My grandfather, Reb Schneur Zalmon Jaffe, was a popular sight at 770. He was known, simply and affectionately, as “Reb Zalmon.”

From 1959 until 1994, he traveled about seventy times from his home in Manchester, England to see the Rebbe in Brooklyn.

The most meaningful, memorable and well publicized trip was in July of 1961, when my grandfather organized the first charter flight from England, enabling 118 passengers to join him on his journey to the Rebbe.

During their two week stay in Brooklyn, a special welcome for the guests was prepared. My grandfather addressed the assembled. He said how fortunate he felt to have merited coming to “Lubavitch” and even more fortunate that his only son was learning in the Rebbe’s yeshiva in New York. He then pointed to a sign that welcomed “Friends of Lubavitch from England” and said, “There is a big difference between a chossid and a friend, but I hope still to become a chossid.”

My grandfather had a unique relationship with the Rebbe. He liked to refer to the Rebbe as a friend - a saintly, fatherly and holy friend. Yet, he longed to be not just a friend but a chossid of the Rebbe. To this end, he followed the Rebbe’s directives with the utmost care and precision. When the Rebbe needed something done, my grandfather would do it. There were times when he doubted his ability to do it; nevertheless, he knew he would be successful only because the Rebbe asked him. Indeed, he was a chossid.

On many occasions he bemoaned scant information passed down to him about his Lubavitcher zaide, who during the nineteenth century, would travel to the village of Lubavitch to spend Yom Tov with earlier Lubavitcher Rebbes. My grandfather was determined that his children and grandchildren would know in detail about his travels to “Lubavitch;” therefore, he began keeping diaries of his visits to Brooklyn and his interactions with the Rebbe.

The Rebbe encouraged my grandfather to publish those memoirs and in 1969 he printed the first “My Encounter with the Rebbe shlita.” Fifty copies, comprised of sixteen typed sides, were printed only for family and very close friends. Each year thereafter, he published another installment.

Thus, during the week, he would usually be seen, notepad in hand, jotting down anything of interest that he saw or heard.

With its humorous tongue-in-cheek, descriptive and intimate style, “My Encounter with the Rebbe shlita” brings the Rebbe and 770 closer to the hearts of chassidim, like few other publications do. The Rebbe - and his Rebbetzin - actually made editorial remarks and observations on numerous occasions. Indeed, these diaries occupy a respectable place in modern-chassidic literature.

As the years passed, a following developed and the books were more widely sought and distributed. The final volumes were also printed for sale in various Lubavitch congregations, the proceeds from which were donated to the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Manchester, England.

On numerous occasions the Rebbe stressed the imperative for my grandfather to publish these yearly books. Even when, due to other pressures and responsibilities, my grandfather felt unable to publish that year’s issue, the Rebbe would communicate to him his expectation that he publish that issue in any case. In this manner, my grandfather printed twenty-six volumes. Today however, it is no longer possible to obtain copies of the original diaries.

In 1996 as I thought of all the treasured memories, stories, lessons and history these diaries contained, I felt that there was a necessity to reintroduce these books in order to reach a wider audience. After sharing those plans with my grandparents, I received their enthusiastic approval, blessings, and input for this arduous but rewarding task.

Unfortunately, after my initial excitement wore off, I lost focus and I did not invest enough effort to complete this vast undertaking. In the interim, both my grandfather, Schneur Zalmon ben Zev, and my grandmother, Yache Raizel bas Dovid, passed on, within fifteen days of each other. Their sudden passing provided the necessary catalyst for me to complete that which I had started.

I am truly sorry that initially I was not diligent enough in my undertaking, for I might have had the pleasure of presenting my grandparents with the fruits of their labor (and mine), affording them much deserved nachas. The adage “better late than never” could be applied here even though, in reality, a book about the Rebbe is never “late”; it is always pertinent and timely.

As my grandfather’s unwavering intention was to record events for the benefit of later generations, he also included personal family recollections, some of which do not relate directly to the Rebbe. I have omitted those anecdotes.

I tried very hard to keep the diaries as true as possible to the original. I have kept the necessary changes to a minimum. Light changes in structure and/or form were made only for the purpose of clarity and, though the author’s original publications were written using traditional English spelling, the American spelling is now used.

We are at a critical point in our history as Chabad-Lubavitcher chassidim. Days have led to months, and months to years since being physically with the Rebbe, “Darkness has covered the earth.” (Isaiah 60:2) An entire new generation has, thank G‑d, sprouted forth which, if left unchecked could, Heaven forbid, fall into a situation “asher lo yoda es Yosef,” (they knew not Joseph Exodus 1:8), impoverished due to their lack of experiencing and interacting physically with the Nossi Hador (leader of the generation).

It is incumbent upon us, now more than ever, to strengthen our hiskashrus (attachment) to the Rebbe in every way possible.

It is my heartfelt prayer that these books will enhance our hiskashrus to the Rebbe, in particular for our children, and our children’s children - and our spiritual children - who have not merited to see the Rebbe.

May we speedily merit the experience of once again joining the Rebbe with the revelation of our righteous Moshiach now.

Rabbi Pinchas Lew

Elul 26, 5761

Erev the first yahrtzeit of the author, Zalmon Jaffe

Acknowledgements

I serve simply as the compiler and editor; nevertheless, much time and effort and resources were required to transform this dream into reality. Without all the help I received I could never have brought this project to fruition. It is with sincere and true gratitude that I thank the many who helped me throughout the various stages of publishing this book.

First, I thank The Almighty for being generous to me, for giving me so many opportunities, and for His never ending kindness to my family and me.

“Thank you” is in perfect order to the Rebbe - the star of this book. He gave, with humble selfless love and grace to klal yisroel and the entire world, more than a physical being should have been capable.

I thank the author - my grandfather - Zalmon Jaffe and his true soul mate and helpmate (the behind-the-scenes author and chief editor [and censor] of the diaries), my dear grandmother - Roselyn Jaffe - for their writings, their love, and their enduring patience and understanding, especially for trusting that I would publish something they would be proud of.

To my uncle Rabbi Avrohom Jaffe and my mother Mrs. Hindy Lew – the author’s children – I am grateful for all of your important insights and contributions. A special note of thanks to my father, Rabbi Shmuel Lew, for always standing behind me, and for your countless hours of input during all phases of this project.

Thank you to my parents-in-law, Yossi and Rivkah Laine of “Printing by Laine”, for all your help and support. A special thank-you for undertaking the printing of this book.

Thank you to my oldest brother Rabbi Yossi Lew, for hundreds of hours invested in these pages, in technical and editorial help, and especially for compiling and writing the glossary.

Without Leslie Balkany, this book would not have been professional or timely! I know this was a labor of love for you, but I thank you for all your help and support, and particularly, for your proofreading and patient lessons in grammar that, I hope, I have correctly incorporated in this book.

To my brother Rabbi Benny Lew and to UNC graduates, Oren Rosenberg and Mike Abel, a heartfelt thank-you for all your help.

To my wife Chana, I thank you for supporting me and standing behind all my efforts, even though you really “knew” it would never happen. Without your unwavering support this project would indeed not have materialized.

P.L.