Mrs. Leah Englander

14 October 2021

I always had a love and a longing for Judaism. I was a little girl from a traditional Conservative family, but when I would see Chasidic-looking people I would say, “Oh, they’re so beautiful,” like I wanted to be like them. When I grew up and got married, I lit Shabbat candles and kept a kosher home but I was not Shabbat observant.

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And then my brother Levi Reiter and his wife Raizel became Lubavitcher chasidim. Through them, I started coming to classes in Crown Heights every Sunday and then I became a lot more observant.

I went on to have three children, and before each of them was born, the Rebbe gave me a blessing for everything to be okay. At one point, he told me I would have tremendous nachas from my children, and as it turns out, they are all amazing, thank G-d.

But when my middle son, Yehoshua Leib, was one year old, he had his first seizure. The doctor felt it might have been caused by a fever, but then there was another mild seizure, maybe six months later. Apparently, he had a kind of seizure disorder. Then one night in 1981, when he was nearly three years old, I went in to check on him. Even in the dark, I could just tell something was wrong.

I turned on the lights and his face was blue. I don’t know how much time he had been in that state, but by the time I got there, he was totally limp and his breathing was very shallow. We picked him up and ran outside, hoping that the cold night air would revive him, but nothing did. We called the ambulance.

At the hospital, while the doctors were checking him out, they mentioned something, in this matter-of-fact way, about his paralysis.

“What?” I gasped. (more…)

Rabbi Chaim Itche Drizin

8 October 2021

When I moved there to set up a Chabad House in 1972, Berkeley was a very tumultuous place.

I found myself doing a lot of work with young people who had left home and somehow lost contact with their parents. I would get two or three calls a week from mothers saying, “My daughter is in an ashram somewhere. Can you try to get in touch with her?”

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I became so busy driving around to visit these people that I began taking my talit and tefillin along with me in my car, in case I got stuck someplace overnight. One Friday, as I was sitting in the Chabad House, I got a call from a Mr. Friedman.

Between sobs, Mr. Friedman told me that his daughter was on her way to Hawaii with a young man who was a born-again Christian. She had become attracted to him and to his new religion and they were staying together in a small town called Emigrant Gap, but just after Shabbat, they would be leaving for Hawaii.

“Please,” he says, “I beg you to go speak to her before she leaves.” Shabbat is a few hours away, but as he’s talking, I recall seeing a sign for Emigrant Gap on the I-80 interstate highway, past Sacramento. Not too far away, I think.

For some reason, I hear myself saying, “I’ll do my best.” I hang up and call my wife to say that I’m going to Emigrant Gap, near Sacramento. It’s about two hours away, so I’ll be able to make it back before Shabbat.

“Okay,” she reluctantly agrees. “But just remember that after Shabbat we’re having a special event in our house, so you need to make it back.

“No problem,” I say. (more…)

Mrs. Shoshana Gittel Meer

7 October 2021

When I got engaged in 1971, I was very concerned. I was head over heels for my husband, who had recently become religious and was very dedicated to Torah study. Reuven was everything I wanted, and I would have followed him anywhere.

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But I knew that while my whole family was Orthodox, my in-laws in Detroit were Conservative and not very observant. I was a graduate of Bais Yaakov, a religious girls’ school, and hadn’t been around many secular people. Now I was hoping to build a traditional Jewish home, and felt frightened and worried that this could lead to tension between us. I wanted to be welcoming to my mother-in-law and it was important to me to have a close relationship with her, but I also came with my dukes up: “What happens when she starts questioning the way we choose to do things?” I thought to myself. “I want to be the one who decides what goes on in my home!”

So, when my husband and I had the opportunity to meet privately with the Rebbe before our wedding, this was the main issue I wanted to speak with him about.

Before we went, my husband’s friend from yeshivah kept telling us about the Rebbe’s greatness. I was nervous to go in as it was, but the things he was saying seemed over the top. (more…)

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…)

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