Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid Raichik, personal emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbes, passed away Tuesday night, February 4 (8 Shevat), after a brief illness. He was 79 years old.

Born in the Polish town of Mlava on March 15, 1918 (Nissan 2, 5678), Menachem Shmuel Dovid Raichik excelled in his studies and was considered an "ilui" (Talmudic scholar of renown). In 1936, upon the advice of the famous Amshinover Rebbe, the young Raichik enrolled in the Lubavitcher yeshiva in Otwock, outside Warsaw, where he fell in love with the Chabad synthesis of scholarship and personal refinement.

Fellow students recall Menachem Shmuel Dovid's meticulous observance of the Mitzvot and his passionate way of prayer. His Shabbat morning prayer ritual would last as long as six hours, and included lengthy meditations in the Chabad tradition. At night, when reciting the bedtime prayers, Raichik would often become engrossed in introspection into the wee hours, when the time came for morning prayers. During the day he employed his sharp mind in deep Talmudic study.

It was in the Lubavitch yeshiva that the young Raichik became attached to the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. In short time he became one of the select group who memorized and reviewed the Rebbe's discourses.

On the Run

With the outbreak of the war at the end of 1939, Raichik and his fellow yeshiva students were forced to flee Otwock. In each place they arrived, the students quickly established new yeshivas and resumed their studies.

Shortly before Chanukah that year, Raichik and a friend reached Warsaw, where the Rebbe guided them and gave them money to escape to Vilnius.

Once he reached Lithuania, Raichik labored tirelessly to save fellow students from German-occupied Poland and the Baltic states. Despite his own capture once by border police, he organized smuggling operations, bringing many refugees across the border to safer territory.

When Japan's consul to Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, sacrificed his diplomatic career to issue Japanese passports to Jewish refugees, Raichik helped procure visas for his fellow students and others.

After spending close to a year in Kobe, Japan, the yeshiva relocated yet again, this time to Shanghai, where many other Jews spent the remainder of the war years as well. Raichik quickly acquired a reputation as an extraordinarily G‑d fearing and scholarly man even among the Lithuanian rabbis not familiar with the Chassidic way of life.

In Shanghai, Rabbi Raichik became the foundation for the uprooted Lubavitch yeshiva. In addition to overseeing the daily running of the seminary, friends recall how lovingly he served as surrogate parent to the younger students. Though given many chances to leave, Raichik chose to stay until the very last student was able to leave, in 1946.

Throughout that period Raichik was in communication with the Rebbe who, in addition to massive fund-raising and rescue efforts for Jews in German-occupied territory and Russia, raised money to send to Shanghai.

American Jewish Revival

When Raichik finally reached the United States, the sixth Rebbe immediately put him under the wing of his son-in-law and later successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, to travel by train across North America to seek out Jews, in groups and as individuals, to identify local communal needs and bolster Jewish identity.

For months on end, Raichik criss-crossed the United States, dining on sardines and fruits and vegetables, visiting Jews in places like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Cheyenne, Wyoming, setting up schools and mikvahs, and generally mapping the way for a future Jewish revival.

Because of his obvious refinement and gentle disposition, people took an immediate liking to Raichik, trusting him with their most intimate secrets. Much of the post-war Jewish infrastructure in many cities across the United States can be traced to Raichik's tireless efforts.

After his marriage in 1948 to Lea Rappoport, Rabbi Raichik and his new bride were dispatched to Los Angeles as personal emissaries of the sixth Rebbe.

The Raichiks immediately set out to work to bolster Judaism on the West Coast, and became "the address" for hundreds who sought them out for matters spiritual and physical.

Following the sixth Rebbe's passing in 1950, Rabbi Raichik was among the Lubavitch Chassidim who pleaded with the Rebbe's son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, to become the movement's new leader. Clearly, the new Rebbe saw Raichik as one of his stronger assets in bringing Jewish tradition back to the Jews of the post-war world.

The new Rebbe, whose suggestion it was that the Raichiks be sent to Los Angeles, wrote to Raichik that his position was not to be limited to one synagogue, but "his net should be spread on the entire city and its surrounding areas."

For close to fifty years, Rabbi Raichik brought the teachings of the Torah, the wisdom of Chabad philosophy and the instructions of the sixth and then the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbes into Jewish homes, offices and synagogues across the state. He was often seen running in LA's streets with a pair of tefillin before Shabbat, in hopes of encouraging one more Jew to perform a mitzvah.

Dignitaries and beggars alike felt welcome in the Raichik home. Much of the city's official Jewish business was conducted around the Raichiks' dining room table.

In addition, Rabbi Raichik continued his travels to cities across America to educate and reenergize existing and sprouting Jewish Communities and was an example and guide to many Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries around the world.

So zealous was Raichik in his work, he frequently received notes from the Rebbe urging him to take care of his health. The Rebbe also asked other chassidim to encourage Raichik to eat regularly.

In 1990, Rabbi Raichik was appointed to the executive boards of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (educational arm of the Lubavitch movement), Machne Israel (the social service arm), and Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization that oversees the worldwide network of Chabad-Lubavitch organizations and institutions.

Toward the end of his life Raichik suffered greatly from the debilitating Parkinson disease, but refused to allow it to hamper his busy schedule.

His funerals in Los Angeles and New York were attended by thousands of people. In New York, the funeral procession filed past Lubavitch World Headquarters and continued to the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, where he was interred close to the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbes he had so faithfully served.

He is survived by his wife, Lea, and ten children and their families who serve as leaders in their respective communities around the globe.