News / USA

    20 Years On, 'Lubavitcher Rebbe' Still Mourned, Celebrated

    Visitors pray at the gravesite of the 'Lubavitcher Rebbe,' Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in the Queens borough of New York June 30, 2014.
    Visitors pray at the gravesite of the 'Lubavitcher Rebbe,' Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in the Queens borough of New York June 30, 2014.
    Adam Phillips

    Tens of thousands of Hasidic devotees from around the world converged on New York City this week, to gather at the grave of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also known as the “Lubavitcher Rebbe.” They came to pray, celebrate, mourn and ask for blessings from the man many in the Chabad-Lubavitch sect believe to be the Messiah, and others recognize as one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.

    A sea of Hasidic men in their distinctive black coats and wide-brimmed hats packed a warren of huge rooms adjacent to Rabbi Schneerson’s gravesite. The Rebbe, as he is known, was buried there exactly 20 years ago. 

    While they waited for their two minute turn at the grave itself, they studied Torah together and sang “niggunim,” or holy songs.

    They listened to sermons about the significance of the man many believe to have been the long-awaited Messiah, the man Jewish tradition prophecies will be savior-king of the Jewish people, and ultimately, the world. 

    Nearby, Berel Lazar, an American who is the current Chief Rabbi of Russia, praised Schneerson’s unflagging decades-long effort to reach out to Soviet Jews during the Cold War. 

    “I was lucky enough to visit the Soviet Union in 1987-88 and I was privileged to meet Hasidim that had survived through Communism and kept the flame alive, kept Yiddishkeit (Judaism) alive in every city in the former Soviet Union. Most of the Jews left, ran away, gave up, didn’t see any future. But these people stood steadfast in their belief that the flame has to keep on burning. And the real backing for this, no question, came from the Rebbe. The Rebbe cried for them. The Rebbe pleaded God for them. The Rebbe sent emissaries in underground clandestine ways to bring them support, food, religious articles, money and mainly support - to keep on moving, to keep on going. But the main thing is these people felt the Rebbe is caring for them,” said Lazar.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe is said to have been shrewd and skilled in the use of indirect power. He worked discreetly with American and Israeli authorities to secure freedom for Soviet Jews to learn about and practice their traditional faith, and ultimately to emigrate.

    Rabbi Chaim Bruk said the Rebbe did not need loud outward demonstrations or demands.

    “The Rebbe was not a person looking to take credit. The Rebbe was an individual who wanted to get the job done and it didn’t matter who got the credit,” said Bruk. 

    Tzvi Gerson Felderbaum is too young to have met the Rebbe personally, but he takes profound inspiration from his writings.   

    “The one thing that he taught me is that every little action we do for ourselves or we help other people to do good is connected to the essence of God.  So everything you do, even very little things, it has a very big significance. And it’s something I live with every day, day in and day out,” said Felderbaum.   

    The faithful continued to file past the Rebbe’s gravesite all night long and into the following day, to pray and leave handwritten entreaties. Even non-religious Jews - and non-Jews - were impressed.  As one security officer assigned to the site put it, “I don’t see it for myself, but I don’t make fun of people either. Let them believe. It’s all positive thoughts. Karma. Good luck. It’s heartwarming. That’s all that matters. Amen."

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora