Volume 44 Number 07
                    Produced: Tue Aug 10  6:36:36 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chabad and Lubavitch
         [Martin Stern]
Lubavitch (2)
         [Binyomin Segal, Eliezer Wenger]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 10:33:35 +0100
Subject: Chabad and Lubavitch

I have been loathe to get involved in this particular thread but, since
I think it should be put into its historic context, I'll stick my neck

Though these two terms are nowadays considered synonymous, this has not
always been the case, especially after the demise of the Tsemach Tsedek
some 150 years ago when several of his sons set up separate
courts. These could all be described as Chabad Chassidus but only one
was based in Lubavitch. By a historic accident the other dynasties all
had died out by WW1 and that left only the one but last Lubavitcher
rebbe (no longer based in Lubavitch) who tried to preserve the tradition
under Soviet rule until he was expelled to Latvia and then came to the
USA. On arrival he, and even more so his successor, organised a
regrouping and gradually 'took over' the Diaspora Chabad communities
which may not originally have had allegiance specifically to
Lubavitch. The last rebbe appreciated the advantages of the methods of
American public relations to expand his following. I hope this brief
summary is not offensive to the movement.

The question of the undoubted hostility to Lubavitch by many misnagdic
groups probably has even deeper historic roots and goes back to the
beginnings of Chassidism in Litta (mainly present day
Belorus). Followers of Lubavitch still celebrate the release from prison
of their founder, the Ba'al HaTanya, who was incarcerated as a result of
denunciations from some Misnagdim.

This atmosphere of mutual animosity was exacerbated under Russian rule
especially as a result of the policies of Tsar Nicholas I to divide and,
thereby, undermine, Jewish communities. His most notorious method was
the forced conscription of Jewish children (Cantonists) which more than
anything disrupted Jewish social cohesion and gave rise to the hated
'khappers'.  While, in most communities, the well-to-do made sure that
the burden fell predominantly on the poor who became alienated, it is
certainly also the case that the Misnagdim saw that it fell on the
Chassidim where they were in control and, vice versa, the Chassidim
reciprocated. This was not a matter of religious policy as enunciated by
rabbinic leaders but, rather, that of the lay leaders. The result of
this behaviour, therefore, embittered relations between the two
groups. After the death of Tsar Nicholas I and the relaxation of these
decrees, the two gradually came closer to one another, especially in
opposition to the rising haskalah movement.

Co-operation increased in the immediate pre-WW1 period and, but for the
trauma of the Soviet takeover, may well have erased hostility as was the
case with other Chassidic groups in Eastern Europe. As someone put it
the Misnagdim became more like the Chassidim, treating their rabbonim
almost like rebbes, and the latter began to put more emphasis on
learning and came more to resemble the former. Because of their being
forced into an 'underground' existence, this trend did not develop the
same way among Lubavitch. When it was resurrected in the USA, mainly
under the leadership of the last rebbe, its development tended to revive
fears in other circles that it was trying to 'take over' the Jewish
community. These fears fed on the earlier half-forgotten memories of the
earlier struggles to produce the unfortunate animosity which we see

While I would not wish to apportion blame, there is one thing I think
that the Lubavitch leadership could do. Since the death of the last
rebbe, a group within the movement have refused to recognise this and
claim that he is waiting to return from heaven to inaugurate his
messianic rule. There have even been some who have attributed to him
divine power. This group, I would hope, is small and unrepresentative of
Lubavitch as a whole but, because the leadership has not taken firm
steps to denounce this heretical trend, it has brought the whole
movement into disrepute. Once a clear line has been drawn between the
Jewish Lubavitch movement and this neo-Sabbatian (or, dare I say,
neo-Christian) sect there is every hope that eventually good relations
will gradually be restored as was beginning under the leadership of the
Rashab 100 years ago.

Martin Stern


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 09:58:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Lubavitch

First off, and most important I would like to concur wholeheartedly and
happily with Susan Shapiro's statement:

> Ahavas Yisroel would be kinda cool, though!

Indeed, if there is any merit in airing some of these "concerns" some of
us seem to have re Lubavitch, it is in the attempt to clear the air. It
is not meaningful to say, "can't we all just get along" unless we are
willing to work out any disagreements and misgivings. Also, caring for
people includes in it a responsibility to give feedback if you think
they are doing something wrong. We would not bother with a discussion
about the inappropriate or troublesome behavior of _insert christian
group here_ because we just don't care about them in anywhere near the
same way we care about achenu KOL beis yisroel (our brethren, the ENTIRE
house of Israel). It is BECAUSE i agree with Susan Shapiro's statement
that i have participated in this discussion.

That being the case, I think it is important to recognize when the
Lubavitchers in the group have some input in re my behavior.

> I know there is tremendous animosity (in our community) from the Litvish
> school towards Chabad, have heard it from many non affiliated people who
> have swapped schools,

Susan is absolutely correct here. The litvish community does express
disapproval of chabad, and in the wrong hands that can often tend
towards animosity. The more caring, more thoughtful people in the
community would express it as loving disapproval, as I expressed above,
but I have no doubt that it can feel like animosity in lots of

That disapproval, I believe, has three threads with different timelines
and intensities:

1 - the general disagreement with any chassidic approach
2 - the sense that Lubavitch places people who are poorly prepared into
situations where they will represent Judaism 
3 - the whole Mashiach thing

Obviously 1 is a minor point. However, I think it might be more minor
today than it was 100 years ago. My sense (and I do not have sources to
point to here) is that even 100 years ago, the rift between chasidim and
misnagdim was still "a thing" in a way that it clearly is not now.

2 is specific to modern Lubavitch. And I think it may be what prevented
Lubavitch 30 or 40 years ago or so from integrating into the right wing
community. My sense is that while the rest of the right wing community
was choosing insularity as a way to rebuild from the holocaust - and
choosing to send children to more and more Jewish school to avoid the
secular world, or at least prepare for it - the chabad community was
embracing the secular world in a way that the rest of the right wing
leadership saw as inappropriate. What is perhaps most interesting here,
is that in this regard the rest of the chasidic community was - if
anything - MORE opposed to Lubavitch then the litvish community.

I assume that in regard to this issue, Lubavitch thought/thinks the rest
of the right wing community is not fulfilling its own Jewish
mandate. This question of closed and protective vs open and reaching out
is one the whole community continues to struggle with. Also, while this
issue may have maintained a rift that already existed, I do not believe
it was strong enough to cause a rift. Certainly today, this issue would
not merit any disapproval in a school setting.

The single biggest issue - the one that can translate into children
being made fun of in school (yes, I have seen litvish kids make fun of
lubavitch kids) - is the mashiach issue. This issue has, I hope and
pray, passed its peak. And I do not really want to go down this road
today, but this issue is BIG! The disapproval that this issue engenders
is of a very serious sort. It is in regard to this issue most of all
(though the reference may not have been entirely clear in my other post)
that I said:

>       In the final analysis it is difficult to get at what is "really"
>       Lubavitch theology, and what is merely the overactive advocacy of
>       young inexperienced converts who are personally excited and do not
>       have the balance that comes with time and experience.

Susan suggested:
> One could ask and find out rather than condemn a whole group for one or
> two individuals one comes into contact with.

Unfortunately, and I mean that very sincerely, there is a sense that
Lubavitch, the media company, is not entirely honest in answering these
questions. This is not just something I choose to believe, it is
something that many old-time lubavithchers have told me.

This issue is tremendously troubling theologically. In its early
manifestations, when the Rebbe was still alive, the concerns were, at
least primarily, litvish. A number of chassidic groups over the years
have expressed similar feelings, and so chassidim generally saw it as
within the realm of acceptable. With the Rebbe's death, the maintenance
by SOME lubavitch of this approach crossed the line of acceptable even
within the chassidic community. Even many old-time lubavitchers
distanced themselves from this approach.

The furor over this issue has subsided to some degree in recent
years. The media company Lubavitch has started to present a less
troubling stance. Hopefully, with time, old wounds will indeed heal.

I am however still concerned. Despite all protestations to the contrary
from Lubavitchers, I have seen with my own eyes enough that I wonder
about this new stance. It seems to me that - at least for SOME
lubavitchers - the new stance is not a real change in belief, but rather
simply a change in marketing strategy. That is, I KNOW that many within
the organization still believe the Rebbe is mashiach, but will avoid
discussing it because it won't get them where they want to go.

I know some of the things I have said are, shall we say,
"challenging". I have tried to state them as respectfully as I could. I
was proud when Avi pointed to my earlier post as an example of
respectful discourse, and I hope he is not disappointed in me now.


From: Eliezer Wenger <ewenger@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 14:38:25 -0400
Subject: Lubavitch

I have been debating within myself whether to respond to the posting of
Binyomin Segal or not, since I am sure that any comments written can be
used as fodder for those who want to do more bashing. However, I have
decided to respond to some of his points.

Regarding parents who send theitr children away at a young age to New
York for their education. This is usually done only when there are
grandparents living in New York and the main reason is because they do
not want their children to have a secular education while they are
young. This was a view expressed by the Rebbe many times, and it has
nothing to do wth the local schools. There are times where the
ideologies of the school also are not consistent and at times not
tolerant of Chabad. But this can be said for other groups as well. I
personally know of two cities where there is a Chabad School with a fine
secular education and a regular Day School where not all the women
teachers keep their heads covered, not are dressed tzinuis as should be,
etc, and the members of the local Kollel will send their children to the
other school and not to Chabad. The fact remains, and I am speaking of
decades of experience in teacing in Chabad schools, that those children
that come from religios homes of different backgrounds and are brough up
that way do not suddenly become Luvaitchers they still remain what their
parents are.

The Rebbe has always stressed Hafotzas Hayahadus and Hafoztas
Chassidus. To those that have an insufficient background and practice of
Judaism, the emphasis of Chabad is to get them to do a mitzvah, one at a
time and to teach them Torah. Those who are religious practicing Jews,
the main emphasis is to expose them to the teachings of Chassidus and
not to have them change their minhagim. Witness the success of Heichel
Menachem in Boro Park where hundreds of Chassidim and Litvishe Jews come
to learn Chassidus and they remain what they are. There are shiurim in
Chassidus in many places where there are Yeshivos.

Lubavitch is generally more tolerant and accepting of other groups of
religious Jews than they are. Stories abound of Shluchim worldwide who
do constant chesed for travellers bypassing their cities.

I don't see what Binyomin's hangup upon the song he heard in Gan
Yisroel.  Just as the moderator explained so eloquently the difference
of Chabad Chassidus and Chagas Chassidus and how it is not a put down,
this song which elderly chassidim used to sing was as a result of the
suffering that the Alter Rebbe had in the hands of the misnagdim and the
weeks of imprisonment he went through on account of them. Therefore the
idea of the song is to express the joy that they have of being chassidim
who study Chabad chassidus.  Why look at it in a negatve way.

I don't know where he gets the attitude that Lubavitch only aligns
itself with the modern Orthodox. Open up any Kfar Chabad magazine and
you will see how many Roshei Yeshivos and representatives of Chassidic
Rebbes are present and speak at Chabad functions (farbrengens), and a
great number of the seats at the dias of a yearly Siyum HaRambam have
Roshei Yeshivos and Admorim.

How wonderful it would be if we would only look at the positive of each
group and not only stress the negatives. The Rebbe himself saw just
Jews, not distinction. If an institution was in danger of closing down,
even if it was an organization that did not appreciate (to put it
mildly) the Rebbe's philosophies, he had his office write a check to
make sure they exist. How many would do that to save a Chabad

I think I have said enough for now.


End of Volume 44 Issue 7