As the calendar draws closer to the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz – June 15 of this year – and the anniversary of the 1994 passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Jewish communities around the world are urging their members to look inward and make positive resolutions in memory of the devoted leader.
In addition, thousands of students are completing studies in honor of the day, concentrating on Mishnaic tractates, rabbinical literature and examinations of Jewish law, along with the Rebbe’s Kabbalistic and Chasidic insights, uncovering new layers and meaning and the connections between them.
In Southern California, 1,000 people are expected at a dinner sponsored by centers affiliated with Chabad of the Valley. While in Mequon, Wis., Rabbi Yossi Jacobson will speak to an estimated 250 people on the Rebbe’s clarion call to reach every single Jew in every corner of the world. Sponsored by the state’s 12 Chabad-Lubavitch centers, the event at the Peltz Center for Jewish Life will also give attendees an opportunity to write personal letters to be read at the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, N.Y.
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At the resting place itself, tens of thousands of people will file through the stone structure beginning the evening of June 14 to beseech G-d for blessings, seek spiritual inspiration and reflect on what the Rebbe’s life meant to them. Hundreds of thousands more will send faxes, letters and e-mails containing prayer requests to be read or placed at the resting place.
Rabbi Moshe Rapoport, program director at the Peltz Center for Jewish Life, described the Mequon event as “an opportunity for our community to learn from the Rebbe’s teachings and, most importantly, to understand his example, especially in his care for every single Jew,” continued Rapoport. “This is a way for us to appreciate his teachings and impact on the world.”
Mequon resident Aaron Katz agreed, recalling how he felt after the Rebbe’s passing 16 years ago.
“The impact that the Rebbe’s passing had on the community was absolutely striking, profound, and motivating,” said the businessman. “It was amazing to me how the passing of a leader could have such a deep impact, and this pulled me closer to Judaism. I go to such events because of who the Rebbe was and what he stood for, and what we all have a responsibility to do to” realize his vision.
Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to the Rebbe’s resting place in Cambria Heights, N.Y., on the anniversary of his passing. Last year, Ohel Chabad Lubavitch, which maintains the site, hosted a screening of footage of the Rebbe’s public talks in addition to other events in connection with the day.
Reconnecting and Rediscovering
Echoing the Wisconsin gathering, Chabad-Lubavitch centers in the greater Detroit, Mich., area will welcome close to 1,500 guests at its annual Evening of Vision, Music and Inspiration. Featuring Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, this year’s event is expected to “bring everyone in the community together,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the West Bloomfield-based Friendship Circle.
In Philadelphia, meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 local residents will attend a regional unity event headlined by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who is working on a book about the Rebbe’s life. He will address the topic “Leadership During Challenging Times.”
Nechama Caplan said she looks forward to the annual talk as a way to reconnect with the Rebbe and her community.
“It’s amazing how his influence has continued to grow,” she said.
Moshe Brodetzky of Tarzana, Calif., said he looks forward to the Valley event every year.
“The Rebbe is an inspiration,” he said, “and learning about him is very inspirational for me.”
Brian Davidow, who first met the Rebbe in 1990, agreed.
“To be there at a gathering like this and to hear stories with details that were unknown before makes me feel that connection with him all over again,” said Davidow. “It’s like batteries being recharged.”