On my fifteenth birthday my late father introduced me into his communal activities as his personal secretary. That was on the twelfth of Tammuz, 5655 (1895). On that Thursday my father called for me in the big garden of our holiday place, and outlined for me the 140 years of communal work that the Rebbeim of Chabad had conducted in the past and in the present.

Our first father – the Alter Rebbe, author of the Shulchan Aruch – began his communal work at the age of eleven.

My father recounted the story as follows: “The Alter Rebbe’s son, my revered great-[great-]uncle R. Moshe, records in his memoirs an incident that he had heard about from a very old chassid called R. Moshe [Yitzchak] from a village near Yanovitch called Ivanski. One day, when this R. Moshe Yitzchak was at the regional fair in Liozna, he saw and heard the eleven-year-old ‘prodigy from Liozna’ (as the Alter Rebbe was called) standing high up on a wagon in the market place and addressing a large crowd. He was telling them that they should leave their merchandising, and create alternative means for earning their livelihood – farming and handicrafts. R. Moshe Yitzchak promptly left town, as did hundreds of other families, and settled in the village of Ivanski.

“He recalled: ‘At about that time refugees arrived in our region, wanderers from Prague and Posen, and through the idea publicized by the prodigy from Liozna entire families were settled in agricultural work in his father R. Baruch’s estate, that was called The White Well.’”

In concise outline my father went on to describe for me the Alter Rebbe’s fifty years of extensively ramified communal work; the ensuing periods of the Mitteler Rebbe and the Tzemach Tzedek; the communal activities of my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash; the bitter plight of Russian Jewry during the last ten years of the reign of Czar Alexander III; and their tragic disappointment in his successor, Czar Nicholas II. Throughout his account, my father highlighted the superhumanly self-sacrificing toil of the Rebbeim of Chabad for the sake of the public good. He pointed out that only with resoluteness, free from vacillation and compromise, can one be a real and earnest worker in this field.

Then, having concluded his precious four-hour-long account, my father rose and wished me Mazel-Tov! on the occasion of my entry into communal work. My young heart aflame, I promised him that I would place myself at his disposal, and that with every fiber of my life I would resolutely fulfill (with G‑d’s help) whatever tasks were entrusted to me for the public good. My father thereupon gave me my first directives as to how and learn and adapt myself to become useful in the serious business of communal activity.

That Thursday of Yud-Beis Tammuz is underlined in my diary, which was then over three years old, as “the first earnestly worthwhile Thursday in my young life.”


The fact that in the course of my life I have fulfilled the first principle of communal work – to obey, soldier-like, the directives of those who conduct that work, resolutely, without compromise, resisting partisan influences, and unintimidated by warnings and threats – has made of me an earnest public worker, both in matters of the Torah and Yiddishkeit and in matters of Jewish livelihoods and self-respect.

I was not deterred by being hounded for twenty years, nor by frequent arrest, torture and beatings at the hands of the czarist gendarmes; I was not deterred when my life was endangered by persecution at the hands of certain criminal members of the Russian Poalei Tziyon1 party of those days, back in 1906; nor was I deterred by the frequent and painful arrests of 1921-1926, nor by the threats of a death verdict at the hands of the ugly Yevsektsia in 1927.

With G‑d’s help, and in the merit of my holy forebears, I have remained faithful, regardless of my shattered physical condition2 to the principles governing communal activity that I was taught by my Rebbe – the great self-sacrificing leader and mentor, my father, of blessed memory. With self-sacrifice I fulfill his holy testament, by disseminating Torah study inspired by the awe of Heaven, by furthering authentic Jewish education, and in general by working for the public welfare.

One day a few weeks ago, as I was reading the incoming mail, I came across a very stern threatening letter. Its writer, representing a certain organization, warns and threatens in ominous tones that if I continue as heretofore with my communal activities, dire measures will be taken against all my institutions.

I do not believe that it takes an unusually lively imagination to picture the smile of amused scorn that such a letter can arouse in an individual who has tasted the full weight of an overstuffed czarist gendarme’s arm, and who has tasted the most gruesome tortures of the Yevsektsia.


It is now time to fulfill my earlier promise – that in my closing remarks I would speak of two matters that are vital for Jewry at large, and for American Jewry in particular.

I begin with the first.

Jewish men and women, listen and be amazed!

In Eretz Yisrael Jewish children are being malevolently thrust out of the faith.3 A number of antireligious individuals who are numbered among the group of leaders whose task it is to settle the orphaned refugee children in Eretz Yisrael, have set up an “apostasy corner” for the children who have been entrusted to their care. In the German-occupied territories Hitler set up lime-kilns in order to torture and cremate Jewish bodies; in Eretz Yisrael a certain group has set up houses of apostasy in order to torture and cremate Jewish souls.

Thanks to devoted antireligious Hamans, the “apostasy corner” that deals with orphaned Jewish refugee children is training them in the very way that was followed by the unspeakable outcasts of the Yevsektsia. These people are teaching the children to desecrate the Shabbos, to eat treifah food, to eat on Yom Kippur, to eat chametz on Pesach. They do not even allow them to say Kaddish in memory of their parents who lost their lives in Sanctification of the Divine Name, and they teach them to scoff at the notion of G‑d and Jewish religious observance.

Orphans who have been brought up in this way will tear up Torah scrolls, burn down synagogues, desecrate Jewish cemeteries, [and act violently against the person and property of their own fellow Jews].

Jewish men and women, hear and be dumbfounded! The work of the “apostasy corner” in Eretz Yisrael is being carried out with your power, the power of American Jewry. Unwittingly, American Jewry is providing the knife that does this work. With your money, with the money that is collected in the shuls and batei midrash, with your benevolent donations for Jewish causes, with the money that you undertake during Yizkor to contribute to charitable purposes, – with this money these orphaned Jewish children are being thrust out of the faith.

Imagine the shame and the pain that these antireligious individuals, who are part of the leadership there, bring upon the souls of your parents and relatives whose names you come to shul to mention with such love and respect during Hazkaras Neshamos. You give charity for their sakes, and these funds are used in part to apostatize orphaned Jewish children.

Neither the most gifted orator nor the most skillful writer can be capable of portraying the tremendous, murderous, criminal, moral conspiracy that shrieks to the very heavens – for through the good and beautiful deeds of children in respect of their deceased parents and relatives, these people impose their will on those cleansed souls, and coerce them to be partners in the ruthless act of casting orphaned Jewish children out of the faith.

Such a despicable moral violation must be utterly uprooted from the Jewish people.

Jewish men and women, all in unison: You must fulfill your duty as Jews and arouse all the rabbinates and all the Jewish organizations – so that the violation of the faith of those children be brought to an immediate end, and so that those who have already been violated be entrusted into the hands of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem.4

Jewish men and women: You are all responsible for the apostasy of orphaned refugee children that is being carried out in Eretz Yisrael. Our people must earnestly demand a strict scrutiny of these funds, so that not a solitary penny from all these financial appeals should be handed over to the “apostasy corner.”

Jewish men and women: The man or woman who supports the “apostasy corner” bears upon himself the blot of apostasy.

Jewish men and women: In all periods and in all countries Jews have been willing to risk their lives in order to save their fellows from apostasy. Tens of thousands of Jews, men and women, old and young, even gave their lives – as Jews – in Sanctification of the Divine Name. In this period,5 when our people are in mourning for the millions of martyrs who have been so cruelly murdered, every Jewish child, boy or girl, is doubly precious as a twig of G‑d’s people. Is it not then unthinkable that in such bitterly dark times as these, people should apostatize Jewish children?!

I am certain that American Jewry, the Jewish press and the leading Jewish political figures recognize – now – their coldbloodedness and their negligence in the rescue of overseas Jewry. No one will say who are those guilty for the millions of men, women and children whose lives were sacrificed abroad (Woe, what has become of us!), but without a doubt, every Jew in America has this negligent coldbloodedness on his conscience.

Fellow Jews, the Jewish press, Jewish communal workers and spokesmen! You missed the opportunity of rescuing the overseas Jews in time; rescue their orphans from apostasy in time – and the loving G‑d will prosper you, so that your own children will have parents who are healthy both materially and spiritually.


And now the second subject.

American Jewry must abolish its shameful pillory – ignorance.

American Jews are “compassionate and charitable” to a commendable degree and, thank G‑d, on a generous scale. However, the third of the attributes that our Sages enumerate as distinctively Jewish – bashfulness6 – is in some respects lacking in certain American Jews.

Certain American Jews are not ashamed of ignorance. There are people who formally discharge their obligation to study Torah by listening to a mishnah or a passage of Aggadah that the rabbi teaches in the local synagogue; some householders regard any independent study, and certainly the independent study of a page of Gemara, as being superfluous. American businessmen and young people are becoming estranged from the knowledge of the Torah; people are becoming ignoramus’d.7

I appeal to American businessmen and young people to organize themselves in Gemara study circles.

It gives me pleasure to announce that I have entrusted the Machne Israel Society with the task of setting up a department called Eshel HaTorah (“Lodgings for the Torah”), with the following goals: (a) to publicize and promote participation in the study circles conducted in synagogues; (b) to help such participants; and (c) to conduct a ramified publicity program to encourage businessmen and young people to join these study circles.


I wish you all, together with your families and together with the entire House of Israel, a kosher and happy Yom-Tov.8 May all the sons of our people9 on all fronts be guarded and protected, and may they all be blessed with a crown of victory.

Immediate repentance: immediate redemption!