An estimated 50,000 people flocked to the resting place of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, over the 24-hour period marking the 15th anniversary of his passing.

Visitors from around the world waited as much as two hours June 25 to spend as little as two minutes beside the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, N.Y. Over the course of the day, they took stock of their lives, immersed themselves in Torah study and derived inspiration from the Rebbe’s call to strengthen Judaism and reach every single Jew, wherever he or she may be found.

“It reminds me of when the Rebbe gave out dollars,” said Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, co-director of the Chabad-Lubavitch center serving the University of Kansas and the Capital District, comparing the experience of waiting in line last week to the thousands of people who would file by the Rebbe on Sundays in the late 1980s and early 90s, when he distributed dollars to give to charity.

At midnight, Moran Davidovich, a 24-year-old Israeli native, arrived at the cemetery after driving from her home in New Jersey. At that hour, the wait in line was only a half hour.

“My sister in Israel asked me to come and pray for her to get married,” she explained. “And I will pray that everyone should have good health.”

Davidovich and others emphasized that they were also using the opportunity to increase in their observance of Judaism and performance of good deeds.

Lauren Rubin, a 20-year-old from S. Diego, said that she is religious today because of the Rebbe.

Chabad of S. Diego, at its Camp Gan Israel, was my first affiliation with Lubavitch,” she said. “My connection continues to be strong.”

Leah Chikashvili, 44, a marketer originally from the Eastern European republic of Georgia, had a similar outlook.

“Although I am not so religious, I am a Chabanik,” she said. “I am the Rebbe’s follower for 21 years.”

When Chikashvili first came to New York in 1988, her husband’s friend brought the couple to the Rebbe one Sunday. “After that, we went almost every week.

“My family was invited to attend the Rebbe’s 90th birthday [recognition] in 1992 at the White House,” she recalled. “My cousin was close to him because my cousin was a cancer survivor due to the Rebbe’s blessing.”

“I was here for the funeral,” said Benny Nechemia, 55, a real estate broker from Jerusalem. “I first came to the Rebbe for dollars. During a Chasidic gathering at Lubavitch World Headquarters in 1990, I was inspired.

When the estimated 50,000 people got their turn beside the Rebbe’s resting place, they took stock of their lives and committed themselves to acts of goodness and kindess.
When the estimated 50,000 people got their turn beside the Rebbe’s resting place, they took stock of their lives and committed themselves to acts of goodness and kindess.

Unique Leadership

“I love the Rebbe from deep in my heart,” continued Nechemia, who now supports Chabad institutions as much as he can. “I come every year.”

Many remembered the Rebbe’s gaze to be both penetrating and kind.

“He had such special eyes, and he cared for everyone,” said Nushie Piroozian, a mother of four from Great Neck, N.Y. “He was constantly praying for everyone. I think he read you when he saw you.”

For a good portion of the visitors, last week’s visit was their first. While waiting in line, they viewed films of the Rebbe produced by Jewish Educational Media.

“I was very curious to see what this experience would be like,” said first-time visitor Alisa Copeland, 33, of New York City.

Copeland, a pharmaceutical advertiser, said that she came to seek inspiration.

Said the woman: “It is important to me to find a spiritual path.”