Mrs. Rita Milstein

2 February 2024

We had always dreamed of leaving the Soviet Union, and leaving all of our troubles behind.

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My family lived in Kishinev, Moldova, where I was born in 1946. My parents were highly educated people, and although practicing Judaism was forbidden, they did their utmost to teach us the Aleph-Beis, to instill in us a love for the Land of Israel, and even to try and celebrate Jewish holidays. We never even had a Hebrew book, but we did the best we could.

When I was in second grade, my father was arrested after he began trading on the black market to make ends meet. Because he was Jewish he received an especially harsh sentence: Everything he owned was seized, and he was imprisoned for ten years. He left behind a wife and four children, and we were left with nothing.

As a little girl, I remember asking my mother repeatedly, “Why was I born here? We’re in the wrong country. We have to leave!”

Sh, don’t say that,” she would say. “G-d forbid the neighbors will hear, and we’ll get arrested too.”

Although we were so deprived, we held on to our hopes and dreams. (more…)

Mr. Mati Goldzweig

24 January 2024

My encounter with the Rebbe took place nearly fifty years ago when I came to the United States from Switzerland with the goal of helping Russian Jews oppressed by the Soviet regime.

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By way of background, my parents – both of whom were from Poland –miraculously made it to Geneva during World War II. This is where they met and married and where I was born in 1948.

In 1969, after being educated in yeshivahs in England and Israel, I enrolled in Geneva University’s School of Economics. And it is there that I was introduced to the plight of the Soviet Jews who were not permitted to practice Judaism or to emigrate elsewhere. It was a hot issue at the time and many organizations worldwide were staging demonstrations and working to influence their governments to pressure the Soviets into releasing the Jews.

Because of my involvement in this cause, I came to the United States in 1972. Upon arrival, I met with the famed civil liberties advocate Nat Lewin, who suggested that I use my background in economics to investigate how to influence the United States government to play a role. So I went to the Library of Congress, and there I found that legislation already existed in the US that could help the Soviet Jews by means of impacting Soviet trade, but this legislation had not been used for that purpose.

With that information in hand, I was introduced by Nat Lewin to US Senator Henry Scoop Jackson, who was well known for his involvement in the fight against anti-Semitism. After much effort on my part – canvassing members of Congress to gain their support – Senator Jackson undertook to propose an amendment to the Trade Act. This amendment (more…)

Dr. Dovid Krinsky

18 January 2024

In the 1970s, the federal government mandated that dental schools were to begin offering courses in a new kind of treatment delivery system. As a student, I thought they were interesting, and I was one of the few who signed up. After my graduation in 1974, however, the courses were dropped; the government’s interest must have waned.

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By 1982, I had long since accepted a position as an assistant professor teaching clinical dentistry at Columbia Dental School, while also attending at Presbyterian Hospital and working in a private practice. I loved teaching, but it didn’t pay well – nobody is there for the money – and I already had four children and a mortgage, so having three jobs was necessary.

At around this time, however, the government renewed its interest in this dental delivery system, and was offering well salaried teaching positions. Columbia Dental School hired a dentist, Dr. Bernard Tolpin, who had expertise in grant proposals, and the search was on for dentists with the right training to form a department to teach the subject.

Since I was the only person around with any experience in this area, I perfectly matched the criteria for the position. I applied and was interviewed by Dr. Tolpin, and we hit it off very well. I even thought he would hire me on the spot, but instead he promised to keep me posted. As time passed, I would regularly see Dr. Tolpin around the school, and he treated me like an old friend – but there was no job offer.

One day during this period of time, my uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s secretaries, called me to say that the Rebbe had been asking whether I was the kind of chasid who only contacted the Rebbe when he had a problem. (more…)

Mrs. Sterna Malka Katz

10 January 2024

Throughout my high school years and into seminary, I became very involved in a girls’ youth group called Bnos Chabad. A small organization in the sixties, one of the things Bnos Chabad would do was to arrange “Shabbatons.” We would reach out to different communities, groups or schools, and they would send their students to spend Shabbat with us in Crown Heights.

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In 1964, we got a call from a Reform congregation in New Jersey about a group of twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls interested in coming to us. We prepared a lovely Shabbat for them, and they enjoyed a beautiful program.

After Shabbat, one of our Bnos Chabad girls whose family was hosting some of these children mentioned to me that one of the girls who stayed in her house was not Jewish. Jewish identity follows the mother, and while this girl’s father was Jewish, her mother was not.

In those days, intermarriage was much less common than it is today, so when the girls’ rabbi later came to pick up the children, I explained to him that, given the nature of the program, he should have let us know that a girl who isn’t Jewish would be attending. “Well,” he replied apologetically, “the mother is thinking of converting, and she wants to raise her daughter as a Jew.”

Every time we ran one of these programs, I would write up a report for the Rebbe. This time, in his reply, the Rebbe sent me newspaper clippings from two different Jewish newspapers, one from Atlanta, Georgia, and I think the other was from Seattle, Washington. (more…)

Mrs. Tila Falic Levi

4 January 2024

I grew up in Bal Harbour, Florida, where my parents moved because of a young dynamic couple – the Rebbe’s emissaries, Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar and his wife, Rebbetzin Chani – who had started a new community there. Their style appealed to my parents who were young, with three children, and looking for a nice Jewish environment to raise their family.

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In 1990, when I was nine years old, I got sick – I had an upset stomach, intermittent fever, and heart palpitations for about six months – but the doctors with whom my parents consulted could not figure out what was wrong with me. It was not until we traveled for a relative’s wedding to Panama, where an old experienced physician suggested that I had an overactive thyroid – a condition called Grave’s disease.

At the time, little was known about this disease and my parents were worried about the severe side-effects that one of the recommended medications – radioactive iodine – could have on the growing body of a child. My father confided his concerns to Rabbi Lipskar, who immediately offered to write to the Rebbe for his advice and blessing.

In his response, the Rebbe recommended that we not just keep kosher – which of course we did – but that we switch to glatt kosher, a higher level of observance. This meant buying meat that was much more expensive than regular kosher meat. Back then, there were only two kosher butchers in Miami, and to do what the Rebbe advised involved a big effort on my parents’ part. But they took it very seriously. Even though they considered themselves Modern Orthodox and not Chabad, nevertheless, because the Rebbe said so, they decided they had to do it.

Up to this point, no one in our family had met the Rebbe, and it was decided that we would all fly to New York and approach him on a Sunday when he typically handed out dollar bills for people to donate to charity. (more…)

Gershon Burkis

28 December 2023

The first book that I published – my entrée into the publishing industry – was a pocket Book of Psalms, Tehillim. In 1975, when I traveled from Israel to the Rebbe and had a private audience with him, I brought along a copy, and I submitted it to his secretary in advance.

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During the audience, the Rebbe reached into his drawer, took out the Tehillim, and leafed through it. He inquired about whether we had been successful in selling the books.

“Thank G-d,” I replied.

“I heard that it’s going well in the army,” he noted, meaning that the soldiers of the IDF sought after such Tehillims, for the spiritual protection they provided.

“Have you ever seen such a Chumash [Five Books of Moses] that also includes Rashi’s commentary?” he continued.

I replied that I had seen a Chumash of that size, published by Sinai, but without any biblical commentaries.

“There is such a Chumash with Rashi,” he informed me, “but I don’t know if the text they used for the commentary is accurate without mistakes.” For years, I searched for such a book, and I eventually found a miniature Chumash with Rashi, slightly larger than our Tehillim, published by “Levin-Epstein.”

I subsequently printed Tehillims of six different sizes. Computerized layout and printing was coming into its own in those days, which enabled me to produce clear, newly-typeset texts with beautiful letters. When my wife next visited the Rebbe, she brought him one of the new volumes and, in turn, the Rebbe presented her with a dollar bill “for your husband, the publisher.” (more…)

Mrs. Chaya Kaplan

21 December 2023

Even before we met, my husband and I were on a quest for spirituality; it was the sixties and we were both on the hippie path. We wanted to know whether there was some foundational truth that existed throughout the universe, beyond what any individual person believed.

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I had grown up in an assimilated American Jewish family in Baltimore, Maryland, and unfortunately, my parents couldn’t teach me what they didn’t know. My parents never had the opportunity to have a Jewish education, although it was important to them I had one; I attended Sunday school as a child and our family also belonged to a Reform Temple.

I spent time exploring groups like Hare Krishna and then, as a high school exchange student in Argentina, I met Shlomo Carlebach. He encouraged me to learn about the Torah and my heritage and we remained close for years after. He was the only rabbi I knew and trusted, and when Dovid and I later decided to get married, he came to Baltimore and officiated at our wedding.

We spent the summer of 1971 in my husband’s hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, where we got to know Rabbi Hershel Fogelman, the local Chabad rabbi, as well as other families in the community. They began encouraging us to take up different mitzvot. “Try eating kosher,” they would say. “Try one Shabbat; see if you like it. This is the mikveh; see what you think about it.”

We were open to all of it. “Teach us, show us, and then we will decide what we can handle and if we want to continue with it,” we told them. We tried everything, and kept on asking questions until we got answers that satisfied us. Then, Rabbi Fogelman sent us to Crown Heights for Yom Kippur. (more…)

Mrs. Molly Resnick

14 December 2023

The person telling this story should really be my husband, Dr. Larry Resnick, but since he is not with us anymore, I will have to do the best I can.

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The story begins in October of 1977 when, on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the Rebbe suffered a heart attack. He did not want to be hospitalized, so the doctors who initially treated him set up a coronary care unit in his office at 770 Eastern Parkway. But after two weeks, they had to return to their regular patients, and my husband was called in.

Now my husband was by then quite famous as a brilliant scientist. A child prodigy, he graduated college at 16 and medical school at 21, becoming the youngest person in the United States to be awarded an MD degree. Eventually, he developed specialties in endocrinology and cardiology, focusing his research specifically on the causes of hypertension.

When he was called in to the Rebbe, he was visiting New York, but upon being invited to stay on as the Rebbe’s primary physician, he had to decline. He was then serving in the US Army, running the clinical research center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, and he could not go AWOL.

The Rebbe’s staff  began pulling strings with several US Senators to get him transferred from Hawaii to New York, and the request went all the way up to the White House. The end result of that was a phone call from President Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff demanding to know who Larry thought he was. To this my husband replied that if the leader of another religion had asked for an American doctor to care for him in Rome, the White House would be so proud it would hold a press conference to blast the news. Well, someone who is of utmost important to the Jewish people should receive the same treatment. (more…)

Rabbi Doctor Elie Cohen

7 December 2023

It was a seven-day voyage from Tunisia to Montreal, and I was fifteen years old. For seven days all we saw was the sea, yet the boat traveled in a fixed direction the entire time. That’s how it is in life: Without a goal, you can go in all kinds of ways, and end up lost at sea. You’ve got to have a destination. With this thought in mind, I came to Montreal in 1957, looking for some direction.

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Before long, I found what I was looking for. I began attending a class delivered by a young Lubavitch yeshivah student, and then learning Tanya with another. At the suggestion of the yeshivah boys, I began writing to the Rebbe in French. I wrote about my studies and my situation, including some difficulties I was having, and I asked for his blessings.

I was overjoyed when I received the Rebbe’s reply, which was written in English. The very thought that the Rebbe had sent me a letter was unbelievable to me.

He told me not to be discouraged by the ups and downs I felt from my “inner battle with the yetzer” – my evil inclination – and advised me to study the Tanya’s “very illuminating and useful guidance” on this subject. The good things I was doing, he reassured me, would lead to more good and would not be wasted, “for all that is holy is eternal.” I had mentioned that I was studying science in school, so he added, “you know that nothing in the physical world is lost, and this is especially so in matters of the spirit.”

Being Chanukah, the Rebbe wrote that “If ‘a little light dispels a lot of darkness,’ how much more so a growing light, which… is cumulative in its effect, and which is also symbolized in the lights of Chanukah which are increasing in number every night.”

As an immigrant to Canada, I had to live there for five years before I could become a citizen and travel outside the country. But with Hashem’s help, I found a way to go to New York and meet the Rebbe in person just three or four years after my arrival. (more…)

Rabbi Doctor Aryeh Leib Solomon

1 December 2023

Although I had attended a secular high school in Sydney, Australia, and planned to continue to university, I was influenced by student emissaries of the Rebbe to take a break and spend two “gap” years studying Torah at the Yeshivah Gedolah in Melbourne.

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I vividly recall those shluchim – Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz and Rabbi Hirshel Morozov – when they first came to my high school during the intermediate days of Sukkot. Although they spoke briefly, they spoke passionately about Judaism, in a language the students could relate to, and they moved the hearts of several youngsters like me, who became followers of the Rebbe. Later on, I heard it said that the Rebbe had compared education to nuclear energy, and that is certainly what happened that Sukkot. It was as if the Rebbe took a Yiddishkeit bomb and dropped it on Australia through those shluchim.

After two years at the yeshivah, I went on to Sydney University to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In December 1974, during the summer vacation in Australia, I came to visit the Rebbe in New York.

During that trip, I was granted a private audience with the Rebbe. I knew it would be a life-changing moment and I meant to take full advantage of the opportunity, writing a long note to the Rebbe in which I enumerated all my issues and questions. When I finally came before him, I saw my note on his desk with many detailed pencil markings on it. I understood that the Rebbe had spent time reading everything I had written and had something to say about it all. I was awe-struck by that thought.

In my note, I had mentioned that I was becoming disenchanted with university. I had already completed two years toward a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree but I had no intention of continuing on with a fourth year, which would grant me the Diploma of Education, because I wanted to return to yeshivah. (more…)

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