneerson as "a monumental man who as much as any other individual, was responsible over the last half a century for advancing the instruction of ethics and morality to our young people." Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, cited Schneersons great scholarship and contribution to the entire Jewish people and proclaimed "The Rebbe's loss is a loss for all the Jewish people." Foreign Minister Shimon Peres cited words from the prophet Malachi as applying with particular force to Schneerson: "He brought back many from iniquity. For a priest's lips shall guard knowledge, and teaching should be sought from his mouth. For he is a messenger of the Lord."[168]

Shortly after his death, Schneerson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, honoring Schneerson for his "outstanding and enduring contributions toward world education, morality, and acts of charity".[19] President Bill Clinton spoke these words at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony:

In 2009, the National Museum of American Jewish History selected Schneerson as one of eighteen American Jews to be included in their "Only in America" Hall of Fame.[169]

Scholarship and works[edit]

Schneerson is recognized for his scholarship and contributions to Talmudic, Halachic, Kabalistic and Chasidic teachings.[14][170] Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who knew Schneerson from their days in Berlin, and remained in contact once the two men came to America, told his students after visiting Schneerson "the Rebbe has a 'gewaldiger' (awesome) comprehension of the Torah,"[171] and "He is a gaon, he is a great one, he is a leader of Israel."[172]

According to Mordechai Eliyahu, former chief Rabbi of Israel, his meeting with Schneerson "covered all sections of the Torah" Eliyahu said "The Rebbe jumped effortlessly from one Talmudic tractate to another, and from there to Kabbalah and then to Jewish law... It was as if he had just finished studying these very topics from the holy books. The whole Torah was an open book in front of him".[173][174]

Schneersons teachings been published in more than two hundred volumes. Schneerson also penned tens of thousands letters in reply to requests for belessing and advice. These detailed and personal letters offer advice and explanation on a wide variety of subjects, including spiritual matters as well as all aspects of life.[175]

Books in Hebrew and Yiddish[edit]

  • 1943: Hayom Yom – An anthology of Chabad aphorisms and customs arranged according to the days of the year.
  • 1944: Sefer HaToldot – Admor Moharash – Biography of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn.
  • 1946: Haggadah Im Likkutei Ta'amim U'minhagim – The Haggadah with a commentary written by Schneerson.
  • 1951-1992: Sefer HaMa'amarim Melukot – chassidic discourses (6 volumes).
  • 1951-2014: Sefer HaMa'amarim Hasidic discourses including 1951–1962, 1969–1977 with plans to complete the rest (29 volumes).
  • 1962-1992: Likkutei Sichot – Schneerson's discourses on the weekly Torah portions, Jewish Holidays, and other issues (39 volumes).
  • 1981-1992: Torat Menachem Hitvaduyot – transcripts of talks in Hebrew, 1982–1992 (50 volumes).
  • 1985: Chidushim UBiurim B'Shas – novellae on the Talmud (3 volumes).
  • 1985-1987: Sichot Kodesh – transcripts of talks in Yiddish from 1950–1981 (50 volumes).
  • 1985-2010: Igrot Kodesh – Schneerson's Hebrew and Yiddish letters (30 volumes).
  • 1987-1992: Sefer HaSichot – Schneerson's edited talks from 1987–1992. (12 volumes).
  • 1988: Hilchot Beit Habechira LeHaRambam Im Chiddushim U'Beurim – Talks on the Laws of the Holy Temple) of the Mishneh Torah.
  • 1989: Biurim LePirkei Avot – talks on the Mishnaic tractate of "Ethics of the Fathers" (2 volumes).
  • 1990-2010: Heichal Menachem – Shaarei – talks arranged by topic and holiday (34 volumes).
  • 1991: Biurim LePeirush Rashi – talks on the commentary of Rashi to Torah (5 volume).
  • 1991: Yein Malchut – talks on the Mishneh Torah (2 volumes).
  • 1992: Torat Menachem – Tiferet Levi Yitzchok – talks on the works of his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson on the Zohar (3 volumes).
  • 1993-2013: Torat Menachem transcripts of talks in Hebrew, 1950-1969. Planned to encompass 1950–1992 (53 volumes).
  • 1994-2001: Reshimot – Schneerson's personal journal discovered after his death. Includes notes for his public talks before 1950, letters to Jewish scholars, notes on the Tanya, and thoughts on a wide range of Jewish subjects penned between 1928-1950 (10 volumes).

Books in English (original and translated)[edit]

  • Letters from the Rebbe – 5 volume set of Rabbi Schneerson's English letters.
  • Path to Selflessness - work discussing the bond between the individual soul and G-d.[176]
  • Garments of the Soul - discussing the sublime importance of mundane activities, and their affect on the soul.[177]
  • The Letter and the Spirit 2 volumes so far published of the Rebbe's English letters.[178]

Controversies[edit]

Wills[edit]

There is considerable controversy within Chabad about Schneerson's will, as he named no successor. He did however write one legal will, which was signed before witnesses, whereby he transferred stewardship of all the major Chabad institutions, as well as all his possessions to Agudas Chassidei Chabad.[179]

Another will, no executed copies of which are known to be in existence, named three senior Chabad rabbis, as directors of Agudas Chassidei Chabad.[179]

"Moshiach" (Messiah) fervor[edit]

Rabbi Schneerson's followers believed he was the Jewish Messiah, the "Moshiach," and some have persisted in that belief since his death. The reverence with which he was treated by followers led many Jewish critics from both the Conservative and Reform communities to allege that a cult of personality had grown up around him. His obituary in The New York Times said he "was attacked for allowing a cult of personality to grow around him"[180] from Conservative and Reform critics. Though he worked to dissuade his followers from making it that, telling New York Times reporter Israel Shenker in 1972 "I have never given any reason for a cult of personality, and I do all in my power to dissuade them from making it that".[67] Moshe D. Sherman, an associate professor at Touro College wrote that "as Schneerson's empire grew, a personality cult developed around him... portraits of Rabbi Schneerson were placed in all Lubavitch homes, shops, and synagogues, and devoted followers routinely requested a blessing from him prior to their marriage, following an illness, or at other times of need."[181]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The accepted date is April 5, 1902 OS. However, government documents, including his Russian passport, his application for French citizenship, his application for a U.S. visa, and his U.S. World War Two draft registration all indicate he was born in March 1895.
  2. ^ 92 based on accepted date of birth in 1902; 99 based on the 1895 date that appears on government documents
  3. ^ Noah Feldman, Jun 25, 2014 "Remembering a Force in Jewish History", BloombergView
  4. ^ a b Joel B. Pollak, 29 Jun 2014 "After 20 Years the Rebbe Still Casts a Long Warm Shadow", Breitbart
  5. ^ Bari Weiss, Oct. 2, 2014 "Crowdsourcing the High Holy Days", Wall Street Journal
  6. ^ Matt Flegenheimer, "Thousands Descend on Queens on 20th Anniversary of Grand Rebbe’s Death", New York Times
  7. ^ Ronn Torossian, "Rebbe The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History", FrontPage Magazine
  8. ^ Steve Langford, "Crowds Flock To Queens To Remember Influential Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson", CBS New York
  9. ^ Rabbi Schneerson Led a Small Hasidic Sect to World Prominence New York Times June 13, 1994
  10. ^ "National Geographic Magazine February 2006". Ngm.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
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  12. ^ a b c d Editorial, 07/08/14. "Rebbe to the city and Rebbe to the world". The New York Observer.
  13. ^ The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidim Past and Present, M. Avrum Ehrlich, p. 106. KTAV Publishing, ISBN 0-88125-836-9
  14. ^ a b c Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Vice President of the Orthodox Union. "The Contributions of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Torah Scholarship". Jewish Action Magazine
  15. ^ a b Sue Fishkoff. "10 Years After His Death, Reach of Lubavitcher Rebbe Continues To Grow". Jewish Federations of North America. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  16. ^ Susan Handelman, The Lubavitcher Rebbe Died 20 Years Ago Today. Who Was He?, Tablet Magazine
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  18. ^ Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. HarperCollins, 2014. pp.30-36.
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  54. ^ Last Sea Route From Lisbon to U.S. Stops Ticket Sale to Refugees, New York Times, March 15, 1941
  55. ^ Lisbon, 1941: The Messiah the Invalid and the Fish
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  75. ^ "Out of The Depth's", Israel Meir Lau, p.201
  76. ^ Edward Hoffman (May 1991). Despite All Odds: The Story of Lubavitch. Simon & Schuster. p. 32. ISBN 0-671-67703-9. 
  77. ^ Jonathan Sacks, Introduction. Torah Studies. Kehot Publication Society, 1986.
  78. ^ "Hamodia" newspaper Vol.12944, June 13, 1994,
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  80. ^ Dr. Susan Handelman, The Rebbe's Views on Women Today
  81. ^ http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-rebbe-twenty-years-after/
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  83. ^ Chana Schneerson, My Son Visits Every Day.
  84. ^ Chaim Miller, Rashi's Method of Biblical Commentary.
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  86. ^ Shmuley Boteach, Judaism for Everyone. Page 209. ISBN 0-465-00794-5
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  88. ^ "Living Torah Archive - Living Torah". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  89. ^ ""Exodus" from Iran". Lubavitch Archives. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  90. ^ Shlomo Shamir, August 24, 2013 "The Israeli Journalist, Iran and the Rebbes Vision"
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  92. ^ Universal Morality
  93. ^ 1983: Mankind
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  97. ^ Eliezer Zalmanov, What Does A Dollar from the Rebbe Represent
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  99. ^ The Baltimore Sun, June 15, 1994 "Rabbi Schneerson names no successor in will"
  100. ^ Alan Feuer, January 14, 2009 "No One There, but This Place Is Far From Empty" The New York Times
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  102. ^ Eli Rubin "Everyone A Tzaddik: Miracles, Transmission and Ascent"
  103. ^ The Washington Post, June 20, 1999. 5 Years After Death, Messiah Question Divides Lubavitchers. Leyden, Liz.
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  105. ^ The Encyclopedia of Hasidism, by Tzvi Rabinowicz p. 432 ISBN 1-56821-123-6.
  106. ^ The New York Times, June 13, 1994, p. A1.
  107. ^ Gonzalez, David. 1994-11-08 "Lubavitchers Learn to Sustain Themselves Without the Rebbe" The New York Times
  108. ^ "About the Reshimot"
  109. ^ http://tabletmag.com/scroll/178077/visiting-the-lubavitcher-rebbes-grave-in-queens
  110. ^ David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson (2005). Pilgrimage and the Jews. Praeger. pp. 118–120. ISBN 978-0275987633. 
  111. ^ "How to Send a letter - Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch". Ohelchabad.org. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
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  113. ^ Yosef Abramowitz, "Better Energy, The Rebbe's Energy". The Jerusalem Post, 07/01/2014.
  114. ^ Menachem M. Schneerson, Americas Mandate: Energy Independence. April 15, 1981
  115. ^ The Start of "Education Day USA"
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  117. ^ Sue Fishkoff, The Rebbe's Army. Random House, 2003. Pages 192-193.
  118. ^ Menachem M. Schneerson, "Education is the Cornerstone of Humanity". April 18, 1978.
  119. ^ 95th Congress, Public Law 95-262. Apr. 17. 1978.
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  130. ^ Begin with the Rebbe Jewish Educational Media
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  139. ^ The Light of Truth at the UN
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  153. ^ "Obituary: Senator Jacob ("Chic") Hecht (1929-2006)". 2006-05-15. 
  154. ^ "Our Story - Who We Are". Chabad's Children of Chernobyl. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  155. ^ Eglash, Ruth (2011-04-26). "Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl project ‘as vital as ever'". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  156. ^ Lightstone, Mordechai (2011-11-07). "Natan Sharansky Praises Work of Chabad at Federation General Assembly". Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
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  160. ^ List of Chabad Centers in Israel
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  162. ^ Maayan Jaffe, 20 Years After Rebbe's Death Jewish Movements Increasingly Emulate Chabad. June 8, 2014.
  163. ^ Eric Yoffie, The Chabad Challenge. Union for Reform Judaism, 2002.
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  165. ^ "Ronald Reagan: Proclamation 4921 - National Day of Reflection". American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  166. ^ Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. HarperCollins, 2014. Page 4.
  167. ^ "Tens of Thousands Mourn the Death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 1994-06-13. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  168. ^ Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. HarperCollins, 2014. Page 514.
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  172. ^ "Excerpt: The Rebbe and the Rav". YouTube. 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  173. ^ Mordechai, Rabbi. "Teacher and Leader for All Jews - Life". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  174. ^ Following his attendance at one such talk, Rabbi Yitzchak Yedidya Frankel said "I have witnessed the magnificence of Polish Jewry...and I have known most of the great scholars of recent generations. But I have never seen such command of the material. That is genius." Out of the Depths Israel Meir Lau, Sterling Publishing, 2011 p.202.
  175. ^ 'Hamodia' Vol.12944, June 13, 1994, pg.2
  176. ^ At the Kehot website ISBN 978-0-8266-0750-8
  177. ^ At the kehot website ISBN 0-8266-0552-4
  178. ^ http://nissanmindelpublications.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=59&product_id=68
  179. ^ a b The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidim Past and Present, M. Avrum Ehrlich, Chapter 20, KTAV Publishing, ISBN 0-88125-836-9
  180. ^ Rabbi Schneerson Led a Small Hasidic Sect to World Prominence New York Times Obit, Aril Goldman, June 13, 1994
  181. ^ Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook, pg. 187 Moshe D. Sherman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996

Further reading[edit]

  • Joseph Telushkin. Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. HarperWave, 2014. ISBN 978-0062318985
  • Chaim Miller. Turning Judaism Outwards: A Biography of the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Kol Menachem, 2014. ISBN 978-1934152362
  • Adin Steinsaltz. My Rebbe. Maggid Books, 2014. ISBN 978-159-264-381-3
  • Shaul Shimon Deutsch. Larger than Life: The life and times of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Volumes 1-2 Chasidic Historical Productions, Volume 1- 1995, Volume 2- 1997. ISBN 978-0964724303 (Volume 1), 978-0964724310 (Volume 2).
  • Sue Fishkoff. The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch. Schocken, 2005. ISBN 978-0805211382
  • Elliot R. Wolfson. Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-231-14630-2
  • Samuel C. Heilman & Menachem M. Friedman. The Rebbe. The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, . 2010. ISBN 978-0-691-13888-6
  • Rachel Elior, "The Lubavich Messianic Resurgence: The Historical and Mystical Background 1939-1996", Toward the Millennium – Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (eds. P. Schafer and M. Cohen), Leiden: Brill 1998: 383-408
  • Chaim Rapoport. The Afterlife of Scholarship. Oporto Press, 2011. ISBN 0615538975
  • Hoffman, Edward (1991). Despite all odds: the story of Lubavitch. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-67703-9. LCCN 90010115. OCLC 22113189. 
  • Ehrlich, Avrum M. (2004). The Messiah of Brooklyn: understanding Lubavitch Hasidism past and present. Jersey City, New Jersey: KTAV Publishing. ISBN 0-88125-836-9. LCCN 2004014552. OCLC 55800922. 

External links[edit]

Works available online[edit]

Works available on iTunes[edit]

Biography[edit]

Historical sites[edit]

Preceded by
Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn
Rebbe of Lubavitch
1951–1994
Succeeded by
N/A


Schneersohn Family Tree (partial)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi
1745–1812
1st Chabad Rebbe
Rebbetzin Sterna
17??–18??
Rabbi Shalom Shachne
17??–18??
Rebbetzin Devora Leah
17??–17??
Rabbi Dovber Schneuri
1773–1827
2nd Chabad Rebbe
Rebbetzin Sheina
17??–18??
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn
1789–1866
3rd Chabad Rebbe
Rebbetzin Chaya M. Schneersohn
17??–1860
Rabbi Baruch Shalom Schneersohn
1806–1869
Rabbi Yehuda L. Schneersohn
1808–1866
1st Kapust Rebbe
Rabbi Chaim S. Z. Schneersohn
1814–1880
1st Liadi Rebbe
Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn
1834–1882
4th Chabad Rebbe
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn
1834–1878
Rabbi Shlomo Z. Schneersohn
1830–1900
2nd Kapust Rebbe
Rabbi Shmaryahu N. Schneersohn
1842–1923
4th Kapust Rebbe
Rabbi Yitzchak D. Schneersohn
1842–1824
2nd Liadi Rebbe
Rabbi Shalom D. Schneersohn
1860–1920
5th Chabad Rebbe
Rabbi Baruch Schneur Schneersohn
18??–1926
Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn
1880–1950
6th Chabad Rebbe
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson
1878–1944
Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson
1880–1964
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
1902–1994
7th Chabad Rebbe
Rebbetzin Chaya M. Schneerson
1901–1988