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Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 77

Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 77

Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet (Photo: JEM).
Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet (Photo: JEM).

Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet, a Chabad scholar and academic, and a preeminent defender of traditional Jewish belief, passed away on Shabbat, the 20th of Av 5773, July 27, 2013, following a long illness. He was 77.

As a congregational rabbi, professor of philosophy, and world-renowned lecturer and personal advisor, Schochet combined erudition and wit to influence and inspire generations of scholars, university students, and young Jewish men, women, teenagers and families from all walks of life.

Rabbi Schochet was born in Switzerland to Rabbi Dov Yehuda and Sarah Schochet. After the Second World War, the family moved to the Hague, Holland, where Rabbi Dov Yehuda Schochet briefly served as chief rabbi, and in 1951 they relocated to Canada. From 1952 to 1959, he attended the central Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva, Tomchei Temimim, in New York.

It was there, as a young teenage student, that Schochet first developed a special relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Then and in the following years, the Rebbe took a personal interest in the young scholar, and encouraged him to pursue his doctoral studies following rabbinic ordination. In later years, the Rebbe was, according to his son, “constantly urging and encouraging my father to write.”

A Prolific Scholar, Author and Translator

Rabbi Schochet began a long career as a translator and writer working on behalf of the Rebbe’s secretariat and for the central Chabad-Lubavitch publishing arm, Kehot Publication Society. Later he went on to produce authoritative English translations of such fundamental Chassidic works as Tanya and Tzavaat Harivash, and various liturgical translations such as Selichot According to the Chabad Custom and the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Haggadah for Pesach With an Anthology of Reasons & Customs.

Although the Rebbe usually advised his followers not to study in secular universities, he made an exception in the case of Schochet. Following Schochet’s marriage to Jettie Schochet in 1961, the Rebbe encouraged him to achieve advanced degrees at a number of prestigious universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. Schochet’s studies focused primarily on issues of logic, epistemology, ethics and the philosophy of religion; in 1974, his thesis, The Psychological System of Maimonides, earned him a Ph.D. (Phil).

In 1959 Schochet became rabbi of the Kielcer Congregation in Toronto and served in that capacity until 1996. Subsequently, he served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Joseph Lubavitch in the same city. He served as professor of philosophy at Humber College in Toronto from 1971 to 1996; as professor of Jewish philosophy, law and mysticism at Maimonides College, Toronto from 1980 to 1990; and as adjunct professor of medical ethics at University of Toronto School of Medicine from 1983 to 1987.

Original works on Chassidic thought and history authored by Schochet include a biography of Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch, titled The Great Maggid (1974), Mystical Concepts in Chassidism (1979) and The Mystical Dimension (Three Vols. 1990). He has also produced critical Hebrew editions of the early Chassidic texts Keter Shem Tov, Tzavaat Harivash, Maggid Devarav Leyaakov and Or Torah.

Ongoing Encouragement and Guidance

Many of these projects were undertaken at the express directive of the Rebbe, who continued to offer him close support and guidance for many years to come.

One of Schochet's sons, Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who is rabbi of Mill Hill Synagogue in London, England, told of how in the mid-1980s, his father was in New York and took the opportunity to receive a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe for a book that he was completing. The Rebbe gave him a dollar, and then gave him a second one, saying “this is for the new book,” which Schochet clearly understood to mean that he should immediately get to work on a book about the Baal Shem Tov that he had not yet started.

A few weeks later, Schochet was again in New York, and went to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to receive a dollar and a blessing. The Rebbe again gave him a second dollar and said with a smile, “This is for the new book, and not just the new book that I mentioned three weeks ago!”

Impacted Thousands as Mentor, Adviser and Public Speaker

Schochet’s life was not only centered on writing, but on personally influencing young people looking for spiritual answers and solutions. Whether as a regular speaker at Shabbaton weekends in Crown Heights known as pegishas, which drew attendees from across North America, to the summer Ivy League Torah-studies program in the Catskill Mountains of New York, to lectures and one-on-one meetings in Toronto and throughout North America and further afield, Schochet influenced many young Jews to embrace and grow in their Judaism.

Beginning in the 1970s and '80s, Schochet became well-known for his skill as a public speaker and debater. A vocal defender of traditional Jewish beliefs, he issued an open invitation to any Christian missionary who wished to compete with him in a public debate. His efforts to save Jews from missionaries and various other cult groups that were popular during that period met with great success, and his staunch defense of traditional beliefs inspired many individuals with the confidence to live the Torah way of life with pride.

Yitzchok Schochet recalls an incident that happened when he was 9 years old. “My father was involved in helping a family from Toronto whose child was caught up in a cult,” said his son. “The family had brought in two very large men from Florida who were experienced in ‘the tougher aspects’ of releasing people held captive by cults.”

“I remember going out for donuts with my father and these men,” his son recalled, “and what struck me as a boy was how someone like my father, who I would hear communicating so effectively with rabbinic scholars, could have such a warm and down-to-earth relationship with everyone. It gave me something to aspire to.”

Rabbi Schochet strongly defended the traditional halachic position regarding conversion to Judaism, an issue of heated contention in recent decades, and in 1986 he published "Who is a Jew?" In 1992 he published Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. In many ways, Schochet’s treatment of these two issues represented a definitive crystallization and elucidation of the positions espoused by the Rebbe, based upon the Shulchan Aruch and Maimonides’ code of law, respectively. Between 1980 and 1987, Schochet also published a translation of the first four volumes of the Rebbe’s edited talks (Likkutei Sichot: An Anthology of Talks).

In the 1970s the Canadian Jewish News published a feature article on Schochet, already a prominent member of Toronto’s rabbinic community. The reporter had joined Schochet as he raptly listened to a late-night live radio broadcast of a talk by the Rebbe. The reporter spoke of Schochet’s extraordinary excitement throughout the lecture, occasionally exclaiming “Brilliant, brilliant!”

At the end of the broadcast, the rabbi turned to the reporter and said: “It’s all in chassidus. The truth is all in chassidus!”

Over the course of the last few decades, Schochet became renowned as a prolific scholar with the unique ability to communicate complex ideas with the clarity and passion that make them profoundly relevant. He lectured at the Chabad societies on the campuses of Yale, UCLA, Berkeley, McGill and Oxford, as well as in London, England, and in Cape Town and Melbourne, Australia. He addressed communities throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, and in Australia, South Africa, the Far East and Israel. In recent years, he was a frequent participant of the annual Sinai Scholars Academic Symposium organized by Chabad on Campus, and served on’s external rabbinic review board. is host to many lectures, essays and even complete books by Rabbi Schochet, preserving them for posterity (click here to view).

Rabbi Schochet is survived by his wife, Rebbetzin Jettie Schochet, and their children: Mrs. Oryah Vogel (Wilmington, Del.); Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet (London, England); Mrs. Sharonne Zippel (Salt Lake City, Utah); Rabbi Yisroel Schochet (Los Angeles, Calif.); and by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He is also survived by siblings Mrs. Shulamis Bechhover (Queens, N.Y.); Rabbi Dovid Schochet (Toronto, Ontario); Mrs. Ruth Averbuch (Crown Heights, N.Y.); Rabbi Yosef Daniel Schochet (Toronto, Ontario); Rabbi Ezra Schochet (Los Angeles, Calif.); Mrs. Batya Wagner (Toronto, Ontario); Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet (Toronto, Ontario); Rabbi Meir Ovadia Schochet (Miami, Fla.); and Mrs. Amina Newman (Long Beach, Calif.).

The levaya will take place on Sunday, at 2 p.m., at Chabad Lubavitch of Toronto, 770 Chabad Gate, Thornhill.

Internment will follow at Lambton Cemetery, Ostrovtzer section, in Toronto.

Eli Rubin studied Chassidic literature and Jewish Law at the Rabbinical College of America and at Yeshivot in the UK, the US and Australia. He has been a research writer and editor at since 2011, focusing on the social and intellectual history of Chabad Chassidism. Through his writing, research, and editorial work he has successfully participated in a range of scholarly interchanges and collaborative endeavors.
Yaakov Ort is Senior Editor and News Editor at
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Discussion (21)
September 13, 2013
Painful loss
I feel as if a pillar of foundation has collapsed since I heard of our loss of Rav Immanuel Schochet. I have personally not been the same ever since. I am deeply saddened by the absence of the Rabbi and deeply regret not having the opportunity to personally meet him. This loss of such a front line worrior for Jewish people, a Torah scholar with such vast expert knowledge, and Man with commendable middot is tragic. Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet's contribution to so many will NEVER be forgotten.

Yehi Zichro Baruch!
I miss you with all my heart!
Michael Moshe Amouyal
August 7, 2013
HaMakom Y'nachem
I have been deeply influenced by Rabbi Dr. Schochet's books, but I was particularly impressed with Rabbi Schochet during a lecture he gave in Northern NJ around 1993. Many in the audience were detractors of Lubavitch and of the Rebbe's Moshiach campaign. I sat in my seat wishing and praying that Rabbi Schochet would find the words to stand up to the many challenges thrown his way by the resident critics. Needless to say, he answered masterfully, in a sweet and quiet voice, representing the Rebbe to perfection. May Hashem comfort his family and all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Esther Liba
August 4, 2013
Eternal Memory
Eternal Memory to a great and wonderful man
from which I leaned very much about the Divine Codes
and prayers
Zena Ezechiels
Toronto , Canada
August 2, 2013
Learning R. Schochet's teachings
This past week, my wife and I committed to learn all of R. Schochet's Parshah Insight lectures on, one book each evening. We were very impressed. I recommend this to my fellow Jews as a way to honor R. Schochet's memory. Barukh Dayan Ha-Emeth.
Southeastern PA
August 1, 2013
I have learned so critical things from him. I believe his neshama went straight to Gan Eden.
Kayo Kaneko
August 1, 2013
Rabbi Schochet
Although I did not know him personally, I have watched his videos, and teachings. I was very impressed and a deep feeling of appreciation was felt in my heart and soul for this incredible man. Something deep inside me, told me this man was a very special one. I am deeply sad for this news. Hope his honorable family find comfort in the Torah as they pray in these hours of his leaving us in the flesh. But in the spirit, I believe, he will always be with us for the contribution he made to all.
July 31, 2013
Barukh Dayan HaEmes.
I did not know Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet personally. The only time I saw him was perhaps at his mother's funeral, which I attended, because I know Rabbi Dovid Schochet who works out of Chabad Gate in the north of Toronto.
What appears to especially have recommended him as well as his brother Dovid is his particular ability to combine superior scholarship with an infinite store of menschlichkeit - surely a source of pride to their mother and father ztz"l.
SheHaMakom yenachem etkhem besokh haShaar Avlei Zion veYerushalayim. May the Almighty comfort you amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Esther Sarah Evans
Yerushalayim, Eretz Yisrael
July 31, 2013
An incredible man, words cannot describe my feelings towards him as I listened to many of his lectures following my introduction to Chabad. I held him in reverence, he truly emulated the Chabad movement, Judaism's tenets and inspired any one who listened or read any of his works. Although I never had the privilege of meeting him personally I felt that I knew him on a personal basis as I did have the privilege of meeting one of his brothers. I am grateful to have had that encounter and discussion that ensued as it gave me an even more enhanced perspective of the Rabbi. He was an inspiration in my early introduction/studies of Judaism following the discovery and confirmation of my Jewish roots. He cemented my commitment to Chabad. My prayers go out to his family. he left a legacy that will always be remembered and revered. He was one of the General's of the "Rebbe's Army".
Edwin (Moishe ben Yochanan) L. Axton
Everett WA. USA
July 30, 2013
He sounded like a great person.

I am Catholic and would have loved to have met him
July 30, 2013
I met Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet in 1988 at the Ivy League Torah studies program. I remember as a young student the impression he made on me as I was sitting with an awe drinking with thirst every word that came out of his mouth with clarity and depth I never met before. The humour and the accent imprinted in me deep and complicated concept in Chasidut which I carry to date. A big loss for Am Israel! We will carry on your torch, thank you Emmanuel (G-d with us)! May his family be blessed and comforted.
Haim Sherrf
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