Rabbi Yaakov Eckhaus

20 September 2021

When I was growing up, I couldn’t stay in class. After kindergarten, my parents sent me to the Toras Emes yeshivah in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and I would come to school every day. But then I would insist that somebody come pick me up to bring me home. I guess I had class fright.

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So in 1946 my parents decided to send me to the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Crown Heights. My brother was there already, and they figured that my brother could come stay with me in the classroom if I needed.

Well, that didn’t work, and every day my mother had to be called down to Crown Heights. Rabbi Zalman Gurary was our principal, and he used to call up my mother and tell her, “Come pick up your son – he doesn’t want to sit in class!”

When it happened again and my father had to leave work to pick me up, he lost his patience. “Don’t send him there anymore,” he told my mother, “he is not able to be in yeshivah.” (more…)

Mr. Marty Jacobs

20 September 2021

On the evening after Yom Kippur of 1963, I asked the woman who would become my wife to marry me. Her name was Golda Katz, and she came from Chicago.

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We were introduced earlier that year and after a few months I was ready to propose. I had just graduated from NYU Law School, taken the bar exam – at the time, I was waiting for the results – and begun a job as an attorney in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Of course, we called Golda’s parents to tell them the good news. Her mother was very happy and congratulated us and then her father talked to me. He greeted me warmly but I noticed that he didn’t say Mazel Tov, and I figured there was more to this.

“I’m sure he’s going to want you to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe before he can even consider us getting married,” Golda explained. (more…)

Rabbi Nochem Kaplan

20 September 2021

I was an infant when we escaped the USSR at the end of World War Two. After a harrowing journey through Poland into Germany, we arrived along with other refugee families at the displaced persons camp in Poking, near Munich. Many Chabad chasidim found refuge there, creating a small but vibrant community of their own. The refugees, who had been denied the opportunity to educate their children in the Soviet Union, quickly opened Jewish schools for boys and girls and a yeshivah for young men.

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The DP Camp was on the site of a former air force base and the large barracks had been divided into small cubicles, one for each family. Our family’s cubicle was next door to that of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, the Rebbe’s mother. And that is how we got to know her.

She was able to immigrate to New York in 1947, but we settled first in France and then in England and didn’t arrive in America until later, when I was already eleven. Once we arrived, my family renewed our relationship with her. We visited her a number of times in her home, but we didn’t call her Rebbetzin Chana – we called her “the Rebbe’s mammeh.” (more…)

Rabbi Nasan Maimon

1 September 2021

As a teenager living in New York City, I became interested in the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a Chasidic Rebbe who lived in the late 1700s. During his short lifetime, those teachings made quite an impact, and when he passed away at the age of thirty-eight, he was buried at his request in the city of Uman, which is between Kiev and Odessa, in Ukraine. Ever since, his followers would gather at his resting place to pray.

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During the Communist era, it became extremely dangerous to hold religious gatherings like this, but people continued, very discreetly, to visit the burial site. I managed to visit on one occasion, and there was a rabbi by the name of Reb Michel Dorfman who for years organized a small group to come to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. The site was located in a residential area on One Belinsky Street, in the backyard of a woman whose family name was Zubeida.

Reb Michel was one of the last remaining Breslover chasidim in Ukraine. Most of the others were either murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent wars, or had gotten out of the country. He had spent six and a half years in the Siberian Gulag but in the early ‘70s, he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union with some other dissidents. He settled in Israel, where he took up a leadership position among the elders of Breslov in Jerusalem.

A few years later, in 1979, a message reached Reb Michel. It was from Mrs. Zubeida, the woman who lived near the gravesite, who had been told that several nine-story apartment buildings were going to be put up in her neighborhood. The people living in the area would be given apartments, but they were put on notice that their houses would be destroyed, and that the whole area would be dug up – including the gravesite.

Mrs. Zubeida was especially concerned about her garden and the chickens that she kept back there, so she asked the people who had come to visit Uman at that time to get word to Reb Michel. (more…)

Mr. Rudy Boschwitz

25 August 2021

My relationship with Lubavitch started when Rabbi Moshe Feller, Chabad’s longtime representative in Minnesota, came to my store, not long after I opened it, to buy some lumber for his sukkah.

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I had grown up around New York, before coming out to Minnesota to begin a business. Rabbi Feller is himself a Minnesotan, and he had returned there in 1962 as a Chabad emissary just a few years before I got there.

I noticed him as he was leaving the store; beards were not unusual back then, but he wore tzitzit, so I recognized that he was an Orthodox Jew – and likely, a rabbi. I introduced myself, and that became the beginning of a very long and very satisfying relationship – not only for me, but also for my sons and my wife.

At Rabbi Feller’s suggestion, my wife and I went to see the Rebbe and we met with him several times throughout the years. I also had the opportunity to attend a farbrengen in 770 Eastern Parkway, which the Rebbe led with enormous spirit, and I was invited to speak at a convention for Chabad emissaries, where I addressed a crowd of some three thousand men. (more…)

Rabbi Moshe Lazar

25 August 2021

I was twelve years old when I enrolled in the Chabad yeshivah in Crown Heights together with my brother. Our family had escaped from Vienna before the start of World War Two, and although there were plenty of yeshivahs near our home in Williamsburg, we gravitated to Chasidic teachings. In Chabad, we found our spiritual home and our spiritual father, the Rebbe.

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My first major impression of him goes back to Rosh Hashanah of 1951. When the Rebbe’s farbrengen ended at the holiday’s conclusion, he recited the blessing after eating and then started to distribute wine from his cup. Although the Previous Rebbe had also distributed wine from his cup in a ceremony known as kos shel brachah, this was the first time the Rebbe – who had accepted leadership of Chabad earlier that year – personally gave wine to everyone, not just to important people. Each of us went up to get some wine, and the Rebbe said a few words to every person.

I went up also, and even though I was just a teenager, I found this encounter with the Rebbe to be highly meaningful. The words he chose to speak to me were very personal – they were not just standard platitudes but a message pinpointed directly at me. In that moment I knew that I was standing in front of someone most unusual, whom I came to call my “father.” (more…)

Dr. Ben Mollov

25 August 2021

I was born and raised in Queens, New York, in a traditional and highly Zionistic Jewish family. Although I attended yeshivah in my youth, my experiences there were not at all positive and they turned me off to Orthodoxy – at least to the kind of Orthodoxy that I had come to know as a youngster, focused solely on rituals and absent of any deeper meaning.

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One small bright light during high school was a farbrengen led by the Rebbe which I attended at Chabad headquarters. Also, I recall hearing some Chabad rabbis speaking about how the Torah elevates the human being in all areas of life. That stuck in the background of my consciousness, and it made a difference later in my life. But, back then, it was not enough to offset the negative impression that my yeshivah experience left upon me.

Subsequently, I attended Queens College, majoring in political science with a minor in Jewish studies, and when I studied Jewish philosophy, Judaism became meaningful to me for the first time. I went on to receive a Master’s Degree from Columbia University and then made aliyah to Israel, where I moved closer to Torah observance, remembering the lesson of the Chabad rabbis that the commandments of the Torah are meant to elevate the human being. (more…)

Rabbi Emanuel Quint

25 August 2021

In the various collections of the Rebbe’s correspondence, quite a few of the Hebrew and Yiddish letters are signed “On behalf of the Rebbe, E. Quint.”

“E. Quint” was my father – Rabbi Eli Quint – who was not a Lubavitcher, and this is the story of how he came to write and sign all those letters.

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My father was born and raised in Bialystok, Poland, which he left to attend the famed Slabodka yeshivah in Lithuania, and when that yeshivah relocated to Hebron, in the Land of Israel, he came along. After he received his rabbinic ordination – from the chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, Rabbi Avraham Kook – he married my mother, and they moved to New York, where I and my sister were born.

It so happened that, in the 1940s, we lived at 816 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, which was just half a block away from Chabad headquarters at 770. Since the Chabad synagogue was so close by, my father would often pray there, and he befriended Rabbi Mordechai Hodakov, the head of the Rebbe’s secretariat, who offered him a job. My father accepted and he became employed by Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, where his responsibilities included helping the Rebbe (who was not yet the Rebbe) in a variety of ways – such as editing various Chabad educational publications and handling the Rebbe’s voluminous correspondence.

In the course of this work, he developed a relationship with the Rebbe and they became quite close. In fact, their offices were a few feet away from each other, and whenever the Rebbe walked through 770’s main hallway to go anywhere, he passed by the office which my father shared with Rabbi Hodakov – so they spoke every day.

This arrangement continued after the Previous Rebbe passed away in 1950 and the Rebbe took over the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch. To an outsider, it may have seemed a bit odd that a person like my father held such a high position even though he was not a Lubavitcher he used to joke that he was the only non-chasid in the entire building – but because of his vast Talmudic knowledge, he was a very valuable asset. (more…)

Mrs. Jeanette Neppe

30 July 2021

The story I am about to tell begins in Johannesburg, where I lived with my late husband, David Neppe – who served for a time as the mayor of the city – and our two children Cliff and Cindy.

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It happened a week before Cindy’s thirteenth birthday in April of 1983. We had just returned from a mother-daughter shopping trip, and Cindy plopped down in a chair to watch TV, when I heard her call out, “Mommy!” (She later said that she suddenly felt strange.) I walked into the room and I got the fright of my life – she was sitting there totally rigid and seemingly unconscious. My husband wasn’t home so I summoned Cliff, who picked her up and carried her to the car, and we drove as fast as possible to the hospital which was just up the road.

When we arrived there, she came to and asked, “Why did you bring me here?”

She was examined in the emergency room, and after some tests, a neurosurgeon was called in to consult. The neurosurgeon ordered a biopsy of her brain in order to determine what was going on. That was easier said than done – the fact that they didn’t want to sedate her fully, made things quite complicated. Her movements caused problems with the equipment they were using, and the procedure, which had been expected to take forty minutes, dragged on for a full six hours.

After all that, they informed us of their terrible diagnosis: Cindy had an inoperable brain tumor, and radiation coupled with chemotherapy was the only available treatment. Even that offered very little hope; she was probably going to die. (more…)

Rabbi Levi Garelik

30 July 2021

My parents – Rabbi Gershon Mendel and Rebbetzin Bessie Garelik – were sent to Milan, Italy, by the Rebbe over sixty years ago, before I was even born. So, I am privileged to be one of the first children born to his emissaries. And I am also one of the first people to be named Levi Yitzchok after the Rebbe’s father.

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When my mother brought up the idea of giving me this name, my father agreed because, as a child, he had spent time in Almaty, Kazakhstan. That was where Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was exiled by the Soviets for the crime of teaching Torah and supporting Jewish religious practice. Although my father never met Rabbi Levi Yitzchok – since even being in the vicinity of a Schneerson back then was considered a crime – he felt a connection to him. Eventually, my father and his sisters grew very close to the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana, and they all escaped Russia together. But that is another story.

Later, when I was a toddler, my parents sent Rebbetzin Chana a framed picture of myself, and she wrote back expressing her gratitude. It apparently meant a lot to her that I was named after her husband because she put my picture on the breakfront of her dining room. And she even mentioned to others, “I have my Levi Yitzchok.”

But I never got to meet Rebbetzin Chana because the first time I visited New York she had already passed away. That visit took place in the winter of 1967 when I was seven, and my mother brought me along with my five siblings to meet the Rebbe. We timed our trip to coincide with Yud-Tet Kislev, the 19th of Kislev, when Chabad celebrates the “Rosh Hashanah of Chasidism” because on this date in 1798, the Alter Rebbe, the founder of the Chabad Movement, was freed from Czarist prison.

The day before we left Italy for America, the Italian translation of the Alter Rebbe’s seminal work, the Tanya, came off the press. This project was very important to the Rebbe, and he had appointed my father to make it happen. We would be bringing him the first copy, and it was decided that I should be the one to make the presentation. We would all wait outside 770 as the Rebbe left to go home in the evening, and that is when I would hand him the new Italian Tanya.

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