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.
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…)