Community Services to Jewish Living in the San Francisco
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson is the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty. He has been described as the most phenomenal Jewish personality of our time. To his hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he is “the Rebbe” today’s most dominant figure in Judaism and, undoubtedly, the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of world Jewry.
Born in 1902, on the 11th day of Nissan, in Nikolayev, Russia, the Rebbe is the son of the renowned Kabbalist and Talmudic scholar, the late Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson. He is the great-grandson-and namesake-of the third Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch. (His mother, Rebbetzin Chana, 1880-1964, during her famous husband’s exile by the Soviets to a remote village in Asian Russia, displayed legendary courage and ingenuity; for example, she labored to make inks from herbs she gathered in the fields-so that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak could continue writing his commentary on Kabbala and other Torah-subjects).
Within the Lubavitch community, the title shliach evokes respect, perhaps even a tinge of envy. They are the chosen few, the elite. Children aspire to be shluchim, dreaming of manning a Chabad House in far-off exotic lands where strange languages are spoken. The product of childish minds, it is an idealized dream, free of the difficulties and traumas that beset the shliach in real life.
There is no trumpet sounded when they arrive in their new home city; no red carpets unrolled in their honor. They have few friends, no relatives, no familiar culture, atmosphere or environment. Many commodities, such as kosher meat, dairy products and other basics, may have to be flown in, but here are certain staples, vitally essential to their mission, which they bring with them by the truckload: Friendliness, affection for all Jews, compassion, tolerance, self-sacrifice, utter devotion and selfless dedication.
Armed with these, they immediately begin their work of outreach-explaining, shedding light, dispelling myths, countering stereotypes. “what does it mean to be a Jew?” “Rabbi, how can I observe the Shabbat-when my store has its best sales on Saturday?” “How are mitzvot relevant today, in this community?” The shliach of Chabad does not insist; he suggests. He does not criticize; he encourages. He does not “preach down” at people; he acts as a genuine equal, a friend. And the revolution begins. It takes place without anyone realizing it. A few years fly by, and, “out of nowhere,” it is a familiar and accepted sight to see families with Sukkot, observing Shabbat, kosher, etc.