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1916: World War I
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Feeding the hungry in Moscow, Russia
Feeding the hungry in Moscow, Russia

The First World War sent floods of refugees streaming into the interior of Russia.

Many arrived in Yekatrinoslav, where, in addition to severe shortages of food, shelter and other basic necessities, they had to contend with the hostility of the local authorities.

The Jews, in particular, suffered from the classically anti-Semitic accusations of collaboration with the enemy, and were subject to arrest, seizure for ransom, and even execution.

The Rebbe's mother and father opened their home to the refugees and undertook to provide for them, ransom the captives, and intercede with the government on behalf of the accused-at great risk to their own life and liberty. The Rebbe was a full participant in these activities. Years later, he recalled the deep and lasting impression the devotion of his parents-particularly of his mother--had upon his fourteen year-old self.

 
Refugees during the World War I
Refugees during the World War I

Attending to the material needs of one's fellow has been a cornerstone of the Chabad Movement since its inception. The Rebbes of Chabad never saw themselves as "spiritual" leaders: the bodily condition of their people was no less important to them than the state of their souls. In Czarist Russia, they established agricultural settlements and factories to provide a livelihood for destitute Jews; under the communist regime, they clandestinely supported the "counter-revolutionaries" who had been deprived of all means of support; in the wake of the Holocaust, they sent emissaries bearing succor and aid to the DP camps.

Today, the Rebbe's disciples are running drug rehabilitation centers in California, airlifting children out of the radioactive Chernobyl area in Belarus, and operating soup kitchens in cities from Jerusalem to Moscow. By the Rebbe's directive, every Chabad House has a free loan fund and devotes a significant portion of its resources to serve the social needs of its community.

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VIDEO
Video: Memories of My Mother
The Rebbe recalls his mother's activities during World War I.
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Attending to the material necessities of a fellow in need is a most spiritual endeavor.

The Rebbe, quoting the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

The Rebbe: Timeline Biography
1902: Childhood
1915: Learning
1916: World War I
1923: Soviet Jewry
1928: Marriage
1930s: Torah & Science
1941: Flight from Europe
1939-45: Holocaust & Rebuilding
1943: Author & Teacher
1950: Leadership
1953: Chassidic Feminism
1960: Technology
1963: Rebellion
1967: The Six-Day War
1972: Retirement?
1974: The Mitzvah Tank
1977: Illness & Challenge
1983: Mankind
1986: "Sunday Dollars"
1988: Passing of Rebbetzin
1989: The End of the Cold War
1991: Missiles & Miracles
3 Tammuz 1994: Transmission
1994: Discovery of the "Reshimot"
Today: The Goal