Monday, February 02, 2009

My Elter Zeide and Lubavitch

By Jonathan Baker

As told by R’ Aaron Rakeffet, 4 Jan 2009.

Please follow title link for the full entry.

An example of transplanting the Alter Heim to the USA, rather than the translation of European Jewry for America which was the method of YU

The Rebbe was running away, the State Dept pulled him out of Poland, in 1940. Ads went out in the four Jewish dailies at the time, religious, secular, socialist, communist - “those of you that remember Lubavitch, the Rebbe is coming to America on this boat on this day, please greet him.” R’ Rakeffet’s cousin was there. A crowd came out about this. There’s video of this from Lubavitch. Maybe 5000 people came out, mostly not religious, they still knew what Lubavitch was, they had been raised Lubavitch, they remembered the cholent from Lubavitch.

The Rebbe came down, he couldn’t speak, he had had a stroke, his wife spoke for him in Yiddish, her translator was Rose Lieberman, Sharon Mintz’s (Mrs. R’ Adam) grandmother. As they wheeled the Rebbe in, someone strikes up a niggun from the Alter Heim. The Rebbe joins in. People started to cry, even distant from Yiddishkeit. And people swore they wouldn’t be mechallel shabbos then. The women would go to the beauty parlor on Saturday to do their hair for the movie palace Saturday night, the women became shomer shabbos when their kids went to yeshiva. Big thing, suddenly the husbands are going to be home on Saturday!

They brought him to the Greystone Hotel on the Upper West Side. Some of the older Chasidim came in to the Rebbe, told him “we have good news for you, in Lakewood there’s a nice community, warmer than NY, some wealthy Chasidim there, you can retire there, they’ll set you up nicely, and we’ll come farbreng with you once a month. At least you’re away from the Nazis, but New York is a waste of time.” I heard the Seventh Rebbe tell this story with my own ears (says R’ARR). This was shocking! Chasidim daring to tell the Rebbe to retire?

The next morning, they all come in to have breakfast with him, everyone is up & happy. The Rebbe tells them, “Chasidim don’t tell a rebbe what to do, the Rebbe tells the Chasidim what to do. “This is what I’m going to do. I’ll go to Lakewood, rest up for a month, and then we’re starting all over, and we’re going to prove that America can be exactly like the Alter Heim!” They thought he was nuts, but a Rebbe redt, speaks, you don’t say a word.

At the end of the month, he calls in the Chasidim, including Rose Lieberman, and her father R’ Cunin, the grandfather of the head shaliach in California today, and says to them, I want to open a shtibl in the finest neighborhood in New York City. So the Chasidim ask each other – how do we know what the finest neighborhood is? Where the biggest Conservative temple is! So that’s how Lubavitch came to Eastern Parkway, because the Brooklyn Jewish Center was right across the street, the biggest Conservative synagogue in the world.


Please follow title link for the full entry.

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