When I was a boy, my father – an immigrant from Bialystok, Poland – accepted the post as a rabbi of a synagogue in Borough Park, Brooklyn. This was in the early 1940s, and this is when I first encountered the world of Chabad-Lubavitch.
I attended the Chabad elementary school on Dean Street, where my teacher, Rabbi Meir Greenberg – who later became my brother-in-law – was very concerned about my hearing. Indeed, I was nearly deaf and the doctors whom my parents consulted recommended surgery. So Meir decided to bring me to the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing that the operation should go well.
I remember the encounter vividly. I remember that the Rebbe’s gaze was very intense but that he also looked at me with great compassion. He smiled kindly and told me not to worry, that I would hear again. As it turned out, the surgery was successful, and I was able to hear quite well afterwards.
A few years later, my family moved to New Jersey, and although I came to Chabad Headquarters from time to time for farbrengens, I was not part of the Chabad world.
I got married and became a rabbi of a synagogue in San Antonio Texas, and later in Long Branch, New Jersey. While there, my oldest daughter became very sick, and I contacted the Rebbe – this time the last Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson – for his blessing. He urged me to go to California to see a physician there who was world renowned. This physician helped her, and she recovered for a time, but after five years – at age seventeen – she passed away.
When that happened, we decided to establish a high school in her name in Deal, New Jersey. But there were complications from the start, as some of the donors wanted a co-ed school, and we wanted a girls’ school. And then there was the question of the site itself. We found a beautiful mansion that was the perfect building for the school. But the Jewish neighbors opposed the idea, fearing the value of their properties would go down. (more…)