Rabbi Edgar Gluck

9 June 2021

When I got married, I was already an ordained rabbi – having attended the Chasam Sofer yeshivah in Boro Park and then the Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey – but when I went to work, I chose an unusual avenue for someone of my background. I became the assistant for community relations to US Congressman John Lindsay.

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In 1965, when he decided to run for mayor of New York City, he asked me to set up meetings for him with the top Jewish leaders of the city, and the first appointment that I made was with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They spoke for some time, and after Lindsay walked out, he said: “This man is brilliant.” He just couldn’t get over the Rebbe’s vast knowledge and the wise advice he gave him. And then he added, “Could I meet with him again after I’m elected?”

“Definitely,” I replied. “The Rebbe’s door is always open. And he wants to see leaders like you, so that he can give you some ideas how best to run the city.” In fact, Lindsay did go back several times, and he even helped get security for the Rebbe.

When the Crown Heights riots broke out in 1991, he was no longer the mayor, and the new administration was not as receptive. But I still had contacts in the police department, and I managed to arrange for a couple of unmarked police cars to escort the Rebbe when he traveled from Brooklyn to Queens to pray at the ohel, the gravesite of the Previous Rebbe.

The first time he went with the escort, I was there to make sure everything went well.  The Rebbe noticed me standing behind his car in the driveway, and he signaled that I should come over to him. He looked through all his pockets and found a nickel and gave it to me with his blessing. That was one of the most precious gifts that I ever remember receiving. (more…)

From the market stall to the yeshivah hall

7 June 2021

I was eleven years old when my family emigrated from Morocco to Israel. My father had passed away three years before, and despite his intense wish to settle in the Holy Land, he did not merit it. We arrived by boat in Haifa, and from there we were sent to a transit camp in Ashkelon.

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Shortly after we got there, I went out to help earn money that my family badly needed. I stood in front of the local market with two buckets of ice and fruit syrup, selling drinks. One day, Rabbi Yisroel Leibov, the chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization, came by and saw this boy with a yarmulke working so hard. He felt sorry for me, and he waited until I was done, so he could come home with me to the transit camp.

He convinced my oldest brother Nissim, who functioned as the head of our family, that I and my other brother Yaakov should be enrolled in a Torah academy in Lod, and this is how my connection with Chabad began.

In 1961, after I had been studying in Lod for six years, Rabbi Mordechai Levin – who was the principal of the vocational school in Kfar Chabad – came there and he recruited me for his school, Beit Sefer Lemelacha. This school, which had been founded by the Rebbe six years prior, had been the target of a terrorist attack in 1956, with one teacher and five students killed and another ten wounded. Since that time, the school had greatly expanded at the Rebbe’s direction, and although I thought at first that my stay in Kfar Chabad would be short – just a few weeks – it proved to be a commitment lasting thirty-five years. In fact, I have dedicated my life to that vocational school, owing largely to the guidance I received from the Rebbe throughout the years. (more…)

They Have Enough Businessmen!

26 May 2021

When the USSR joined the Allied powers in fighting the Nazis in 1941, my father was drafted into the Red Army, and my mother – like many other Jews who ran for their lives at that time – fled East with me and my siblings. That is how we arrived in Samarkand, the second-largest city in Uzbekistan, where there was a big local Jewish community, including many Bukharan Jews and also many Chabad chasidim.

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I was only three years old when we arrived in Samarkand, and I ended up growing up there. While others managed to make their way to the West, we remained behind because my elderly grandfather couldn’t travel.

In my high school years, I worked part-time in a factory owned by a Chabad chasid, and where a few other chasidim worked as well. One of those was Rabbi Moshe Nisselevitch, a unique persona who founded the CHAMA organization, and I was privileged to be among the original members. The goal of the organization was to help strengthen Torah observance among the local Jews, and we engaged in many activities – despite the risks involved, as these things were against the law – such as opening religious schools for young children, building mikvehs, and organizing prayer services and joyful farbrengens.

In 1969, my cousin Gershon Jacobson, the renowned journalist and founder of the Algemeiner Journal, came from New York to visit Moscow. I was very eager to meet him and hear from him about the Rebbe, but I was also afraid. I knew that the KGB would be keeping its eyes on anyone meeting with an American citizen and that could land me in hot water and endanger all of our CHAMA work.

I decided to ask my brother Betzalel, who lived in Moscow, to investigate and report back. Betzalel met with Gershon who told him that before his other trips to the Soviet Union, he had asked the Rebbe whether to see his family members and, each time, the Rebbe had advised him to avoid it. But this time was different; the Rebbe said he should meet with family members, and to do it out in the open, without trying to hide anything. (more…)

Mr. Ovadia Eli

20 May 2021

Throughout the years that I served as the mayor of Afula, I became very close to the Chabad emissaries in the city – Rabbi Chaim Sholom Segal and Rabbi Shlomo Segal – and I came to consider them not only as my good friends but as my brothers. There came a time when I, and the Afula city council, decided to present the Rebbe with a key to the city – a symbolic golden key in an elegant box – as a token of appreciation for the important contribution that his emissaries were making to our city.

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Before we actually presented the key to the Rebbe, I began serving as a member of the Knesset, and I was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense, becoming responsible for protection of Israel’s home-front.

Two months later – during Sukkot of 1991 – I came to visit the Rebbe in New York with my wife Ruti. We were there for a few days, and we were hosted by Chabad chasidim in Crown Heights. In the afternoon of Hoshanah Rabbah – which coincided with Sunday that year – the Rebbe was distributing dollars, and I stood in line in order to hand him the ceremonial key to the city of Afula. The exchange I had with the Rebbe on this occasion made a deep impression on me.

Before I even managed to introduce myself, the Rebbe began to speak to me in great detail about the types of missiles which the enemy had and which might endanger the home-front. I was astonished by the vast knowledge he showed regarding the types of munition stockpiles that our enemies had and the dangers that may come from them.

I was even more surprised by what the Rebbe said to me later on in the conversation: “You are responsible not just for the well-being of the citizens living in Israel, but also for the well-being of all Jews wherever they dwell in the world.” (more…)

Rabbi Nochem Kaplan

12 May 2021

After I was married in 1968, I enrolled in Chabad’s kollel, the institute for advanced rabbinic studies for married men. It was a small fledgling group – there were just ten of us, sitting at a couple of tables in Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway studying Torah together. But during the same week that I was married, there were five other weddings, so immediately the group increased by fifty percent. Soon, the room we were allotted wouldn’t be able to accommodate all who’d want to join.

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Since the kollel was functioning under the auspices of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, Chabad’s central educational arm, I went to see Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Hodakov, the head of the Rebbe’s secretariat, to discuss this situation. I explained the problem and my solution: “There is a building across the street that Merkos just purchased. Allow us to go into that building and learn.” He listened to me and said, “I’ll get back to you.”

The next day, he called me in and asked, “Who is going to take responsibility for the activities in that building? Will you? If so, I will give you the key.”

“What do I have to do exactly?” I asked, and he said, “In the morning you open up and at night you lock up.”

I agreed and got the key. We brought a couple of tables and chairs into the building, and we sat down to learn.

About a month later, I had just finished the afternoon prayers and was making my way back to the kollel, when I saw the Rebbe coming out of the building, followed by two of his secretaries. He didn’t say anything, but as he passed me, he gave me a very sharp look.

When I went inside, I came upon two kollel fellows looking dumfounded. “The Rebbe was just here,” one of them stammered out. (more…)

Rabbi Refael Zvi Hartman

12 May 2021

After more than a year had passed since our wedding and we had not yet been blessed with children, my wife and I turned to doctors. For a long time, we went from one doctor to the next, each of them supposedly more of an expert than the previous one until, after five years of this, we found a professor who was considered to be the top specialist in his field. He looked over our medical history, performed his own series of tests, and then he dashed all our hopes. He told us in no uncertain terms that there was no chance we would ever have children naturally.

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Of course, we were completely broken to hear this verdict. And we were terribly depressed as a result.

At the time I served as the principal of the vocational school in Kfar Chabad, Israel – an institution which was overseen by Rabbi Ephraim Wolff – and he suggested we travel to New York to seek the Rebbe’s advice and blessing.

My wife’s family members – who aren’t chasidim – objected to this plan when we first proposed it. “There are Rebbes in Israel too,” they argued. “Can’t you just send a letter?” they asked. When they saw we would not be swayed, they suggested that I go alone. “Since when do women go to see a Rebbe?” they demanded.

However, my wife knew better. So we both arrived in New York between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of 1967, and we merited to have a private audience with the Rebbe.

Waiting outside his office was nerve-wracking. We sat and recited Psalms, while feeling anxious and tense. But the moment we went inside and saw his warm smile and gentle face, all our fears completely dissipated.

The Rebbe invited us to sit down, but in accordance with the instructions we received in advance, we remained standing. I handed the Rebbe a twenty-page letter explaining why we had come to see him, which included a report about my work in the vocational school and a summary of our medical saga of the past several years. (more…)

Rabbi Moshe Aron Kagan

29 April 2021

Half-a-dozen years before the Previous Rebbe was exiled from Russia for the crime of teaching Torah, he had already established a yeshivah in Warsaw – Tomchei Temimim. As a young unmarried man, my father – Rabbi Yosef Avraham – studied there, and in 1933, he was appointed the yeshivah’s secretary. And when the Previous Rebbe moved from Riga, Latvia to Warsaw, my father became a frequent visitor in his home.

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I recall him telling me when I was a boy that, even before the outbreak of World War Two, the Previous Rebbe foresaw that dark times were coming. Not long after Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany, he asked my father to raise money for a rescue effort. He’d said to my father, “There’s a great problem approaching the Jewish community. But it has been decreed from Heaven that I not be able to speak about it.” In fact, after his tortures in Soviet prisons, the Rebbe had difficulty speaking clearly, and sometimes my father had to interpret his speech to others.

Another thing – a small thing – that I recall my father telling me was advice from the Previous Rebbe to always keep his things neat and tidy – to always make his bed and straighten his room before going out in the morning. This made an impression on me, and I took it upon myself from the age of eleven to do likewise; I have kept up this habit for most of my life.

The Previous Rebbe also told my father that if he should ever rent any place – an apartment, a hotel room, whatever – he should return it to the owner cleaner than he found it, especially if the owner is a non-Jew. My father took this advice very much to heart, and was very fussy whenever we traveled together. I used to say to him, “What are you cleaning for? We didn’t make it dirty – it was already that way!” But he cleaned the place as if he was cleaning for Pesach. “This is what the Rebbe told me to do,” he would say. (more…)

Mrs. Aidel Springer

23 April 2021

I grew up in Russia, in a Lubavitch family which had been close to the Rebbe’s family. In fact, my grandfather and the Rebbe’s father were lifelong friends, and my grandfather – Rabbi Shneur Zalman Vilenkin – had the honor of teaching the Rebbe when he was a child.

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Our family was religious at a time when practicing Judaism was a crime in the Soviet Union. I recall that I had to be home early on Friday afternoon – lest I let slip to my friends that we were about to bring in Shabbat. My mother would cover the windows with blankets, so that no one should see her lighting Shabbat candles.

After the war ended, we left Russia as part of a big exodus of Jews who were permitted to return to Poland if they were born there. We were not Polish but we made it out, like many others, on forged papers and – after a time spent in DP camps – we managed to get to France and then to America.

We were resettled by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in Cleveland but, on the way there, we stopped in New York where we were able to have an audience with the Rebbe. This was in July of 1953, when I was thirteen years old. We went in as a family, and I recall that my grandfather had trouble walking because part of his body was paralyzed, so he moved very slowly. As we entered, the Rebbe got up and walked towards the door to greet us. He then repeatedly invited my grandfather to sit down, but my grandfather would never sit in front of the Rebbe, so he declined. And since he didn’t sit, the Rebbe also didn’t. During that entire audience, the Rebbe stood out of respect for his childhood teacher. (more…)

Mrs. Sylvia Goldhirsch

16 April 2021

I was born and raised in Australia in a traditional, warm and loving Jewish home, but I was not introduced to Chabad until I met my future husband, Michel Meir, whose family was connected to Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid and Rebbetzin Devorah Groner, the Chabad emissaries in Melbourne.

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After we got married, we also became close with the Groners and, at one point, Rabbi Groner offered me a teaching position at the Beth Rivkah high school for girls and Yeshivah College for boys, where I taught off and on until my family grew and I was needed at home.

We first met the Rebbe in 1985, when we came to New York for a fundraising dinner on behalf of Colel Chabad. We were introduced to him as he was leaving his office. I don’t even remember what he said to us because I was so overwhelmed by his presence. As soon as he looked at me with his piercing blue eyes, I knew that he could see exactly who I was and what potential I had in me. It was a very moving moment in my life.

Three years later, we met the Rebbe again, and this is where my story really begins.

By way of background, I must explain that there is a history of breast cancer in my family, on my mother’s side. My mother herself was diagnosed with it and passed away six years later, at forty-nine years of age. Then another relative was diagnosed with it when she was in her early 30s, although after treatment she recovered. And then I myself found a lump. This was in 1988. (more…)

Familiarity Breeds Friendship

8 April 2021

As a Chabad chasid, I had many encounters with the Rebbe over the years, and he gave me much good advice regarding personal matters, regarding Torah study and prayer, and regarding outreach. Today, I would like to share what he taught me about spreading the “wellsprings” of chasidic teachings in the most effective way.

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In 1966, when I was studying at the Chabad yeshivah in New York, I became engaged, and during a subsequent farbrengen, I approached the Rebbe to inform him of the good news, bringing a bottle of vodka along. The Rebbe poured some of the vodka into his cup and into my cup and wished me, “L’chaim v’livrachah – For life and for blessing.” Then he instructed me what I should speak about during my engagement vort.

It is customary at a Chabad vort for the groom to deliver a chasidic discourse which focuses on the deep mystical interpretations of the Torah – what is called nistar, its “hidden” dimension. But the Rebbe told me that I should also speak of nigleh, its revealed dimension, even if this is not usually done.

“If anyone bothers you, tell that person that I instructed you to do this,” he added. As I was walking away, the Rebbe called after me, “But prepare well!” (more…)

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