I became interested in Lubavitch while attending the Bais Yaakov girls’ school in Brooklyn. At that point, there wasn’t yet a high school for the Lubavitcher girls to attend so they all went to Bais Yaakov, along with the girls from the Satmar and Modern Orthodox communities. There were students of all types.
The girl who sat next to me, and who later became my sister-in-law, was a Lubavitcher named Rivka Eichenbaum; it was because of her that I became involved in Lubavitch. I began to attend classes for women on Chasidus as well as farbrengens and other programs.
But there was a problem. My parents were not Chabad chasidim and they strongly believed that I should be following their way of practicing Judaism. They were very committed, observant Jews who were proud members of the Agudas Yisroel community. My grandfather Rabbi Pesachya Lamm was a prominent figure who had helped introduce glatt kosher meat to America, and although he had connections with Lubavitch – the Previous Rebbe had actually eaten his meat – my father didn’t appreciate that I was now studying Tanya and doing things differently. Seeing that I wasn’t following exactly in his ways hurt him.
I wasn’t willing to listen to him, but when he asked, I said that there was someone I would listen to: the Rebbe. With that, he went and arranged an audience for himself, my mother and me. I was seventeen at the time, and they were going to take me to the Rebbe to express their concerns.
But first, I sent a six-page letter to the Rebbe, explaining my numerous dilemmas: I was drawn to Lubavitch, but my parents disapproved. Meanwhile, my teachers at Bais Yaakov preached a sterner approach to Judaism that conflicted with the Lubavitch path. They were oriented towards the Mussar school of Jewish ethics, emphasizing seclusion and avoiding the evils of the world, both on a communal level as well as personally. By isolating yourself from other people, they said, you could focus on your own studies, and you’d be less likely to wind up gossiping. The Chabad chasidic approach, in contrast, was more positive and confident, emphasizing the good to be done with ourselves and others. (more…)