Another Perspective…. A Different Voice -Are we Targeting Hasidim?

Note to our readers:

We are often accused of taking a one-sided approach to the issues involving the Hasidic (Chasidic) community, of ignoring that there are two sides to every story and of crossing the line from factual information to hate speech. For that we apologize. It is during those times when you will see breaks in publication.  There is a fine line between opinions and facts and the message they send (perception is everything) and it is not always walked as cleanly as it should be or frankly as intended.

Here at LM we admire with significant emphasis, those like the Rabbi from New Jersey who commented on prior pages of this blog. His comments are important in the debate of how a community can live together, religious and non-religious, Jew and non-Jew together in harmony.

It takes courage to speak out.

We admire Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone (mentioned in the article below) for his tutorials and opinions or Chabad.org, some of which have graced our pages, whether we agree with them or not. We most admire people like the nurse, Blima Marcus mentioned below, who has gone on a virtual crusade to “debunk vaccination myths”. We don’t express our admiration enough.

We take issue, however, with the belief, expressed below and in the continuation of the Algemeiner article, that it is acceptable for an entire community to be groomed to study ancient texts. While their knowledge, ability to understand and parse out the details of the Jewish texts, and carry that kowledge to the next generation is, indeed, important; it cannot be to the exclusion of all else. Many of these people do not speak the language of the land, and we feel there is no legitimate excuse for that. If that same Jewish scholar is going home, having 9 children and then expecting non-religious, secular or non-Jewish members of society to foot the bills for those 9 children, he is imposing his religion on others. There is a fundamental unfairness to the rest of us, which perpetuates resentment and hate. Those who get angry and resentful should be understood in the context from which that is generated as well.

There must be a balance struck between study for the sake of study and contributing to the economic and financial continuance of that society. In the United States, we refer to the greater US. When living in London we refer to the greater UK and when living in Canada, we refer to the greater Canada. It is all well and good to be a scholar, but when you take money from society to study, you breed resentment. This blogger, for one, would love to return to study, a government and philosophy student who spent years editing translations of the scrolls of Elephantine Island for a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But it is unrealistic to do so if a family must be fed, taxes must be paid and children must attend school. We are not living in a vacuum.

Within the writing of some of the most scholarly rabbis, there was a clear understanding, if not an outright demand of the Jewish people, that we be self-sufficient. However we chose to establish our society, the religion demands that we not rely on others for support. When religion starts to encroach upon the lives and livelihoods of others, it is an imposition and unacceptable. To deem those not religious as not even Jewish or as lesser humans, which can be found in multiple teachings throughout the religious (and perhaps fundamentalist Jewish world – yes… every religion has its kooks), then the balance gets tipped and damage is done.

We, with admiration, agree wholeheartedly that there must be a way forward that provides for mutual respect, mutual tolerance, global sensitivity and a measure of love for those notable people on all sides of the debate and political divide. We thank Algemeiner for the published opinion and those highlighted within the article. 

We ask that you please read the Algemeiner article below and that you consult its original sources.  It tells a different story then most that grace our pages, but one that should be read without a passive indifference or active criticism.

With respect, LM 

Stop Picking on the Hasidim

The Orthodox Jewish community of New York is under attack. In just a few days, a 63-year-old Hasidic grandfather was beaten with a brick, another was made to strip off his yarmulke at gunpoint, a gang attacked a truck, and more. Then a shocking campaign video was posted by Republicans in Rockland County, depicting Hasidic Jews as a threat to their fellow Americans.

Those behind the video refused to apologize, and as The New York Post revealed, they had deviously plotted their modern-age blood libel months in advance.

These unmistakably antisemitic attacks are not sui generis in nature. On the contrary, the NYPD found a 101 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes compared to the same period last year. With their distinctive black and white uniforms and visible religious head coverings, the Orthodox make an easy target for physical violence and societal prejudice.

As Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, social media editor at Chabad.org, puts it, Hasidim “are described as all things except for the one thing we are the most: human beings trying to make it in this town like everyone else.”

The fact is that the Orthodox are growing extremely fast. With 70 percent of Jewish-Americans assimilating out of religious existence, these “black hat” communities (I refuse to call them “ultra-Orthodox”) will reportedly soon constitute 25 percent of Jewry in the entire nation.

An example of the way these people have recently been picked on is the public reaction to the measles crisis that recently swept New York. With a health ban that was placed only on yeshiva schools, many began to blame the Orthodox for not vaccinating their children. Never mind the fact that most of the schools with unvaccinated students weren’t even Jewish, or arguably that the common denominator between those who refuse vaccinations isn’t religion but being white, rich, and well-educated.

Regardless, by painting the vaccination crisis in New York as an Orthodox Jewish issue, the national conversation is skewed away from the reality that nine percent of Americans (30 million people!) are reportedly anti-vaxxers. Furthermore, it is an Orthodox nurse, Blima Marcus, who is leading the way in teaching healthcare clinicians how to effectively debunk vaccination myths for the American public.

The problem is that this bias leads directly to the short-sighted and dangerous “us vs. them” mentality that pits public opinion against minority groups. In her New York Times article “Is it Safe to be a Jew in New York?” Ginia Bellafante points out that the societal intransigence to take action against the blaze of anti-Orthodox bigotry stems from stories like these that carelessly stoke the “existing impressions of backwardness.”

I believe the flames of insidious bigotry must be quenched with the soothing waters of public education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Deborah Lauter, previously of the Anti-Defamation League, to run the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. They should follow the advice of Elan Carr, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, who recently remarked that fighting antisemitism must include “philosemitic education” about positive Jewish contributions to society.

Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, arguably the most politically active Hasidic Jew in New York City, laments the ignorance surrounding the contributions his community offers the general public. “I think most New Yorkers would be surprised to discover that our non-profit, United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg, provides social services to anyone, regardless of religion, race, or creed.”

Although most of Niederman’s clientele are Hasidim, he advocates for fellow New Yorkers of all backgrounds who are referred to UJO. “We help anyone who walks in the door,” Niederman says, “it could be food stamps, housing assistance or whatever else they need.”

This public service ethos is derived from Jewish spiritual theology, which places a moral mandate on its followers to engage in “Chessed,” colloquially translated as “acts of loving kindness.” As Professor Jack Werthheimer writes in his article “What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox,” the Orthodox have made “Chessed” into an “art form” by creating hundreds of aid programs, known as “Gemachs” — a Hebrew acronym for “Gemilut Chasadim,” literally, “the giving of loving-kindness.”

In the marketplace of ideas, cultural contributions from these most visible Jews should be cherished and protected as a national resource. In these communities, young men are expected to dedicate their post-high school years to studying at Kollelim, yeshivas of higher learning, where they pour over the ancient texts from morning until night. The purpose of this higher education model isn’t to obtain a degree but to engage in study for its own sake.

To continue reading in Algemeiner click here.

Rabbi in Brazil Sentenced to 15 Years for Abusing his 4 Year-Old Child

Loosely Translated:

Commotion in Brasil as a Rabbi is Sentenced to 15 Years of Incarceration for Abusing His 4-Year Old Son

The justice tribunal in the state of São Paulo, Brasil sentenced a Rabbi to 14 Years, 4 Months and 26 Days of Prison in the Carcel Federal. The Rabbi is Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Avraham Uderman.

In the action for arrest, and the prospects of  sexual abuse of the father against his child, on the 16 of August of 2016, the Brasilian legal tribunal requested the delegate of the 23 Police District to send a copy of the police investigation and prosecution from where there was a presumption of sexual assault by the defendant against the boy. It has been established that the behavior of those involved represents a deliberate omission and a violation of the functional obligations to investigate.

The article goes on to say that the moral damage experienced by the victim at a fundamental constitutional level makes it impossible for the damage to be outweighed by the reparations, which is explained at the end of the article, but is the equivalent of 5,000 Reals owed to the victim and hopes to mediate the restorative value and nature of compensation which considers the consequences of conduct, the social repercussions and the financial capacity of loved ones.

To continue reading the article click here.

Conmoción en Brasil por rabino sentenciado a 14 años de cárcel por abusar de su hijo de 4 años

JAI – El tribunal de justicia del estado de San Pablo, Brasil, sentenció a 14 años, 4 meses y 26 días de reclusión en una cárcel federal, al Rabino de Jabad Lubavitch Avraham Uderman.

En una acción de custodia con sospecha de abuso sexual por parte del padre contra el niño, el 16 de agosto de 2016 , el tribunal brasileño solicitó al delegado del Distrito 23 de la Policía que enviara una copia de la investigación policial y proceso judicial donde la presunta práctica de delito sexual por parte del solicitante
contra el niño. Allí, se estableció que, el comportamiento de los involucrados, aparentemente representa una omisión deliberada y el incumplimiento de las obligaciones funcionales.
El daño moral experimentado por la víctima reconoce a nivel constitucional del derecho a la reparación de daños de valor mínimo establecido en los términos del artículo correspondiente, el cual es equivalente a 5 mil reales debido a la naturaleza reparadora y la indemnización que considera las consecuencias de la conducta y su repercusión social considerando también la capacidad financiera de los involucrados.

To continue reading the original article click here.

Kol V’Oz – Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Global Jewish Community

Special Thanks to the Contributor of this Newsletter

 

Dear Lost Messiah,
I’m delighted to announce that Kol v’Oz has been granted Core Participant status in the forthcoming investigation into the UK Jewish community by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). This means that Kol v’Oz and I will be an active part of the Inquiry and will be able to testify, ask questions of witnesses, make submissions, among other benefits. A public hearing will be held in March 2020.

Those of you who followed the monumental Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would be aware of the significant positive impact this continues to have both in the broader Australian society and more specifically in the Jewish community. We hope and expect this to also be the case in the UK.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who has been sexually abused within a Jewish institution in the UK to contact IICSA to share your story. Please feel free to contact me as well (or alternatively, if contacting IICSA is an issue). Please also contact me if you have any information regarding cover-ups and/or intimidation within any UK Jewish institution.

Our colleagues at Migdal Emunah have also received Core Participant status – please feel free to contact them as well. We will continue to work together with Migdal Emunah to ensure the Inquiry is well-equipped to investigate the Jewish community properly and to ultimately make appropriate recommendations to ensure justice is achieved for victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and to ensure the safety of our children today and into the future.

Please share the above information with anyone you think may be interested.

Obviously there are costs to participate in the Inquiry – and for our work more broadly – so if you’re in a position to support us financially, please do so by clicking here. There are tax deductible options available in the US and in Israel. We’re currently working on an Australian option as well. Thank you in advance!

As always, I’ve shared below a range of relevant material.

On this Tisha b’Av, I’d like to share a Kinah from a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Warmest,

Manny Waks
Chief Executive Officer

Debbie Wiener is the former Chair of the now-defunct The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence. This organisation has caused damage to many in the Jewish community. It has recently come to my attention that Debbie is on the board of a new Jewish organisation that deals with another vulnerable group of people. I feel compelled to protect this group by sharing publicly relevant information.
Israel Police has recommended to charge Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, in the Malka Leifer case. Click: i24YnetThe Jerusalem PostThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe Jewish ChronicleJ-WireThe Australian Jewish News
In response to the latest sexual scandal involving Chabad, I wrote an oped titled Chabad – a law unto itself. Subsequently, there was a further allegation in the same case, which ultimately prompted the Chabad rabbi to resign from his Rabbinic post (but not as director).
Support our work
Some quotes from a 2008 article, soon after Adass purchased plane tickets for Malka Leifer to evade justice immediately after allegations of child sexual abuse were made against her:

[Adass spokesperson Norman] Rosenbaum said it was “categorically just not true” that the school purchased Leifer’s ticket to Israel after she resigned amid still unconfirmed rumours that she behaved inappropriately toward students.

He denied the school had tried to cover up allegations, and said “the school has not yet received any complaints”.

And a quote from a 2017 article:

The group then told Leifer she would be stood down as the head of the Adass school. But then, in a fateful decision, it was agreed that rather than report Leifer to the police, the principal should be spirited out of the country.

Rosenbaum was reportedly a part of the decision-making group.

All those at Adass who were involved in the cover-up in any way must be held to full account – for justice and to ensure the safety of children today.

The one-year look-back window for New York victims and survivors to sue their abusers or the institutions where the abuse took place commences on 14 August 2019. This was part of the New York Child Victims’ Act, which recently came into effect. We are proud to have been part of a broad coalition, over many years, who successfully lobbied for the archaic laws to change – in spite of fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, the ultra-Orthodox community and others. We encourage everyone who feels they can pursue some semblance of justice to do so. Please ensure to obtain proper legal advice. Click here for additional information.
More hypocrisy from David Werdiger…

Werdiger’s ‘thought of the week’ to members of JBD – Jews of the (Melbourne) CBD tells readers of Hasidic teachings about the power of words which can be used to ‘hurt and to deceive’. Werdiger is especially concerned about ’choos(ing) our words even more carefully’ when it comes to social media.

Yet an independent IT report has found that Werdiger, through Objectivewear Pty Ltd, a Company of which he was a Director and Shareholder, was behind the infamous anonymous blog site ‘The Fifth Chelek’ which was highlighted at the Australian Royal Commission for its anonymous attacks against victims of child sexual abuse, their families and supporters. This blog played a key role in the demonisation of victims/survivors and creating the culture that inspired it.

To date, Werdiger has failed to accept responsibility for his involvement with this blog. Nevertheless, he has continued to preach on the Jewish perspective of using words carefully, decried the fact that because of social media ‘things people have written years or decades ago (privately or publicly) are hauled out to haunt them’ and the closest he has come to an apology is ‘acknowledging that there are things that I have said or done in the past that I would not say or do now’. He has also sought to play a leadership role in reshaping the Constitution of the Yeshivah Centre, notwithstanding his role in the events which led to the Royal Commission and the restructuring of the Yeshivah Centre.

And to be clear, this was not Werdiger’s only infraction.

It’s important for victims/survivors to hold to account those who have wronged them, especially when they continue to preach shamelessly. It’s important to us for the public to know that Werdiger, among others, is a hypocrite.

Second Tacoma, Wa Woman Has Alleged Harassment Against Chabad Rabbi

Second woman comes forward with allegations of harassment against Tacoma rabbi

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: Rabbi Zalman Heber has resigned his position as rabbi of the Chabad of Pierce County, according to a statement released by Heber through his attorney. It was unclear if he is also resigning his position as director. “That will be determined,” said Heber’s attorney, Barry Wallis.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Another woman says she is the victim of harassment from Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Kim Shomer, 50, a Tacoma attorney, said she suffered a year of harassing text messages from Heber, the leader of the Chabad of Pierce County. The harassment culminated in the rabbi requesting a hug, which was a violation of the tenets of her faith, she said.

Shomer and her husband, Spencer Freeman, 49, were both members of the Chabad until they formally split from the Orthodox Jewish center in December when they learned of similar behavior Heber allegedly inflicted upon the Jewish wife of a soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Traci Moran.

Shomer’s story was known to members of the Chabad and The News Tribune, but she was reluctant to come forward until now.

Moran’s allegations against Heber came to light during an Army investigation into JBLM chaplain Capt. Michael Harari. The Morans allege Harari breached their confidentiality after they asked him for advice about Heber’s alleged sexually overt messaging. Harari banned them from the base synagogue and Heber filed a restraining order against them.

Heber has denied the allegations made by Moran. He and his attorney also declined requests to comment for this story.

In an interview with The News Tribune on July 29, which mostly focused on the Morans, Heber said he asked Shomer if he could express his emotions with her during a meeting in 2017 and confirmed that he asked Shomer for a hug and that she declined.

“She said, ‘Rabbi, you should know better,’” Heber told The News Tribune.

Shomer said no such conversation took place.

“I didn’t say, ‘You know better.’ I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” Shomer told The News Tribune on Tuesday.

_DSC2869.JPG
Rabbi Zalman Heber in the sanctuary of the Chabad Jewish Center of Pierce County in Tacoma on May 25, 2012. Heber is currently at the center of allegations he acted inappropriately with at least two women at the Chabad. Joe BarrentineTHE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

The body that oversees the Tacoma Chabad, the Chabad Lubavitch of Seattle and its leader, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin, have not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

Shomer was motivated to go public, she told The News Tribune on Tuesday, after recent news stories about Moran and Heber.

“I’ve turned the other way. I’ve forgiven. I’ve done all the right things,” Shomer said. “This is the last part that I think is right. The truth told from my point of view.”

Shomer said she had to work through shame and self-blame.

“He manipulated me, and I allowed it,” Shomer said. “I tried to make OK with it, and it’s not OK. And now he’s telling lies and I just wanted the record to be set straight.”

LAW COUPLE

Shomer, originally from Philadelphia, and Freeman, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years.

Shomer is Jewish; Freeman is not. The couple chose to raise their two sons in the Jewish faith.

“Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said.

rabbi victim_shomer and freeman_4.jpg
Tacoma attorneys Kim Shomer, 50, originally from Philadelphia and Spencer Freeman, 49, a Colorado native, met at the University of Puget Sound law school. They’ve been married 17 years. Although only Shomer is Jewish, they decided to raise their two sons in the faith. “Spencer and I decided, before they were born, that would be something we’d be doing as a family,” Shomer said. Drew Perine DREW.PERINE@THENEWSTRIBUNE.COM

The couple met Heber at their youngest son’s bris in 2007.

When her sons were about five and seven, they began attending Hebrew school at the Chabad. Later, the family started going to the synagogue for special events and Jewish holidays.

Shomer’s oldest son revered Heber, even dressing like him on occasion, Shomer said.

“He held him in high regard,” she said of her son.

The family found themselves increasingly drawn to the Chabad, located on North Mildred Street in Tacoma.

“We were very charmed by what we perceived as the spiritual nature,” Shomer said. They were particularly interested in Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.

The couple began having weekly Kabbalah study sessions with Heber in March 2015.

“I feel like that was his door into me,” Shomer said Tuesday.

At first, the texts from Heber to Shomer were routine: changes in schedules, children’s activities. But, as in Moran’s case, they allegedly became incessant and personal.

NO TOUCHING

Segregation of the genders at Chabads is strict. During Shabbot (Jewish sabbath) services, the men worship on one side of the synagogue and the women on the other. A partition separates the two sides, Freeman said.

Men and women do not touch each other, not even a handshake, according to the Chabad organization’s website. Women wear wigs and non-revealing clothing, Shomer said.

Freeman said he needed to learn etiquette when he became more involved in the Chabad. He recalled meeting Heber’s wife, Miriam, for the first time and attempting to shake her hand.

“There was this awkward moment when she put her baby’s hand in my hand,” Freeman recalled.

Shomer found the gender segregation and strict contact protocols appealing.

“It’s a rule you live by,” she said. “You just come to understand it. You don’t have to give it a second thought.”

LIGHTING MENORAH.JPG
Rabbi Zalman Heber lights a menorah during a Hanukkah celebration at South 9th Street and Broadway in Tacoma on Dec. 9, 2012. Lui Kit Wong THE NEWS TRIBUNE FILE

An Observant US Army Family Targeted by the Chabad Rabbi They Trusted and the Army Chaplain Ordained to Protect

A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned” his actions with Tacoma Rabbi Zalman Heber to ostracize Traci Moran after she alleged that Heber sent her explicit messages.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

| A U.S. Army investigation found that Captain Michael Harari, a chaplain at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (pictured), “aligned”… (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times) More 

After a rabbi sent her explicit messages, JBLM soldier’s wife says she was targeted and betrayed

When Traci Moran, an observant Jewish woman living at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with her enlisted husband, came to Army Chaplain Capt. Michael Harari in August 2018, she was looking for spiritual guidance, she said.

A Tacoma rabbi, Zalman Heber, had been sending her sexually explicit text and voice messages for almost a month despite Moran asking more than once that he stop, the messages showed.

Harari was her husband’s unit chaplain — meaning he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the unit’s families — and the only rabbi on base. And he and Heber were part of the same Hasidic organization, Chabad, that runs synagogues and cultural centers around the world.

All that meant, Moran said, that Harari was “in an incredibly unique position to take my report and tailor counseling to my specific religious views.”

Instead, an Army investigation obtained by The Seattle Times found that Harari violated her confidence by sharing her allegations with Heber. Then, Heber and Harari worked in parallel to “harass and attempt to intimidate and ostracize the Morans from the civilian communities surrounding JBLM [Joint Base Lewis-McChord],” according to the investigation, which examined whether Harari violated the Army’s Equal Opportunity policy.

Heber confirmed sending Moran sexually explicit messages last summer. But, he said, the messages did not constitute sexual harassment.

Harari did not respond to a request for comment, but in a memo submitted to the investigation said the Morans “verbally assaulted” and “slandered” him and his wife. A representative of Harari’s endorsement agency, the organization that confirms he is capable of carrying out his religious duties on base, denied “any linkage between Harari and Heber.”

Meanwhile, Moran said she has lost faith in both Jewish and military institutions.

“I have been victimized twice,” Moran wrote this month in an official complaint to the Army about what she says is the base command’s inadequate response to Harari’s actions. “First, by the rabbi [Heber] who sexually harassed me, and then by the chaplaincy of JBLM.”

“Too much information”

When Moran, who had recently moved to the Pacific Northwest from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, went to pick up a shipment of kosher food at Rabbi Heber’s house in July 2018, she said she sought to make a connection by telling him about the community activities she’d previously led.

Heber then began messaging her, and she messaged back. Almost immediately, though, the exchange became full of what Moran, in one plea to Heber to stop messaging her, called “TMI — too much information.”

The explicit messages, a selection of which The Seattle Times reviewed, included Heber describing sexual acts with his wife.

“I really don’t want to know about your personal life with [your wife],” Moran replied at one point.

On Aug. 12, 2018, Moran and her husband, Staff Sgt. Jared Moran, sought rabbinical guidance by taking the messages to Harari, according to the Army investigation.

“CPT Harari assured us he would not repeat the information to anyone as he was bound as a chaplain not to,” Moran testified in her sworn statement.

To continue reading click here.

The Chabad Moshiah and the Rebbi’s Grave

In this photo from July 2, 2019, people pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

25 years after his death, crowds flock to Chabad rebbe’s grave

 

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s quiet in the middle of the day on the streets of this residential neighborhood in New York City’s borough of Queens — except for the steady stream of visitors coming in and out of one particular small converted house next to a cemetery.

The men and women, young and old, have made their way from around the city, the country and the world to this unassuming site, the burial place of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to pay their respects to the leader of Judaism’s Chabad-Lubavitch movement who died 25 years ago.

While visitors come year-round, the crowds grow tremendously around the anniversary of his passing, which according to the Hebrew calendar falls this year on July 6, with people sometimes waiting a few hours to spend even a couple of moments at his mausoleum, where they pray and leave notes.

While visitors come year-round, the crowds grow tremendously around the anniversary of his passing, which according to the Hebrew calendar falls this year on July 6, with people sometimes waiting a few hours to spend even a couple of moments at his mausoleum, where they pray and leave notes.

“If you’re coming here, you’re coming here for the real deal,” said Rivky Greenberg, 19, of Anchorage, Alaska, who timed her summer travel plans to coincide with visiting around the anniversary.

Greenberg, raised in Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement, has come to the site several times in her life for the connection to the rabbi that it gives her.

“It’s not a tourist site,” she said. “It’s very rare that people will come and not feel something.”

Schneerson led Chabad-Lubavitch for more than four decades as the seventh rebbe, or spiritual leader, following the death of his father-in-law, whom he is buried next to at the Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights in eastern Queens. His wife’s and mother-in-law’s graves are a short distance away.

In those years, he was one of the most influential global leaders in Judaism, reinvigorating a small community that had been devastated by the Holocaust and pushing for all Jews to become more deeply connected to their faith and do more good in their everyday lives. He sent Chabad representatives to live all over the world.

The 25th anniversary of his passing has been widely noted, especially on Israeli social media, which is filled with tributes from politicians and commentators.

Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of Israel’s Knesset who spent three years in Soviet prison in the 1980s before immigrating to Israel, said he “was a model of love for Israel and instilled in the Jewish nation a belief in its eternal values that protected us for thousands of years and will protect us forever.”

Following Schneerson’s death, a member of the community bought the home next to the cemetery, assuming it would become well visited, which it has been. Chabad-Lubavitch representatives estimate there are now about 400,000 visitors a year, with about 50,000 in the period surrounding the anniversary. The majority are Jewish, both Lubavitchers and not.

To continue reading click here.