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America is not Different

In the 1920s, during the height of the Communist oppression, one individual took it upon himself to ensure the continuity of Judaism behind the iron curtain. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, organized and directed a complex network of secret Jewish institutions, schools, mikvahs, Shuls, and other Jewish ritual services. Staffed by his devoted Chasidim, this network operated throughout the entire Soviet Union. The Chasidim were often arrested and sent to Siberia or worse, but, despite the extreme personal risk, they were always willing to serve with dedication. 

In the early Summer of 1927 the Previous Rebbe was arrested. He endured horrible torture during his interrogations at the hand of the Soviets, espececially the Yevsektsia - the Jewish Sector; but he remained very steadfast in his refusal to show the slightest degree of submission to his captors. At first he was sentenced to death, then that was commuted to 10 years of hard labor, and then finally to three years of exile in a remote part of Russia. On the 12th of Tammuz he was freed.

Shortly afterward he was banned from Russia. He spent over a decade in Poland and Latvia from where he continued to direct the secret Jewish underground. He escaped from Warsaw during the bombings of 1939 and arrived in the US in early 1940.

Physically broken by his experiences, he was taken off the ship by a wheelchair. Close friends suggested that he would be well advised to open a small Shul and maybe a school but to lay low as America is different and not open to the Yiddishkeit of Eastern Europe. With tears in his eyes he responded "America is not different." And then with the same tenaciousness that he used in dealing with the Soviets, he launched the beginning of what would become the worldwide Chabad network of institutions devoted to inspiring Jews all over the world.

I spent a few moments reflecting on how pivotal this day was for me as a descendant of Russian Jews. Who knows what would have been if G-d forbid.... things would have turned out different. As an American Jew, I think about the devotion of the first generation, my grandparents, that came here and threw themselves into the work of "America is no different." They were inspired by the Previous Rebbe and his call and we owe alot to them as a result.

I hope that we will live up to being the grandchildren of people of dedication and self sacrifice. Though we are not asked to risk our lives, we must show the same devotion to the cause as they did. 

We wish Mazel Tov to Batel Sharon and Michael Lieberman upon their recent engagement. May they merit to build a new branch of the Jewish nation that we can all be proud of.

A Tribute to the Rebbe

This Monday night, June 14, we will join a worldwide internet broadcast of a talk by the renowned lecturer, Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson. The occasion, the 3rd of Tammuz - marking 16 years since the physical passing of the Rebbe. More importantly, however, is the remarkable continuation of the Rebbe's life and life's work, evident in the growth of Chabad around the world over the past 16 years. There is nobody who can more mastrerfully help us appreciate the Rebbe's influence on Judaism in our time than Rabbi Jacobson. For an opportunity to be enthralled and inspired, please join us for the live broadcast at Chabad Metairie on Monday night at 8 PM.

The greatness of a leader such as the Rebbe is seen from varying perspectives. Some are awed by the Rebbe's scholarship and contribution in the area of Torah study. Other's are impressed with the Rebbe's blessings and advice to people in need of help. Still others marvel at the Rebbe's involvement in communal and even global affairs. The overriding factor in all of these, is the Rebbe's ability to relate to each individual person and each individual issue as the most important person or issue at that moment. When the Torah refers to the qualifications of Joshua as the successor of Moses, it describes him as a man who can relate to the spirit of each and every person. The chabad.org team has assmebled a comprehensive website about the Rebbe including many personal recollections of individual interactions that people had with the Rebbe. Take some time over the next few days to browse www.chabadneworleans.com/rebbe to get a sense of the scope of the Rebbe's leadership.

Since that day 16 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have flocked to the Rebbe's Ohel (resting place) to pray and place the petitions for blessings there. I will have the opportunity within the next few weeks to be there and I will gladly take any letters or petitions for blessing that you wish send with me.

A few days before Pesach, several years ago, I arrived in New York late at night. I decided to pay a visit to Rebbe's Ohel immediately upon my arrival as that day was the Rebbe's birthday (Nissan 11). By the time I got there it was nearly midnight. As I made my way to the Ohel lost in my own thoughts, I looked up and I saw an African American couple, holding a young child, coming out of the Rebbe's Ohel. I noticed that the man wore a necklace that clearly indentified him as a Christian. I nodded to them in greeting and in a soft vioce the man said to me "today is the Rebbe's birthday; we came to pay our respects." Needless to say I was overwhelmed with awe in my renewed realization of how broad the Rebbe's reach was.

The Ultimate Online Jewish Experience

Our website, chabadneworleans.com, is a proud member of the most active Jewish internet network, chabad.org. The chabad.org network hosts over 100,000 sessions each day. That means well over 1,000,000 daily hits. When it comes to special seasons, such as Passover, Chanukah and high holidays, that number increases many times over.

I would like to share some of the special features of the website so that you can take full advantage of everything we offer. First of all there is the local element to our website. Our primary local features are: calendar of events, upcoming programs, photo gallery, organization profiles and ChabadNewOrleans Audio (featuring classes that were delivered at Chabad - including recent class - the Morning After Sinai which can be heard by going to www.chabadneworleans.com/1221738). All ofthese features can be accessed from our homepage using the left navigation bar. In addition the top of our homepage has a rolling section highlighting the top featues of the site that changes DAILY.

Our calendar - accessed at www.chabadneworleans.com/calendar - is fully integrated with the stadard Chabad.org calendar, which provides historical notes associated with each day as well Halachic times (such as candlelighting, daily Shema etc.). There are also features that can help you find your Jewish birthday, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the Yahrtzeit of a loved one and two way date conversion. 

The online Library - accessed at www.chabadneworleans.com/library - features thousands of articles on a wide range of topics of Jewish interest. There are also hundreds of books online which can be viewed. A powerful Search tool provides an easy path to finding exactly what you seek. There is also a special section on How To Judaism that guides one through Jewish practices, prayers, holidays and more.

The Multimedia section - accessed at www.chabadneworleans.com/multimedia - features a brand new wing called Jewish.tv that has a wealth of videos as well as a live feed schedule of classes, lectures and special events. In addition, the multimedia section contains hundreds of audio classes and lectures, as well as one of the largest online collections of Jewish music, most notably several hundred Chabad melodies that you can listen to at any time.

The Holiday section - accessed at www.chabadneworleans.com/holidays or the name of the given holiday - features an individual mini-site for each Jewish holiday that includes, how to guides, study and insight, recipes, multimedia and children's activities.

There is a special section devoted to women by women - www.chabadneworleans.com/women - that includes blogs, articles, multimedia and more.

There is a special kids section www.chabadneworleans.com/kids that features the very popular Itche Kaddozy Show, Noah's Ark zoology section, as well anough to keep your children occupied for hours. 

The weekly Parsha can be studied and analyzed with commentary from multiple angles at www.chabadneworleans.com/parsha. There is a section devoted to dating and marriage - www.chabadneworleans.com/marriage. There is a section devoted to Death and Mourning - www.chabadneworleans.com/mourning. You can find a Chabad Center anywhere is the world by going to www.chabadneworleans.com/centers. You can subscribe to weekly, daily and audio study that will be emailed to you www.chabadneworleans.com/subscribe.

This is all but a sampling of the many features of our site. We thank you for making us the most visited Jewish family of websites in the world. Please continue to enjoy and utilize all that is available. What is most amazing about this web network is that it is all developed, designed and maintained by Yeshiva graduates with no formal training in computers or technology. This dedicated group of men and women work hard with devotion to bring the teachings of Torah and the light of Judaism to the world via cyberspace.

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