Jonathan Mark
The New York Jewish Week
Reprinted by Permission

The June morning is perfumed with freshly mown grass in front of Cape Cod homes near the Queens-Nassau line. The lawns are dark green from being watered, and the sidewalks are dark from the water, too. The streets are wide, quiet. The sun beats down on the borderline of summer. The rebbe of Lubavitch sleeps in the Old Montefiore Cemetery that begins where the backyards end. It doesn't much look like a chasidic holy site, but neither does the Congo, Marrakech, Katmandu, Mexico, Connecticut or Shanghai, and there are Lubavitchers now in all of them. Because of the rebbe who sleeps in Queens there are more than 2,500 sites, in more than 50 countries, on every continent, where his picture hangs and God is praised.

Five years ago this week, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson died on the Hebrew date of Gimmel Tammuz (this year June 17). Non-chasidic speculators offered immediate expertise: messianism would break the movement in two; Lubavitch would go crazy, disintegrate, without a rebbe; they'd suffer from mass depression, and violent battles over succession. Experts predict this still. Of course, no expert predicted what actually happened: Chabad Lubavitch has grown exponentially, perhaps more than any other Jewish group in the last five years. Other than messianic pockets in Crown Heights and Kfar Chabad, Lubavitch's center in Israel, where there is a strong belief that the rebbe is still the Redeemer, the predicted divisions haven't affected the international mission.