Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

9
Lubavitch: Redeeming Fellow Jews

Proselytizing in the Jewish Community

The overriding concern of the Lubavitcher Hasidim is to reeducate and realign the nonreligious Jewish world--to win Jews back to traditional Torah Judaism. The undertaking to redeem Jewry has mystical as well as social implications, since the positive and negative commandments constitute an interconnected human and supernatural network. The commandments have a direct bearing on human health, on the cosmos, on the perfectibility of the community, and, as a consequence, on the appearance of the Messiah and the end of the exile. These factors lend an air of extraordinary importance to the work of Lubavitch.

Chabad-Lubavitch maintains a network of Chabad houses as its centers for training and revitalization. By the end of 1988 there were 140 Chabad houses in the United States, in addition to others in Israel, Latin America, Europe, and other parts of the world, and new Chabad houses continue to open. They are usually maintained by one or two young couples who are called shlikhim, emissaries of the Rebbe. The typical Chabad house is located close to a college, with the aim of attracting thoughtful young people interested in studying interpretations of the Holy Scriptures or "grappling with the riddles of existence"; but the emissaries also seek out school dropouts, troubled youth involved with drugs, and those drawn to non-Jewish proselytizing faiths. The Chabad houses also serve as houses of worship and study. They supply Hebrew books, phylacteries, mezuzot (doorpost scrolls), and other ritual items. 1 In response to community needs the emissaries may initiate a variety of services--religious classes for children, seminars and study groups for students and adults. Each Chabad house is supported by a modest budget allocated by the Brooklyn office and may raise additional funds to support special needs. The level of success (or failure) varies greatly according to the abilities of the particular workers. 2

The Chabad workers recruit those in the community who express in-

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