My maternal grandfather, Rabbi Schneur Zalman Edelman, was a devout Lubavitcher chossid, as were his parents and grandparents. He lived in a renowned Lubavitcher town, Rakishik, in Lithuania. My mother used to tell us that he would travel for Yom Tov to Lubavitch, to be with the Rebbe Rashab who reigned from 5643 until 5680 (1882-1920).

About 1906, after my grandfather had already passed on, at a time of some particularly harsh pogroms, my mother and her family, as well as thousands of other Jews, fled Lithuania and came to the United Kingdom. My mother settled in Manchester, where she subsequently met my father, Zev Jaffe, who was not a Lubavitcher chossid. However my mother persuaded him to daven at the Lubavitcher shul in Manchester. They were married in 1910.

The only contact, involvement or knowledge I had of Lubavitch, was that we davened in a “Lubavitcher shul.” The shul celebrated a Yom Tov called Yud-Tes Kislev (19th of Kislev), which was the anniversary of the release of the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Chabad chassidus, from a Czarist jail after being sentenced to death for alleged treason. We also celebrated Simchas Torah in a rather hectic and merry manner, which was very unusual for Manchester in those days, but definitely “Lubavitch style.”

Besides my uncle Shmuel Rein, there were other elder chassidim in Manchester who had also learned in the central Yeshiva in the village of Lubavitch: Rabbis Nemtzov, Rivkin and Dubov. However, they pretty much kept to themselves. I had no idea what Lubavitch stood for, or what it meant, or that it had any practical meaning for me.

My uncle used to deliver a chassidic discourse at Seudah Shlishis in the winter, but it was in Yiddish and we youngsters did not understand too much of it. We were aware that Rabbi Rein had correspondence with the Rebbe, but we were not personally involved.

That was all to change dramatically when I was almost thirty-five years of age.