As the Jewish year 5782 is ushered in with the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippurthe second High Holiday season of the pandemic—here is a look back at some of the stories that helped define this year, as featured on Chabad.org/News.

It was a year that saw unity in the face of adversity; regrowth and rebuilding in the face of destruction, illness and hatred; and significant steps towards a better time for all of humanity.

As the High Holiday season began a year ago, the Jewish world faced the prospect of an almost unrecognizable Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. With a devastating fall wave of Covid raging, many synagogues had to remain closed, and holiday observance seemed challenging, if not outright difficult.

But for Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries the world over, guided by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—who taught that every circumstance encountered must be turned into an opportunity for growth and the furtherance of Judaism—the road ahead was clear.

Because there have always been people who can’t make it to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah. And in 1953, the Rebbe launched the Shofar Campaign, encouraging people to bring the central observance of Rosh Hashanah to the streets—and to hospitals, prisons or wherever else Jews found themselves.

What was different this year was that for the first time, the campaign was replicated by the entire Jewish world, as millions heard the shofar in public worldwide. This guiding principle to make Judaism and Jewish practice accessible to every Jewish person continued to drive the activities of Chabad emissaries throughout a year filled with ups and downs and constantly changing circumstances.

With many synagogues closed or limiting attendance during the global pandemic, millions of Jews worldwide turned out for public shofar-blowings, many done by volunteers. (File photo not taken on the holiday)
With many synagogues closed or limiting attendance during the global pandemic, millions of Jews worldwide turned out for public shofar-blowings, many done by volunteers. (File photo not taken on the holiday)

The holiday of Sukkot once again saw creative measures to bring the observances to all safely as Chabad emissaries helped people build their own sukkahsmany for the first time—obtain their own lulav and etrog set or safely observe the mitzvah in a traveling sukkah-mobile. They even brought holiday supplies to Jews isolated in the NBA’s bubble as professional sports resumed during the pandemic.

There was remembrance, too, of the many lost to Covid. Especially poignant was a pre-Yom Kippur Yizkorbroadcast on Chabad.org that remembered more than 1,200 Jewish victims of the coronavirus.

Rabbi Berel Levertov, co-director of Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad, teamed up with his carpenter, Bob Whittet, and longtime community member Professor Stephen Hochberg to build a sukkah for Dr. Stephanie Rosen.
Rabbi Berel Levertov, co-director of Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad, teamed up with his carpenter, Bob Whittet, and longtime community member Professor Stephen Hochberg to build a sukkah for Dr. Stephanie Rosen.

Innovation and Expansion Amid Adversity

Innovation in the face of adversity continued as the International Conference of Chabad emissaries moved online amid the pandemic. The virtual nature of the event did not dampen the enthusiasm of the attendees, however, as a virtual Chassidic gathering that began during the conference became the world’s longest Zoom event. The conference also made clear that the pandemic had not slowed the dramatic growth of Chabad around the world, as more than 100 new emissaries joined the ranks of Chabad from the United Arab Emirates to Lagos, Nigeria, as well as in Newcastle, Australia; Paris, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Austin, Texas. Later in the year, Chabad women emissaries united online for their conference and envisioned a better year ahead during a virtual gathering that felt uniquely in-person.

Rabbi Mendy and Mazal Sternbach, co-directors of a new Chabad center in Africa's most populous city of Lagos, Nigeria, with the continent's fourth-largest economy.
Rabbi Mendy and Mazal Sternbach, co-directors of a new Chabad center in Africa's most populous city of Lagos, Nigeria, with the continent's fourth-largest economy.

Chanukah saw the proliferation of car menorah parades—the latest Covid-safe Chanukah experience as Chabad saw its largest Chanukah campaign yet reach 8 million people as hundreds of thousands of Chanukah kits and Chabad.org’s Chanukah booklet helped families celebrate at home, a Zoom Chanukah celebration united Jews in the U.S. military, and Chanukah celebrations adapted to the pandemic and lit up the world from Washington,D.C., to Dubaiin the United Arab Emirates.

Purim saw more outdoor events with some Chabad centers embracing the cold for “Purim in the Arctic” parties while some places were able to celebrate Covid-free. And in California, amid rising Covid deaths, the Los Angeles Jewish Burial Society faced its holy task with loving determination.

The first-ever public Hanukkah menorah-lighting in the United Arab Emirates, which was led by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Duchman. (Credit: Yehuda Lavi/JCC of the UAE)
The first-ever public Hanukkah menorah-lighting in the United Arab Emirates, which was led by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Duchman. (Credit: Yehuda Lavi/JCC of the UAE)

Passover approached as the long-awaited coronavirus vaccines began to be available, and Chabad vaccination programs helped seniors spend the holiday with family. As many prepared for a second Passover at home, Chabad.org’s Haggadah was launched, providing an inspiring guide for contemporary Seders. As cases spiked in Europe, Chabad worked around the clock to prepare for the holiday, and as demand increased for shmurah matzah, the specially-supervised matzah was baked in Fort Worth, Texas, for the first time and 20,000 Passover-to-go boxes were distributed despite a national glue crisis, as Passover ushered in a season of hope as the pandemic receded.

Rabbi Levi Levertov and volunteers with the “Smile on Seniors” program in the Phoenix area have helped hundreds of seniors to obtain coronavirus vaccinations, enabling many to spend Passover with their families.
Rabbi Levi Levertov and volunteers with the “Smile on Seniors” program in the Phoenix area have helped hundreds of seniors to obtain coronavirus vaccinations, enabling many to spend Passover with their families.

A Minnesota school for Jewish women marked 50 years with a tribute to the Rebbe, and U.S. President Joe Biden proclaimed “Education Day” for the Rebbe’s date of birth, bringing focus to re-energizing moral education after a pandemic year. Florida’s passage of legislation for a Moment of Silence in public schools did the same.

The Florida Legislature passed the Moment of Silence bill in April of this year.
The Florida Legislature passed the Moment of Silence bill in April of this year.

Jewish people carefully stepped out for the spring holiday of Lag BaOmer, but the holiday was marred by tragedy as 45 people were crushed to death at a Lag BaOmer event in Meron, Israel. Chabad.org memorialized their lives as thousands attended their funerals.

Thousands of mourners gathered at the resting place of Avrohom Daniel Ambon, a yeshivah student from Argentina who died in the tragedy in Meron on Lag BaOmer. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands of mourners gathered at the resting place of Avrohom Daniel Ambon, a yeshivah student from Argentina who died in the tragedy in Meron on Lag BaOmer. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Then, as Shavuot approached, hostilities flared in the Holy Land as Israel fell under attack, the artillery barrage of more than 1,000 missiles killing six and injuring scores more while mob violence targeted Jews in mixed Arab-Jewish cities such as Lod, Bat Yam, Haifa and elsewhere. A worldwide call went out to join together on Shavuot at synagogues in support of Israel, Israeli kids under attack received gifts from the United States, and Chabad in Sderot inspired a city under near-constant attack.

The world marked the 27th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing as “Unfazed, a virtual program attended by thousands, highlightedthe Rebbe’s message of resilience.

From left: Rabbi Yanki Fellig, Chabad of South Dade; Rabbi Zalman Lipskar, The Shul of Bal Harbour; U.S. President Joe Biden; Miami-Dade Police chaplain Rabbi Yossi Harlig, Chabad of Kendall and Pinecrest; Miami-Dade Police chaplain Rabbi Mark Rosenberg, director of Chesed Shel Emes of Florida; and Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee
From left: Rabbi Yanki Fellig, Chabad of South Dade; Rabbi Zalman Lipskar, The Shul of Bal Harbour; U.S. President Joe Biden; Miami-Dade Police chaplain Rabbi Yossi Harlig, Chabad of Kendall and Pinecrest; Miami-Dade Police chaplain Rabbi Mark Rosenberg, director of Chesed Shel Emes of Florida; and Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee

Tragedy in Surfside

And then the world turned in horror to Surfside, Fla, where a tragedy unfolded as a condominium collapsed and left 98 people dead. Family and friends prayed for victims buried beneath the rubble as the Jewish community’s emergency response expanded to meet the disaster. Chabad rabbis were on the front lines and met Biden as the city’s unique Jewish community united to aid and console. The families grappled with grief as a baby girl was named for her grandmother, a surfside victim, alongside an IDF officer who had discovered her body.

Rabbi Moshe Margaretten helped bring the children of this Afghan woman to safety.
Rabbi Moshe Margaretten helped bring the children of this Afghan woman to safety.

As the year wound to a close, the 30th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots was marked as the Rebbe’s message—that Jews don’t run—was remembered.

Hurricane Ida barreled into Louisiana, and Chabad reached out in a city without electricity, grilling a month’s supply of meat to feed the community. And as Ida dropped a catastrophic amount of rain on the northeastern United States, a small New Jersey town came to grips with its devastating wake.

And then, as a crisis unfolded in Afghanistan, a Chassidic Jew led the daring rescue of vulnerable Afghans, including members of the country’s women’s soccer team, families of people who had worked with the U.S. military and civil servants, including judges and prosecutors.

In Petach Tikvah, residents inspect the damage to their home from a rocket fired by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Flash90)
In Petach Tikvah, residents inspect the damage to their home from a rocket fired by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Flash90)

Around the world, Chabad centers prepared for a second Covid Rosh Hashanah as many new faces were expected at Chabad services—not a surprise, seeing as nearly 40 percent of American Jews attend Chabad events or services at least sometimes, according to the 2020 Pew survey of Jewish Americans.

Jewish pride and resilience shone forth throughout the year, from the Nevada teen drafted by Major League Baseball who won’t play on Shabbat to the Chabad Rabbi who was stabbed in front of a Boston Chabad House and vowed to train eight new rabbis in response, and Jewish teens in Skokie, Ill., responded to hate with a celebration of Jewish pride.

18-year-old Elie Kligman became the first Jewish player to be drafted by a major league team with the understanding that he would never play on Shabbat.
18-year-old Elie Kligman became the first Jewish player to be drafted by a major league team with the understanding that he would never play on Shabbat.

Those We Lost in 5781

The year 5781 also saw the passing of leaders and teachers, people who inspired us with their strength and who empowered those around them to become better people. Rabbi Binyamin Wolff, 43, was the devoted rabbi of Hanover, Germany, and left behind his wife and eight children, who have vowed to continue his mission. Rabbi Yehuda Dukes, 39, inspired thousands in health and in sickness, and 1,800 new Torah-study partnerships perpetuated his legacy. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and chief rabbis from around the world honored his legacy by teaching his work on the Rebbe’s talks.

Rabbi Yehuda Dukes
Rabbi Yehuda Dukes

RabbI Zalman Nechemia Goldberg taught and guided thousands. Avraham Lider dedicated his life to helping others. Rabbi Ephraim Rosenblum was a beloved Pittsburgh educator for five decades. Rabbi Chaim Ciment was an educator in Boston for 70 years. Rabbi Israel Teitelbaum advocated tirelessly for education. Rabbi Dovid Feinstein was a leading halachic authority in North America. Rabbi Moshe Shaikevitz was a pillar of Milan’s Jewish community. Rabbi Herschel Feigelstock was a devoted Montreal educator for 75 years. Reiza Kosofsky founded an empire of kindness in Chicago. Rabbi Gedaliah Dov Schwartz was a distinguished rabbinic leader.

In 1991 the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, sent Rabbi Shlomo and Myriam Bentolila to then-Zaire, today the Congo, to establish Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa. Mrs. Bentolila, pictured in the early 1990s with children from her Hebrew school in Kinshasa, passed away at the age of 52 on April 1. (Credit: Chabad of Central Africa)
In 1991 the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, sent Rabbi Shlomo and Myriam Bentolila to then-Zaire, today the Congo, to establish Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa. Mrs. Bentolila, pictured in the early 1990s with children from her Hebrew school in Kinshasa, passed away at the age of 52 on April 1. (Credit: Chabad of Central Africa)

Myriam Bentolila was the elegant and unsung rebbetzin of the Congo. Mrs. Miriam Rosenblum educated and headed a charitable fund. Rabbi Shalom Povarsky was a renowned Talmudic scholar and teacher. Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld was a national rabbinic leader. Sheldon Adelson’s quiet philanthropy came to the fore. Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski was a leading authority on substance abuse. Rabbi Yisroel Rapoport was a beloved rabbi in New Jersey. Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik was a charismatic emissary who revived Italian Jewry. Rabbi Elie Cohen was a Torah scholar and mathematician. Rabbi Avrohom Bukiet was a beloved mentor and humble scholar. Rabbi Chananya Eisenbach was a renowned yeshivah head and prolific scholar. Herschel Shanks promoted biblical archeology. Rabbi Chaim Gurevitch was a globetrotting emissary of Israel’s oldest charity. Aviva Okeson-Haberman, 24, was killed by a stray bullet. Yehuda Guetta, a 19-year-old yeshivah student, was gunned down by a terrorist.

Judge Jack B. Weinstein receives a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on Dec. 17, 1989, as Rabbi Sholom Lipskar looks on. Weinstein passed away on June 15, 2021. (Photo: Jewish Educational Media/The Living Archive)
Judge Jack B. Weinstein receives a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on Dec. 17, 1989, as Rabbi Sholom Lipskar looks on. Weinstein passed away on June 15, 2021. (Photo: Jewish Educational Media/The Living Archive)

Judge Jack B. Weinstein was an eminent jurist who sought the Rebbe’s wisdom. Rabbi Pinchas Korf was a beloved Chassidic mentor and role model. Rabbi Yoel Kahn was an oral scribe and leading disciple of the Rebbe. Faigy Bassman was a joyful mentor and tireless advocate. Rabbi Mendel Aronow was an authentic Chassid who illustrated “fear of Heaven.” Those who passed in Meron were remembered in a special section on Chabad.org, and the victims of the Surfside collapse were memorialized in a special section as well, with prayerful wishes for the coming of Moshiach, when we will be reunited with our loved ones once more.

Sterni Wolff speaks at the grand opening of the Chabad Center in Hanover, Germany, called “Haus Benjamin,” or “Binyamin’s House,” in honor of her late husband, Rabbi Binyamin Wolff.
Sterni Wolff speaks at the grand opening of the Chabad Center in Hanover, Germany, called “Haus Benjamin,” or “Binyamin’s House,” in honor of her late husband, Rabbi Binyamin Wolff.

But amid the loss and suffering that the year saw, there was tremendous growth and confident optimism for the future. Jewish life continued to grow as Chabad centers around the world made big bets on post-Covid Jewish growth. Some $80 million in legacy gifts were pledged to Chabad centers. The Persian Gulf’s first Jewish school was inaugurated in the UAE by Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. Ground was broken for a new home away from home for Jewish medical students in Grenada.

McAllen, Texas, now has its first-ever almost completed mikvah dedicated in memory of Sgt. Sean Nissim Carmeli, who grew up on South Padre Island and gave his life during the 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza.
McAllen, Texas, now has its first-ever almost completed mikvah dedicated in memory of Sgt. Sean Nissim Carmeli, who grew up on South Padre Island and gave his life during the 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza.

A new Chabad center in Hanover, Germany, struck a deep chord as it was dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Binyamin Wolff. Duke University undergrads got a royal new home. A mikvah in McAllen, Texas, was dedicated to a local IDF hero. Jewish students at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland got a bonny newhome as well. And new growth emerged from the ashes in Delaware, a year after a Chabad House was lost to arson.

And you can find these—and thousands of other Chabad centers—on Chabad.org’s new directory, which maps the ever-growing world of Chabad, which has adapted to the adversity the world faces and which continues to be there for every Jew around the world.

As 5782 begins, we hope and pray that it will be a year filled with good news for everyone!