My history with Chabad goes back to the mid-1970s, when the Rebbe’s emissaries – Rabbi Mendel Lipskar, Rabbi Shalom Ber Groner and Rabbi Yossi Goldman – first came to Yeoville, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born and raised.
I was part of the post-hippie generation trying to find spiritual answers. This search drew us to Chabad where we found Chasidism and rediscovered the depth and beauty of Judaism.
Although I counted myself part of the Chabad community back from that time, I did not get to meet the Rebbe until nearly ten years later – when I was already married, and my wife was having problems conceiving.
In 1983 I joined a special raffle being held to select a representative of the community to travel to the Rebbe. I won, and I travelled to New York for Passover, where we were hosted by Rabbi Goldman’s parents. I finally met the Rebbe in person during kos shel bracha, when the Rebbe would distribute wine from his cup immediately after the holiday. When I told him that I was from South Africa, he gave me a huge smile, handed me a small bottle, and said, “My views about South Africa are well known. You should go back and celebrate, and remind everyone that I said it will all be good.”