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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora