It’s all about the message. That’s what the staff of Kfar Chabad, which just published its 1,500th issue, says about a publication that’s near and dear to them.
“The magazine is not just about news,” insists Rabbi Moshe Marinovsky, a senior editor at the full-color Israeli weekly. “It was, and is, about publishing scholarly articles; in-depth investigative reports; details on Chabad institutions; historical articles; and chassidic stories. This you do not get on the Internet.”
Browse any given issue over the past 30 years, and you’ll find profiles and lengthy interviews; scholarly articles on Jewish law; compilations of stories on specific topics; correspondence from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; thought-provoking pieces on Chabad philosophy; and a look at the Rebbe’s compilation of sayings, called Hayom Yom.
While not the first Chabad periodical for adults, it is the longest-running weekly magazine, and a staple in many religious homes.
“The language of my generation,” says editor-in-chief Rabbi Aaron Dov Halperin, “is different than the language of this generation. Staying with the old style would translate to not attracting any new younger readers.”
To that end, Halperin has invested in recruiting new blood to appeal to the generation he’s not part of—“it is old wine, packaged in a new barrel,” he says emphasizing that nothing has changed over the years, just the style and the way the content is presented.
Over the years, the magazine has served as the primary source for publishing historical articles on Chabad and interviews on the life of the Rebbe, yet has also been a central site for rabbinical leaders and Jewish officials to voice their opinions. It has run interviews with Israeli chief rabbis since its inception, in addition to prime ministers.
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, Israel's former chief rabbi, salutes the magazine.
“They appreciated the fact,” says Rabbi Yitzchak Yehudah Holtzman, a long-time writer and news editor of the magazine, “that the magazine does not carry tabloid-style news; it was always about the positive messages they had to deliver.”
Marinovsky recalls that when he once asked how much time Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the Israeli Sephardic chief rabbi, had for an interview, the rabbi responded that for Kfar Chabad he had all the time in the world.
“He was always happy to talk,” says Holtzman. “He praised the magazine that presented his words clearly and accurately.”
Holtzman adds that his guide to what he covers is what the Rebbe once said to Alter Velner, former editor of the Israeli news agency Itim: “Every individual needs to recognize that they are as if the only person in the world, and his or her actions in this world could make a difference in this world, and therefore one needs to cause that our world will become better and filled with more holiness.”
Velner said in an interview with Kfar Chabad that the Rebbe told him: “Even the basic news needs to have a message for the person who is reading it. Of course, the magazine needs to be interesting, readable; if not, no one would read it. However, it needs to serve a higher purpose, for serving G‑d.”
The 1,500th celebratory issue includes articles on the correspondence of the third Chabad rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch; on Rabbi Moshe Weber, a Jerusalemite who never had children, and whose home was always open to visitors; on Uri Revach, a Chabad-Lubavitch follower and an anchor at Israeli television’s Channel 1; on the custom of covering one’s head with the prayer shawl during prayers, by Rabbi Yochonon Gurary, the chief rabbi of Holon; and on a school in Tel Aviv that teaches Judaism to adults who never had a formal religious education.
For Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Kfar Chabad represents the place where readers learn about the international work of Chabad-Lubavitch. He says when the series “Chabad B’Olam”—literally translated as “Chabad across the globe”—was written with his assistance, “I organized a trip for Rabbi Halperin to California. I called everyone to arrange the visit, and he traveled for a week around California, and then he wrote a series on Chabad activities in the state.”
He notes that this was important because “no one previously recognized the vast amount of work Chabad was doing with so many Jews everywhere, encouraging them to be a part of spreading Judaism. And for those in the field, it gave them the feeling that they were not alone in their work. It also gave them ideas for activities in their local communities.”
At an event last week in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel, celebrating the 1,500th issue, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel and chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Council, lauded the magazine: “The magazine translates difficult concepts into the language of every man. I appreciate that the magazine is published week after week, with tens of pages of information from scholarly articles to stories. It is an inexhaustible well of information.”
“Any newspaper would take pride,” concludes Shaul Schiff, a veteran Israeli journalist who regularly pages through the magazine when it arrives at his office, “in the work of Kfar Chabad, which reaches a wider audience than the Chabad community itself.
“The publication is meaningful and well-written. It is the source for many on everything Chabad: the depth, the stories and thought.”