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.


Rabbi Moshe Lazar

30 July 2021

Back in the early 1950s when I was a yeshivah student, there were very few religious summer camps. For several summers, I worked as a counselor at one of them – Camp Agudah – and from this experience, I got the idea of starting a more-inclusive Chabad summer camp which would leave the campers with a lasting connection to Yiddishkeit.

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However, when I wrote to the Rebbe about it, I didn’t get an immediate go-ahead. Starting a camp would require a lot of time and energy, the Rebbe said, and it would be a distraction from my Torah studies. He advised that I shelve the idea for six months, until after Passover, and write to him again at that time.

Still, I couldn’t stop thinking and planning, and of course right after Passover I wrote to the Rebbe again. This time, I received a response from the head of the Rebbe’s secretariat, Rabbi Mordechai Hodakov, with advice pertaining to the camp’s organizational structure. He informed me that we would have to form a legal corporation – not just start up a private venture – so that there wouldn’t be personal liability. Also, since I and Yossi Weinbaum, my partner in this undertaking, were still young yeshivah students, we needed a third partner who was older and married. We chose Kehos Weiss for that role, and we reported this to Rabbi Hodakov, who told us that the Rebbe wanted to see us.

When we went into the Rebbe’s office, he asked us very seriously, “Why do we need a camp?”

This question sent my head reeling. Because I had invested so much thought and hope in this idea and the Rebbe’s initial response was positive, I had expected that now he would advise us what to do, but here he was asking us why we should even do it. I felt my whole world shatter, and I actually blacked out. Kehos saw me wobbling on my feet and grabbed me before I hit the floor. Needless to say, the audience was disrupted. The Rebbe said we should go outside for a few minutes, and when I felt better, we could come back in. (more…)

Rabbi Yankel Abramczyk

7 July 2021

Although I come from a family of Radomsker chasidim, I was educated in non-Chasidic schools – I attended Torah Vodaas in New York through high school and then the Telz yeshivah in Cleveland, and I received my rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the legendary adjudicator of Jewish law in America.

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Still, I gravitated to Chasidic courts, and when trouble hit, this is where I went for help.

On Shabbat, in the winter of 1968, while we were living in Montreal, my wife, Frieda, gave birth to our second child, Yossi. She had gone into labor on Friday morning and we arrived at the hospital early to avoid any unnecessary violations of the holy day. The baby was delivered that night without complications and we were very happy.

I went home to sleep and returned after morning prayers, as the hospital – Jewish General – was within walking distance. But when I arrived, I immediately saw that there were problems. The baby had been placed in an incubator and he was wired up to all kinds of instruments. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, and the doctors and nurses were running back and forth, looking very concerned.

The baby’s condition did not improve during the day, and so our pediatrician informed me that Yossi would have to be transferred to Children’s Hospital that evening, because here they couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

While my wife stayed behind at Jewish General, I followed the ambulance that transferred the baby to the other hospital where he was taken into the emergency room. After a long time passed, when I assume they were checking him over, a doctor came out to speak to me. “Mr. Abramczyk, we have to be realistic,” he said. “This child might not survive the night.” Those were his exact words, and they sent me into shock.

“What should I do?” I asked, trembling. (more…)

Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson

30 June 2021

Just before Passover of 1980, the Rebbe started a new campaign to teach kids about the holiday and to get them excited about eating matzah, holding a Seder, and learning about all the related mitzvot.

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At the time, I was a newly-married yeshivah student who had signed onto an earlier initiative of the Rebbe to enroll more kids in Jewish schools, and now I became part of this initiative too. Among the activities to publicize the Passover project, we printed and distributed 250,000 brochures which we headlined “Matzah Ball Contest,” showcasing the prizes that could be won by kids who did the mitzvot associated with Passover. Along with my fellow yeshivah students, I stood outside schools to distribute the brochures and stuffed mailboxes in Jewish areas of New York.

It was a brilliant idea. No one had thought of doing such a thing before, but the Rebbe reasoned that if kids got involved in the mitzvot of Passover, they would naturally involve their friends and relatives. And there was no better way to get them interested than by holding a contest and giving away prizes.

Indeed, this project proved enormously successful – we received tens of thousands of contest entries from kids all over New York. And we heard many stories about families that had not celebrated Passover for many years but did so this year because the kids were on fire about it. We also heard about families who had previously observed Passover in a perfunctory way, but this year did so with enthusiasm because the impetus came from the kids.

No sooner was that project over than the Rebbe had another brilliant idea – a children’s organization which he called Tzivos Hashem, “The Army of G-d.”

On the fifth day of Sukkot, the Rebbe held a children’s rally at the Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, where he explained how this organization would work. Kids who joined would study Torah and do mitzvot and, through these activities, would advance in rank – starting out as privates and progressing to sergeants, majors, colonels and even generals, just like in the army. At certain times of the year, there would be rallies with prizes and medals awarded. (more…)

Rabbi Zev Katz

23 June 2021

In the summer of 1966, my parents decided to visit Israel and they took me along – I was a young man at the time, not yet married. Of course, before we left New York, we went to see the Rebbe for a blessing, and at that time, the Rebbe gave me a mission to fulfill in Israel.

“I hear that in the synagogues in Jerusalem, there are vintage Chasidic pamphlets just lying around,” he said. “And I have been wondering whatever happened to the library of Radatz.”

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By Radatz, the Rebbe meant Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chein, the legendary Lubavitcher chasid who served for many years as the rabbi of Chernigov, Ukraine, and who, at the end of his life, moved to Israel where he passed away in 1925.

“Also, there was a collector of Chasidic literature named Bichovski,” the Rebbe continued. “What happened to his collection after he died? Can you find out when you are in Israel?”

I took on this mission very seriously, and I spent the entire three weeks that we were in Israel going from synagogue to synagogue, looking, searching.

My efforts were greatly aided by Rabbi Chanoch Glitzenstein, who invested a great deal of his time in locating many of these pamphlets. As well, I received help from Zelda Schneerson Mishkovsky, the well-known Israeli poet, whose mother was the daughter of Radatz and whose father was the Rebbe’s father’s brother, which made her a first cousin of the Rebbe.

Among other things, she gave me a notebook belonging to the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana, detailing the hardships the Rebbe’s parents suffered in Russia after the Rebbe’s father was imprisoned and exiled to a remote village in Kazakhstan. This is the notebook that begins, “I am not a writer, nor am I the daughter of a writer…” and which has since been published and widely distributed. (more…)

Rabbi Michael Kanterovitz

23 June 2021

Although I was raised in a secular home in Tel Aviv, already as a child, Chasidic teachings captured my imagination.

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As a teen, I was sent by my widowed mother to an agricultural school in Kfar Silver, near Ashkelon. I was the only one among 400 students who wore a kippah, and I would stand in the dining hall every Friday night, sing Lecha Dodi and make Kiddush for all the others.

At one point, I managed to convince one of the American tourists who came to visit the school to donate a Torah scroll, and I arranged a festive Hachnasat Sefer Torah ceremony complete with a parade. The school’s administration provided a room where we built an ark to house the Torah and, on Shabbat mornings, I would wake up the Sephardic students who came from traditional homes so we could make a minyan and participate in a prayer service, complete with a Torah reading.

It was also at this time – in 1958 when I was fifteen – that my connection to the Rebbe began. I felt I needed guidance, and when I heard about his reputation of caring for every Jew, I wrote to him for advice. I described the unique situation in which I found myself and I asked: “Since I live in a place where Torah is not practiced, and I myself know little, how should I behave in this environment?”

The Rebbe wrote back – which in itself shocked me, because I did not expect a response – saying that what I was doing was a great mitzvah and encouraging me to continue spreading Judaism among my peers. This was more than fifty years ago, so I do not remember his exact words, but I can testify that his advice had a tremendous impact on me. It has been my guiding light from that day forward. (more…)

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…)

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