My Dad, of blessed memory, was Reb Chaim Mordechai Yitzchak HaKohen. He was named Chaim Mordechai because he was born a week before Purim. He also died a week before Purim. He came to America from Postov, Russia, which was a Chabad-Lubavitch town, and it was there that he was strongly influenced by Chabad ways.
As far back as I remember, I heard about Chabad. My father loved religion, and he belonged to half-a-dozen synagogues in Los Angeles where we lived, but he was not really at home in any of them; he would always tell me that the only sect of Judaism that he identified with was Chabad but, back then, there were no Chabad synagogues in the city.
I remember my father speaking with great reverence about the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and how much he would love to see the Rebbe, but it was impossible as the Rebbe was in Europe. Then the Rebbe came to America – this was in 1940, when I was ten. My father was just overjoyed; he was truly ecstatic. And he called the Rebbe’s office in New York right away.
Shortly thereafter, the first emissary of Chabad came to LA. His name was Rabbi Moshe Hecht. He impressed me tremendously because, while he had a beard and a black hat and coat, he was a modern guy. I remember him playing baseball with me and suddenly stopping to pray Mincha. Others came also, mostly to collect funds for Chabad schools – the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva and the Vocational Schools of the Holy Land, which was a Chabad program where boys were trained not just to learn Hebrew and become rabbis but also to learn a trade so that, if they didn’t find work as rabbis, they could at least make a living.
My father contributed, of course, and he also raised money for Chabad. My mother – who was very active in charitable causes, in Zionistic causes, and in political causes – knew how to organize fund-raising events. She knew how to set up the tables, who to invite, how much to charge, how to arrange the publicity … and, because of her know-how, we were able to raise considerable amounts of money. (more…)