Jewish communities around the world are preparing for commemorative events celebrating the life and leadership of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Timed to coincide with the 17th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing on the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, the myriad Chasidic gatherings, study sessions and inspirational lectures will focus on different aspects of teachings and work, but will all reflect the Rebbe’s clarion call for Jewish unity.

In the Upper Midwest, four centers and various organization affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch of Wisconsin will hold their annual evening of “Song and Spirit,” featuring an address by Rabbi Moshe Bryski of Agoura Hills, Calif. The program, which is expected to draw about 350 people, will also include musical performances by Rabbi Levi Emmer, videos of the Rebbe public talks, and instructional booths teaching attendees about lighting Sabbath candles and donning the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin.

“It’s really quite an occasion. I expect to be enlightened, warmed and humbled,” said Milwaukee resident Jeff Rosen. “It’s really inspiring and heartwarming to see such an event of Jewish cohesiveness, and the Rebbe’s message strikes home here very significantly, because we can see what was created here in Milwaukee just as a result of his direction.”

Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin, executive director of Chabad-Lubavitch Wisconsin, expanded on this theme.

“I think that the community will take away a greater appreciation for the Rebbe, and feel a sense of wanting to increase in their practice of Judaism,” said Shmotkin. “They will also have the opportunity to write a letter to be delivered to the Rebbe’s resting place in order to ask for blessings for things that they may need.”

The Chabad Jewish Center of Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y., is planning a “Living Legacy” program featuring a musical performance by the Belz Choral Ensemble, and two guest speakers – Rabbi Benjamin Blech and Domenico Lepore – who will address the Rebbe’s legacy for world Jewry and the world as a whole.

Joe Cohen is expected to be one of 200 guests at the Brooklyn event.

“I’m hoping to gain more wisdom from learning about the Rebbe’s philosophy and insights on creating success,” said Cohen. “The Rebbe wasn’t only a brilliant Torah scholar, but was the epitome of what a successful leader is. He recruited, trained and motivated thousands of men and women to be his representatives in hundreds of communities throughout the world. There has not been a CEO from any of the Fortune 500 companies who can match those numbers. So I hope that I can walk away with a couple of gold nuggets that I can apply immediately.”

A plethora of information about the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing – known as Gimmel Tammuz – his life and teachings can also be found at section of the Judaism website The portal contains first-person accounts by Jewish and political leaders, recordings of some of the Rebbe’s many public addresses and scholarly explanations of the Rebbe’s teachings.

Veteran Israeli diplomat Yehuda Avner tells of his interactions with the Rebbe. (Photo: Menachem Serraf)
Veteran Israeli diplomat Yehuda Avner tells of his interactions with the Rebbe. (Photo: Menachem Serraf)

Needed Inspiration

At Chabad of the Valley in Tarzana, Calif., more than 1,000 guests from across the Los Angeles area are expected to attend a Chasidic gathering during which Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Washington director of American Friends of Lubavitch, will speak about the Rebbe’s profound influence on American politics.

“It’s a major community event here that brings everyone together,” said Terry Smulson, who lives across from the Bais Menachem Chabad House where the event will occur. “It’s a tribute to the Rebbe for everyone to just come together on a weeknight.”

For Igor Vaysbeyn, who also attends Chabad of the Valley, the event provides much needed inspiration.

“It’s a time for me to connect to the Rebbe’s teachings,” he said. “We all come together in friendship, joy and affection, and so it’s a great opportunity to reenergize ourselves and increase in our commitment to Torah.”

Not all events will occur on such a grand scale, however. Chabad of Uptown in Houston, Texas, is planning to dedicate the upcoming Sabbath to the Rebbe, with various members of the community discussing the Rebbe’s impact on their lives in between prayer services. And in Idaho, local Jews will gather at the Chabad House in Boise to view a recording of one of the Rebbe’s many Chasidic gatherings before discussing how they can apply some of its lessons to their own lives.

Elsewhere, especially among Jewish communities along the East Coast, people are making arrangements to travel to the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, N.Y. Tens of thousands of people are expected at the site beginning the evening of July 4 to beseech G‑d for blessings, seek spiritual inspiration and reflect on what the Rebbe’s life meant to them. Hundreds of thousands more will send faxes, letters and e-mails containing prayer requests to be read or placed at the resting place.

In Florida, Chabad centers are planning localized programs. At Chabad of the Beaches in Ponte Vedra Beach, the community will come together to learn some snippets of the Rebbe’s teachings, and at Chabad of Pinellas County in Clearwater, an evening of “Song and Inspiration” will combine music, video and personal stories.

“I know that the event will be very spiritual,” said Michael Galer of Ponte Vedra Beach. “It will enlighten us as to who the Rebbe was and why his emissaries are all over the world today. It’s important for us to learn the teachings of the Rebbe and know about his life.”

Steven Rayow of Medira Beach echoed his sentiments.

“It’s an enlivening program and spiritually inspiring to learn about the Rebbe,” he said. “I’m so impressed that Chabad continues to grow even after the Rebbe’s passing. His influence is still being felt throughout the world to this day, and I support that wholeheartedly.”