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The Rebbe: American Jewry’s Historical Mission

The Rebbe: American Jewry’s Historical Mission

A journalist’s conversation with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in the mid-1950’s

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A parade for Jewish pride at Lubavitch World Headquarters in the early 1950s. (Photo: Lubavitch Archives)
A parade for Jewish pride at Lubavitch World Headquarters in the early 1950s. (Photo: Lubavitch Archives)

American Youth

“American youth is like unsown land waiting to be worked,” said the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was chosen to lead the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic movement after the 1950 passing of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, of righteous memory. “The youth can be compared to a blank piece of paper.”

The Rebbe explained that the 20th century American Jewish soul is ripe and open to Judaism in an unprecedented way. He showed that America filled all the requirements for becoming a Jewish spiritual haven, and thought it possible for American born Jews to be the next spiritual leaders and scholars for world Jewry.

The Dispersion of World Jewry

“It would be mistaken for us to consider Jewish dispersion in the Diaspora a tragedy,” the Rebbe continued explaining that although the Jews are in exile and dispersed, “the very fact that the entire Jewish nation is not concentrated in one location has sustained us for hundreds of years. It has saved major portions of our nation from pogroms and other tragedies.1

By Divine Providence a new home for Jewish teachings and Judaism was prepared in America at the same time that the flames engulfed our great fortresses across the Atlantic. “Hitler, may his name be obliterated, was the greatest recent danger to our national existence. The fact that a great portion of our nation was concentrated in Eastern and Central Europe played directly into his hands.”

Conversely, the Rebbe recognized that a great concentration of Jews also has advantages. “Historically, whenever there was a concentration of Jews in one country it created an environment conducive to the establishment of spiritual institutions. Other small communities were then able to be sustained from their spirituality, inspiration, leadership and even their economic success.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “Jewish life in exile is ultimately not destined through the happenings in any one particular concentration of Jewry. Any outcome in one country can lead to a completely different one in another country, from one end of the world or the other end.”

He reasoned that, “When the Jewish sun begins to set in one country, it has already begun to rise in another country.” For example, after the great Jewish centers in Eastern Europe were darkened by Fascism and Communism, America became the center of Jewish continuity.”

American Jewry

The Rebbe added, “By Divine Providence a new home for Jewish teachings and Judaism was prepared in America at the same time that the flames engulfed our great fortresses across the Atlantic.

“The Jews in America need to recognize the historical Divine mission that G‑d placed in their hands at a time when the Jewish nation is fighting for its survival. The greatest concentration of the best of Jewry is in America. Thus we need to lead the smaller Jewish communities in other countries and continents, even in the Land of Israel which needs to lean on America for economical and spiritual help.”

This is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe declared!

Part one of an excerpt from Yiddishkeit in America (Judaism in America) published in 1958, freely translated from the yiddish.

Asher Penn was a journalist for the Forward.

Footnotes
1.

Editor’s note: see the Talmud, Pesachim 87b and Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi, ad loc.

Asher Penn was a journalist for the Forward.
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Yvah Judah December 23, 2011

Reading the Rebbe's words is how I begin my Day. I love his words powerfully; they move me to tears and to knots in my stomach. Then, I take all this emotion to the Torah. Then, when I'm overwhelmed with love and truth, I go into the day and face whatever adversities come my way with love. Only Torah and the words of the Rebbe make me feel this depth of love. Reply

Jaclyn Barnes Jerusalem, Israel November 10, 2011

The Rebbe American Jewis Historical Mission I always love receiving these lessons, I learn so much. I never realized that America was considered the center of American Jewry. Today I'm sure that it still plays a big part in the lives. Of American Jewish families but with all the antisemitism going on. I do not know how much longer until Jewish families start looking for someplace else to live. Reply

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