Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
the sorrow at the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem
Mendel Schneerson, lies a deep and everlasting gratitude for all
that he inspired and inspires in the lives of his followers and
in his work.
Rebbe, who was born in Nikolaef, Russia, studied at the University
of Berlin and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He escaped the Nazis to
arrive in the United States in 1941.
assumed the leadership of the Brooklyn based Chabad Lubavitch
movement in 1950. It is today a center of more than 2000 educational,
social and rehabilitative institutions touching millions of people
from all walks of life in every part of the world.
first institution created by the Rebbe was Tzerei Agudat Chabad,
the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel. His tremendous love and
concern for the people of Israel, particularly the school aged
children who would grow to be its future leaders and citizens,
inspired the founding of an organization that today, because of
the Rebbe's blessing, supports over 195 Chabad Houses throughout
Israel and dozens of institutions that serve Israeli's from every
walk of life.
Jew falls outside the Rebbe's embrace. And the Rebbe falls within
the embrace of most every Jew in Israel. His picture hangs in
the windshields of cab drivers, behind the counters of street
corner pubs and fast food stands; his visage is tucked in the
corner of barber shop mirrors, selflessly gazing back at patrons
as they vainly examine their newly coiffed hair. School children
know that the Rebbe remembered their birthdays, and expectant
mothers carry his picture with them to the hospital, to assure
the welfare of their newborns and of themselves.
Rebbe has elevated the Israeli soldier to the level of tzadik,
a righteous person risking his life for the protection of another
Jew. He sent his Shiuchim into battlefields and remote army posts
to care for the physical and spiritual needs of these brave defenders
of Israel. And their widows and orphans are remembered many times
each year with special programs instituted by the Rebbe.
elderly and the immigrant; the drug addict and prisoner; the statesman
and scholar; all fell under the Rebbe's concern,; all have benefited
from the Rebbe's programs and guidance.
child cries out. And though the Rebbe's schedule is crammed with
the work of running the largest Jewish organization in the world,
with the task of answering thousands of letters and requests,
with the burden of responding to the needs and requests of politicians
and heads of state, of preparing his sermons, he stops everything
to listen to this cry and to respond.
1990, parents of the Chernobyl children began a desperate search
for help. Their request was beyond the bounds of every Jewish
organization to which they turned. In truth, the burden which
their pleas contained exceeded the capacity of Chabad to fulfill.
Or so it was thought. Chabad could not afford the task. It had
no system in place to deal with the problem. Nothing was known
about delivering medical care to irradiated children. It seemed
beyond their capability.
the parents persisted, and finally, their request found its way
to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe did not hesitate. A Jewish
child was in danger. A Jewish parent needed help. And the Rebbe
said "Yes". He wrote a letter to Chabad in Israel with one simple,
clear directive: "Take responsibility for the Chernobyl children,"
he said. "Bring them to Israel."
The Rebbe knew full well what his directive would mean to an already
overburdened staff, to a bank account already stretched almost
beyond its capacity. But he also knew that a Jewish child was
in danger. And this he could not tolerate.
Rebbe was involved in the first flight of children on an almost
hourly basis. When the departure of the children was obstructed
by the caprice and malice of Moscow, he offered his advice on
obtaining their release. After waiting in the Minsk airport for
nearly three days, the children were finally given permission
to leave on the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, blocking every plane
and flight path. Yet, following the Rebbe's guidance, a clear
pathway was found through the morass created by this military
finally the children arrived safely in Israel, the Rebbe sent
a communiqué: "When are you bringing the next flight?" he asked.
Words of praise had been expected for a difficult job well done.
But again the Rebbe was concerned with only one thing: the cry
of another Jewish child, one still left behind in the contaminated
lands of Belarus and Ukraine.
after the other they came. Young frail children, who just hours
before bade farewell to families and friends, bicycles and play-
mates. Sent by their parents who feared for the lives of their
children, they stepped from the plane led by a Chabad guide to
places where they devoured bags of candy, fruits and juices. Eventually
they will be reunited with parents and other family members in
June 5th, 1994, the 1001st child rescued by the Chabad's Children
of Chernobyl Project arrived to a dramatic airport welcome. Celebration
1001 and beyond exceeded the wildest dreams. "The most memorial
arrival I have ever attended" were the words of the Chief Rabbi
of Israel. And the children are still coming, and their parents
are now arriving and families are being united.
is the Rebbe's greatness: he loved and he inspired others to love.
He cared, and he inspired others to care. He had great faith that
the Almighty would provide all the resources necessary to do His
will, and he transmitted this faith to others.
had, above all, great confidence in the Jewish people-in the Godly
nature of the Jewish people. The Rebbe knew that this nature,
filled with compassion and generosity, would break through the
chains of self-centeredness when faced with the challenge to save
the life of another Jew especially a child. As always, the Rebbe
Iraqi scuds rained down terror on Israel during the Gulf War,
people clamored to the Rebbe for his wisdom and advice. His words
of assurance and encouragement and predictions were that everything
would turn out well and that Israel would be protected. As usual,
the Rebbe was correct.
group assembled in the caucus room of the Russell Senate Office
Building in Washington last August witnessed the awarding of Congressional
Gold Medal to the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Bronze
duplicates became available from the United States Mint on June
28th, the day of International Tribute marking the one year anniversary
of his death at the age of 92.
Sculptor-Engraver John Mercanti designed the obverse of the Congressional
Medal, which is a portrait of the Rabbi in incused lines rather
than the traditional relief. The inscription RABBI MENACHEM is
incused while M. SCHNEERSON and THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE are raised.
Sculptor Engraver Edgar Z. Steever IV executed the reverse which
was based on a sketch by professional illustrator John Payne.
The reverse features a book which represents study and contains
the inscription BENEVOLENCE/ ETHICS; LEADERSHIP/ SCHOLARSHIP.
The torch represents enlightenment and the globe represents world
education. The rabbi's home in Brooklyn is in the background of
the reverse. The Hebrew inscription reads "To improve the home."
would question the highly unusual resolution of the United States
Government to posthumously award a Congressional Medal to a leader
of a religious sect. But then, the Rebbe was a most unusual person.