Contact Us

The Rebbe: We Need to Go on the Offensive

The Rebbe: We Need to Go on the Offensive

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

 Email
On the offensive, a Lubavitch woman discusses Judaism on the streets of Los Angeles, CA. (Photo: Lubavitch Archives)
On the offensive, a Lubavitch woman discusses Judaism on the streets of Los Angeles, CA. (Photo: Lubavitch Archives)

In my audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, he outlined his plan to win over the American Jew:

  1. Approach the youth.
  2. Give the youth the complete truth.
  3. Stop insisting that American Judaism is in danger, an assertion that does little but place Jewry on the defensive. We need to go on the offensive.

The Rebbe likened the American youth to students divided into three categories:

  1. Diligent, good learners, with sharp minds who do not necessarily need a teacher to complete their studies.
  2. Poor students with weak minds that even the best teachers struggle to help.
  3. The average student, ready to be guided, taught and molded.

For the true educator the optimal student is the third one, the student who lets the teacher guide and influence him or her. The Rebbe insisted, “when you give them [the youth] the truth, you will succeed.”

The Rebbe also told me, “America has become a stronghold because each ethnic group added the best from their community, building themselves from the ground up. The Rebbe also told me, “America has become a stronghold because each ethnic group added the best from their community, building themselves from the ground up."

“The American mentality was one focused on individual accomplishment, with too much attention given to individual desire and personal benefit. During WWII this materialistic parade came to an end. The demise of the dollar’s rule on life began.”

He continued, “American Jewry must give from their hearts and souls, and take the leading role in guiding Torah Judaism for all Jewish settlements across the globe.”

The Rebbe quoted the American saying, “Charity begins at home,” emphasizing that good deeds need to begin with ourselves and our communities. “We cannot take upon ourselves the responsibility of the entire Jewish world if at the same time some of our brothers and sisters are astray.”

The Rebbe’s call was for all Jews, not only for Orthodox Jewry. The leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement always believed that every Jew, no matter how far he is from Torah Judaism, still has a spark of holiness inside himself. This spark, which is inside every Jew, must be channeled for the benefit of the individual and the entire Jewish community.

The Rebbe explained that the only way American Jewry can fulfill this historical mission is for, “Every single individual to cease being a private person and to live their life for the community.”

This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe viewed Jewish life in America. He called for American Jewry to stand up and take on the role they have been given.

The Rebbe with his radiant face, black beard, and penetrating tone, felt that he, with his assistants, could take an important role in the spiritual revival of Judaism in America.

The Rebbe was sure, “When it comes to Judaism in America all will move to the right.”

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

Read part I: The Rebbe: American Jewry’s Historical Mission. Part II: The Rebbe: Bring Judaism to the Jews.

Asher Penn was a journalist for the Forward.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics