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Subject: Golem, Hasidic Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Psalms, Yiddish language, Bedford, Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, Saul Lieberman
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"Lubavich" and "Lubavitch" redirect here. For the Russian village, see Lyubavichi, Rudnyansky District, Smolensk Oblast.
For other uses of "Chabad", see Chabad (disambiguation).

Template:Chabad sidebar Chabad, also known as Habad, Lubavitch, and Chabad-Lubavitch,[1] is a Hasidic movement. Chabad adheres to the Orthodox practice of Judaism. Founded in Russia in 1775,[2] Chabad is today one of the world's largest and best-known Hasidic movements. Its official headquarters are currently located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. The organization is the largest Jewish religious organization in the world today.[3][4]

The name "Chabad" (Hebrew: חב"ד) is a Hebrew acronym for Chochmah, Binah, Da'at (חכמה, בינה, דעת): "Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge".[5] The name "Lubavitch" (meaning the "Town of Love") is the popular name for the Russian village Lyubavichi where the movement's leaders lived for over 100 years.

The Chabad movement represents a school of thought established and led by a dynasty of Hasidic rebbes. The Chabad movement was founded in the late 18th century by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of Chabad. The movement was based in Lyubavichi (Lubavitch) for over a century, beginning with the second rebbe, Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, until the fifth rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn. The movement was briefly centered in the cities of Rostov-on-Don, Riga, and Warsaw. From the start of World War Two until the present day, the movement's center has been in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.[6][7]

Chabad maintains a network of over 3,600 institutions in over 1,000 cities, spanning 70 countries.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Chabad institutions provide outreach to unaffiliated Jews, as well as religious, cultural and educational activities at Chabad run community centers, synagogues, schools and camps.

The movement is thought to number between 40,000 to 200,000 adherents,[14][15][16][17][18] and up to one million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.[19][20][21] Chabad's adherents follow Chabad traditions and prayer services based on Lurianic kabbalah.

An adherent of Chabad is called a Chabad Chasid (or Hasid) (Hebrew: חסיד חב"ד‎), a Lubavitcher (Yiddish: ליובאוויטשער), a Chabadnik (Hebrew: חבדניק‎),[22] or a Chabadsker (Yiddish: חבדסקער).


The Chabad movement was established in the town of Liozna, Grand Duchy of Lithuania (nowadays in Belarus), in 1775, by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.[2] Rabbi Shneur Zalman was a student of Rabbi Dovber ben Avraham, the "Maggid of Mezritch", the successor of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. The movement later relocated its center to Poland, and finally, to the United States.

While the movement has spawned a number of other groups, most are no longer active, making the Chabad-Lubavitch branch the movement's main surviving line.[23]

Today, Chabad is among the world's largest Hasidic groups, and it is the largest Jewish religious organization. The vast network of Chabad institutions have placed the movement at the forefront of Jewish communal life today.


The Chabad movement has been led by a succession of Hasidic rebbes. The main line of the movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, has had seven rebbes in total:

  • Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founded the Chabad movement in the town of Liozna. He later moved the movement's center to the town of Liadi. Rabbi Shneur Zalman was the youngest disciple of Rabbi Dovber of Mezritch, the principal disciple and successor of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism. The Chabad movement began as a separate school of thought within the Hasidic movement, focusing of the spread of Hasidic mystical teachings using logical reasoning (creating a kind of Jewish "rational-mysticism"[24]). Shneur Zalman's main work is the Tanya (or "Sefer Shel Beinonim", "Book of the Average Man"). The Tanya is the central book of Chabad thought and is studied daily by followers of the Chabad movement. Shneur Zalman's other works include a collection of writings on Hasidic thought, and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, a revised version of the code of Jewish law, both of which are studied regularly by followers of Chabad. Shneur Zalman's successors went by last names such as "Shneuri" and "Schneersohn" (later "Schneerson"), signifying their descent from the movement's founder. He is commonly referred to as the Alter Rebbe (Old Rebbe).[25][26]
  • Rabbi Dovber Schneuri (1773–1827), son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, led the Chabad movement in the town of Lyubavichi (Lubavitch). His leadership was initially disputed by Rabbi Aaron Halevi of Stroselye, however, Rabbi Dovber was generally recognized as his father's rightful successor, and the movement's leader. Rabbi Dovber published a number of his writings on Hasidic thought, greatly expanding his father's work. He also published some of his father's writings. Many of Rabbi Dovber's works have been subsequently republished by the Chabad movement. He is commonly referred to as the Mitteler Rebbe (Middle Rebbe).[27][28]
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1789–1866), a grandson of Rabbi Shneur Zalman and son-in-law of Rabbi Dovber. Following his attempt to persuade the Chabad movement to accept his brother-in-law or uncle as rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel assumed the title of rebbe of Chabad, also leading the movement from the town of Lyubavichi (Lubavitch). He published a number of his works on both Hasidic thought and Jewish law. Rabbi Menachem Mendel also published some of the works of his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. He is commonly referred to as the Tzemach Tzedek, after the title of his responsa.[29]
  • Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn (1834–1882), was the seventh and youngest son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel. He assumed the title of rebbe in town of Lyubavichi (Lubavitch), while several of his brothers assumed the title of rebbe in other towns, forming groups of their own. Years after his death, his teachings were published by the Chabad movement. He is commonly referred to as the Maharash, an acronym for "Moreinu HaRav Shmuel" ("our teacher, Rabbi Shmuel").[30][31]
  • Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860–1920), Shmuel's second son, succeeded his father as rebbe. Rabbi Shalom Dovber waited some time before officially accepting the title of rebbe, as not to offend his elder brother, Zalman Aaron. He established a yeshiva called Tomchei Temimim. During World War One, he moved to Rostov-on-Don. Many of his writings were published after his death, and are studied regularly in Chabad yeshivas. He is commonly referred to as the Rashab, an acronym for "Rabbi Shalom Ber".[32]
  • Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880–1950), the only son of Sholom Dovber, succeeded his father as rebbe of Chabad. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was exiled from Russia, following an attempt by the Bolshevik government to have him executed. He led the movement from Warsaw, Poland, until the start of World War Two. After fleeing the Nazis, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak lived in Brooklyn, New York until his death. He established much of Chabad's current organizational structure, founding several of its central organizations as well as other Chabad institutions, both local and international. He published a number of his writings, as well as the works of his predecessors. He is commonly referred to as was the Rayatz, or the Frierdiker Rebbe ("Previous Rebbe").
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994),[33] son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, and a great-grandson of the third Rebbe of Lubavitch, assumed the title of rebbe one year after his father-in-law's death. Rabbi Menachem Mendel greatly expanded Chabad's global network, establishing hundreds of new Chabad centers across the globe. He published many of his own works as well as the works of his predecessors. Rabbi Menachem Mendel's teachings are studied regularly by followers of Chabad. He is commonly referred to as "the Rebbe". Even after his death, he is revered as the leader of the Chabad movement.[27]


Chabad Hasidic philosophy focuses on religious concepts such as God, the soul, and the meaning of the Jewish commandments. Classical Judaic writings and Jewish mysticism, especially the Zohar and the Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria, are frequently cited in Chabad works. These texts are used both as sources for Chabad teachings, as well as material requiring interpretation by Chabad authors. Chabad philosophy bases itself on the teachings of Rabbis Yisroel ben Eliezer, (the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism) and Dovber ben Avraham, the "Maggid of Mezritch" (Rabbi Yisroel's successor).

Rabbi Shneur Zalman's teachings formed the basis of Chabad philosophy, as expanded by succeeding generations. Many Chabad activities today are understood as applications of Shneur Zalman's teachings.

A central position in Chabad philosophy is the notion that the ultimate service of God can be achieved through contemplation and other cognitive processes, rather than through emotions. Chabad philosophy differs from the teachings of other Hasidic groups in this regard, placing greater emphasis on the use of the mind's cognitive faculties in religious devotional efforts.[34][35] Chabad philosophy provides a conceptual approach to understanding God and other spiritual matters, maintaining that contemplating such topics constitutes Avodat Hashem ("the service of God").[36]

Chabad philosophy also incorporated the teachings of Kabbalah as a means to deal with one's daily life and psyche. It teaches that every aspect of the world exists only through the intervention of God. Through an intellectual approach and meditations, Chabad teaches that one can attain complete control over one's actions.[36]


Main article: Tanya

Tanya, Shneur Zalman's magnum opus, is the first schematic treatment of Hasidic moral philosophy and its metaphysical foundations.[25] The original name of the first book is Sefer Shel Beinonim, the "Book of the Intermediates." It is also known as Likutei Amarim — "Collected Sayings." Sefer Shel Beinonim analyzes the inner struggle of the individual and the path to resolution. Citing the biblical verse "the matter is very near to you, in your mouth, your heart, to do", the philosophy is based on the notion that the human is not inherently evil; rather, every individual has an inner conflict that is characterized with two different inclinations, the good and the bad.[37]

Some have argued that Shneur Zalman's moderation and synthesis saved the general Hasidic movement from breaking away from Orthodox Judaism. It allowed for mystically inclined Hasidim to be familiarized with traditional Jewish scholarship and observance, and for traditionalists to access Hasidism within the framework of Jewish scholarship.[38]


According to Shneur Zalman's seminal work Tanya, the intellect consists of three interconnected processes: Chochma (wisdom), Bina (understanding), and Da'at (knowledge). While other branches of Hasidism focused primarily on the idea that "God desires the heart," Shneur Zalman argued that God also desires the mind, and that the mind is the "gateway," to the heart. With the Chabad philosophy he elevated the mind above the heart, arguing that "understanding is the mother of fear and love for God".[39]

According to Jonathan Sacks, in Shneur Zalman's system Chochma represents "the creation in its earliest potentiality; the idea of a finite world as was first born in the divine mind. Binah is the idea conceived in its details, the result of contemplation. Da'at is, as it were, the commitment to creation, the stage at which the idea becomes an active intention."[25] While in Kabbala there are clearly delineated levels of holiness, in Hasidism and Chabad philosophy these are grounded in the mundanities of people's inner lives. So in reality — according to the Chabad analogy — Chochma is the birth of an idea in the mind, Binah is the contemplation, and Da'at is the beginning of the actualisation of an idea. Sacks argues that this provided a psychological formulation that enabled the hasid to substantiate his mystical thoughts. "This was an important advance because bridging the gap between spiritual insight and daily behaviour had always been a problem for Jewish mysticism."[25]

Chabad philosophy argues that man is neither static nor passive nor dependent on others to connect to God.[25] Shneur Zalman rejected all ideas of aristocratic birth and elitism — he argued for meritocracy where all were capable of growth, every Jew — in his view — was capable of becoming a Tzadik.[26]

Chabad is often contrasted with the Chagat school of Hasidism.[40] While all Hasidism have a certain focus on the emotions, Chagat saw emotions as a reaction to physical stimuli, such as dancing singing or beauty. Shneur Zalman, on the other hand, taught that the emotions must be led by the mind, and thus the focus of Chabad thought was to be Torah study and prayer rather than esotericism and song.[25] As a Talmudist, Shneur Zalman endeavored to place Kabbalah and Hasidism on a rational basis. In Tanya, he defines his approach as "מוח שליט על הלב" ("the brain ruling the heart").[41]

Torah study

Shneur Zalman fought against the perception that was prevalent in the early years of Hasidism that the movement neglected Talmudic study by focusing too heavily on mysticism and obscurantism. He emphasized that mysticism without Talmudic study was worthless — even dangerous.[26] Without Talmudic study, he argued, the mind could never be elevated — and if the mind is not elevated, the soul will starve. On the other hand, he argued that while Torah was to be the focus of all study, it was also important to integrate the Torah's teachings into one's life. In a letter to Joshua Zeitlin of Shklow, Shneur Zalman wrote: "The Hasidim, too, set aside time for study. The difference between them and the Misnagdim is this: the latter set time for study and they are limited by time, whereas the former make the Torah their path of life."[26]

Shneur Zalman taught that Torah must be studied joyously – studying without joy is frowned upon. He provided a metaphor: when a mitzvah is fulfilled an angel is created. But if the mitzvah was joyless then the angel too will be dispirited. Thus, while Shneur Zalman emphasized that Hasidism focus on traditional Jewish scholarship rather than on mysticism, he was emphatic that this must be done with zeal and joy.[26]

Roles of Rebbe and Hasid

In its earlier formulations, Hasidic thought had elevated the Rebbe to a level above that of typical hasid. A rebbe was closer to God, his prayers were more amenable to Him, and a hasid should satisfy himself with attachment to the Rebbe and hence indirectly to God. A rebbe was to be a living example of perfection and would concern himself with intellectualism on behalf of the followers.[25] According to Sacks, Chabad stressed the individual responsibilities of every Jew: "The rebbe...became more of a teacher and adviser, recognising the vocation of each of his followers, guiding them towards it, uncovering their strengths, and rejoicing in their achievements."[25]

In Chabad thought, the Rebbe is not an intermediary between the Hasid and God. Rather, the role of the rebbe was to train followers to become spiritually self-sufficient and to turn to their Rebbe for instructions rather than intercession with God, miracles or blessings.[26]

Hasidism traditionally demanded that every Hasid personally participate in the dissemination of Torah and Judaism to one's surroundings and seek out the benefit of one's fellow Jew. Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn said: A Hasid is he who surrenders himself for the benefit of another.[42] Beyond this, Chabad demands pnimiyut (inwardness / sincerity): one should not act superficially, as a mere act of faith, but rather with inner conviction.[43] The relationship the Chabad Hasid has with the Rebbe is called hiskashrus. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn stated, "A bond with me (hiskashrus) is made by studying my ma'amorim of Hasidut, by fulfilling my request concerning the daily recital of Tehillim, and the like."[44][45]

In a continuation of longstanding Chabad tradition, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson demanded that each individual exert themselves in advancing spiritually, and not rely on the Rebbe to do it for them.[46]

Menachem Mendel Schneerson's philosophy

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson advanced, in his writings and lectures, a proposed unity between opposing concepts. He proposed that it was possible to unite the mundane aspects of the world with the aspect of "godliness" in the world. Schneerson emphasized the significance of creating an "abode for God on this world". Consequently, he encouraged his followers to unite a life in the modern world with the teachings of Judaism. He felt that the world was not a contradiction to the word of God, and it was to be embraced rather than shunned.[35]

Schneerson taught that the use of modern technology does not necessarily contradict a life of spirituality. For that reason, Chabad has consistently utilized modern technology to spread its message. Since its inception, Chabad have used the radio, and later television, satellite feeds, and the Internet to spread its message.[47]


Chabad adherents follow Chabad traditions and prayer services based on Lurianic kabbalah. General Chabad customs, called minhagim, distinguish the movemment from other Hasidic groups.

  • Forms of dress – Chabad men generally do not wear shtreimels, a type of fur hat worn by other Hasidic groups. Instead, most wear a black fedora. Like other Orthodox Jews, Chabad women wear clothing that conform to tzniut (modesty).
  • Speech and language – Many American Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Lithuanian dialect.[48] However, many native Israeli Chabad Hasidim pronounce Hebrew according to the Modern Israeli Hebrew dialect. English speaking adherents are thought to use a cluster of linguistic features including a “/t/ release” at the end of some words, borrowed Hebrew terms, and “chanting intonation contours”. This linguistic cluster forms a unique "learned, Orthodox style” used by male adherents, and to a lesser extent, by female adherents.[49]
  • Song and music – Like many other Hasidic groups, Chabad attaches importance to singing Chabad Hasidic nigunim (melodies), usually without words, and following precise customs of their leaders.[50][51] To Chabad followers, the niggun is a primary link between the mundane and divine realms.[52] Chabad followers also compose songs using lyrics and contemporary styles.[53]
  • Daily study – Among the customs of the Chabad movement are schedules of daily study of Jewish religious works. These study schedules were often encouraged by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. They include:


Adherents of the Chabad movement are formally called Chabad Chasidim (Hasidim). Other designations include "Lubavitchers", "Chabadnikim" and "Chabadskers". Chabad adherents include both Hasidic followers, as well as non-Hasidim, who have joined Chabad synagogues and other Chabad run institutions.


Chabad adherents are reported to number some 200,000 persons.[14][16][17] Some scholars have pointed to the lack of quantitative data to back this claim,[15] and some place the number of Chabad followers at around 40,000 but note that the number may be higher if the non-Hasidic Jews who join Chabad synagogues are included as well.[18]

Compared to other Hasidic groups, Chabad is currently thought to be the third[54] or fourth[55] largest Hasidic movement.

Chabad communities

Chabad communities span the globe; communities with high concentrations of Chabad's Hasidic followers are Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Kfar Chabad, Israel. Other communities hold smaller population sizes.

  • United States – An estimate for Chabad in the United States places the movement's followers in the US at around 18,600. The estimate is drawn from existing data on the Montreal Chabad community, and Chabad Day School figures.[56]
    • Crown Heights – The Crown Heights Chabad community's estimated size is 10,000-12,000. Though there is no published quantitative data to back the claim.[18] The Crown Heights Chabad community is lead by Rabbi Avraham Osdoba, who serves as the head of the Crown Heights Beis Din (rabbinical court). The community legal representative body is the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council (CHJCC).
  • Kfar Chabad – Kfar Chabad's estimated size is 5,100; the residents of the town are believed to all be Chabad adherents. This estimate is based on figures published by the Israeli Census Bureau.[57]
  • Montreal – The estimated size of the Chabad community of Greater Montreal is 1,590. The estimate is taken from a local community study.[58][59]

Student body in the United States

The report findings of studies on Jewish Day Schools and supplementary Jewish education in the United States show that the student body currently enrolled in some 295 Chabad schools exceeds 20,750.[60][61][62]

Chabad Ashkenazim and Sephardim

Though the Chabad movement was founded in Eastern Europe, a center of Ashkenazik Jewry, it has in the past several decades attracted a significant number of Sephardi Jews.[63] Chabad communities are now a mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Hasidim. In Montreal, for example, close to 25% of Chabad households include a Sephardi parent.[64][65]


It is reported that up to a million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.[19][20]

Chabad pioneered the post-World War II outreach movement, which spread Judaism to many assimilated Jews worldwide, leading to a substantial number of baalei teshuva ("returnees" to Judaism). The very first Yeshiva/Rabbinical College for such baalei teshuva, Hadar Hatorah, was established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

According to Steven I. Weiss, Chabad's ideology has dramatically influenced non-Hasidic Jews' practice with regard to Jewish outreach issues.[66]

Because of its outreach to all Jews, even the most alienated from religious Jewish tradition, Lubavitch has been described as the one Orthodox group to evoke great affection from large segments of American Jewry.[67]


Chabad's central organization representing the movement at large, Agudas Chasidei Chabad, is headed by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky. The educational and outreach arm, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, is also headed by Krinsky. Other central organizations include Lubavitch Youth Organization and Mahane Israel.

Local Chabad centers and institutions are often incorporated as separate legal entities.[68]


  • Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch – Founded in 1942, Merkos, as it is commonly known, is Chabad's educational arm, with several divisions:[69]
    • Kehot Publication Society – Chabad's main publishing house.
    • Central Chabad Lubavitch Library – The movement's main library, which houses its manuscript collection and other Jewish works.
    • – Chabad's main website; it includes thousands of articles and Jewish multimedia.
    • Office of Education (Chabad) – A center for educators and parents.
    • National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE) – The NCFJE runs several summer camps and ither Jewish educational programs including released time.
    • Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) – JLI provides Jewish education classes for adults and teens.
    • Jewish Learning Network ("jnet") – "jnet" provides a service matching Jewish adults who wish to study Jewish topics with volunteers who offer tutoring over the phone.
    • The Shluchim Office – A resource center for Shluchim, Chabad's emissaries.
    • Jewish Educational Media (JEM) – JEM houses the movement's audio and video collection.
    • The Shluchim Exchange – A online social network for Shluchim, Chabad's emissaries.
  • Mahane Israel – Founded in 1942, Mahane Israel acts as Chabad's social service agency, with several divisions:[69]
    • Collel Chabad – Originally established by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Collel Chabad is one of the oldest Jewish charities operating today.
    • Mahane Israel Development Fund (MIDF) – MIDF is a fund dedicated to the growth of Jewish life worldwide.
    • Tzivot Hashem: Jewish Children International – Tzivot Hashem provides educational activities for Jewish children under Bar/Bat Mitzvah (ages 12-13).
    • Keren Hachomesh Charitable Foundation – A charitable foundation founded in 1988, after the death of Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the wife of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.[70]
    • Keren Mamosh Charitable Foundation – A charitable foundation.
    • Taharas Hamishpocho International – Founded in 1975, the organization provides educational resources pertaining to Jewish family purity.
    • N'Shei Chabad – The movement's central women's organization.

Chabad institutions

Chabad Institutions by Country
Country Chabad centers
United States 600
Israel 300
Russia 90
France 80
Canada 60
Ukraine 50
Australia 40
Argetina 30
Brazil 30
United Kingdom 30
Germany 15
South Africa 15
Italy 10
Austria 10
Belarus 10
Belgium 10
Netherlands 10
China 6
Uzbekistan 6
Thailand 5
Kazakistan 5
Spain 3
Sweden 3
Denmark 1

As of 2007 there are 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world.[9][10][11] As of 2006 there were Chabad centers in 75 countries.[12]

Listed on the Chabad movement's online directory are around 1,350 Chabad institutions. This number includes schools and other Chabad-affiliated establishments. The number of Chabad centers vary per country; the majority are in the United States and Israel (see table). There are over 40 countries which have a small Chabad presence (not listed in the table). In total, according to its directory, Chabad maintains a presence in 950 cities around the world: 178 in Europe, 14 in Africa, 200 in Israel, 400 in North America, 38 in South America, and about 70 in Asia (excluding Israel, including Russia.)[13]

Chabad Houses

Main article: Chabad house

A Chabad House is a form of Jewish community center, primarily serving both educational and observance purposes.[71] Often, until the community can support its own center, the Chabad House is located in the shaliach's home, with the living room being used as the "synagogue". Effort is made to provide an atmosphere in which the nonobservant will not feel intimidated by any perceived contrast between their lack of knowledge of Jewish practice and the advanced knowledge of some of the people they meet there.[72] The term "Chabad House" originated with the creation of the first such outreach center on the campus of UCLA by Rabbi Shlomo Cunin.[73]

In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the local Chabad House was targeted.[74][75] The local Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, and four other Jews were brutally murdered. Chabad received condolences from around the world.[76]


Funds for activities of a Chabad center rely entirely on the local community. Chabad centers do not receive funding from Lubavitch headquarters. For the day to day operations, local emissaries do all the fundraising by themselves.

Chabad emissaries often solicit the support of local Jews.[77] Funds are used toward purchasing or renovating Chabad centers, synagogues and Mikvahs.[78]


The Chabad movement has been involved in numerous activities in contemporary Jewish life. These activities include outreach to non-affiliated Jews, publishing Jewish literature, summer camps for children among other activities.

Outreach activities

Main article: Chabad outreach

Much of the movement's activities emphasize on outreach activities. This is due to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson encouraging his followers to reach out to other Jews.[79]

Shluchim (Emissaries)

Main article: Shaliach (Chabad)

Following the initiative of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson spurred on the movement to what has become known as shlichus ("serving as an emissary [performing outreach]") in 1950–1951. As a result, Chabad shluchim ("emissaries", sing. shliach) have moved all over the world with the stated mission of encouraging non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance. They assist Jews with all their religious needs, as well as with physical assistance and spiritual guidance and teaching. The stated goal is to encourage Jews to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to practice Judaism.[80]

The Chabad movement, motivated by Schneerson, has trained and ordained thousands of rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers, and ritual circumcisers, who are then accompanied by their spouses to many locations around the world. Typically, a young Lubavitch rabbi and his wife, in their early twenties, with one or two children, will move to a new location, and as they settle in will raise a large family who as a family unit, will aim to fulfill their mandate of bringing Jewish people closer to Orthodox Judaism and encouraging gentiles to adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah.[80]

Mitzvah campaigns

Main article: Mitzvah campaigns

The Rebbes of Chabad have issued the call to all Jews to attract non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance, teaching that this activity is part of the process of bringing the Messiah. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson issued a call to every Jew: "Even if you are not fully committed to a Torah life, do something. Begin with a mitzvah — any mitzvah — its value will not be diminished by the fact that there are others that you are not prepared to do".[81]

Schneerson also suggested ten specific mitzvot that he believed were ideally suited for the emissaries to introduce to non-observant Jews. These were called "mivtzoim" — meaning "campaigns" or "endeavors." These were: lighting candles before Shabbat and the Jewish holidays by Jewish women; putting on tefillin; affixing a mezuzah; regular Torah study; giving Tzedakah; purchasing Jewish books; observing kashrut (kosher); kindness to others; Jewish religious education, and observing the family purity laws.

In addition, Schneerson emphasized spreading awareness of preparing for and the coming of the moshiach Jewish messiah, consistent with his philosophy. He wrote on the responsibility to reach out to teach every fellow Jew with love, and implored that all Jews believe in the imminent coming of the moshiach as explained by Maimonides. He argued that redemption was predicated on Jews doing good deeds, and that gentiles should be educated about the Noahide Laws. Chabad has been a prime force in disseminating awareness of these laws.

Schneerson was emphatic about the need to encourage and provide strong education for every child, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Mitzvah tank
Main article: Mitzvah tank

A mitzvah tank is a vehicle used by Chabad members involved in outreach as a portable "educational and outreach center" and "mini-synagogue" (or "minagogue"). Mitzvah tanks are commonly used for advancing the Mitzvah campaigns. Mitzvah tanks have been commonplace on the streets of New York City since 1974.[82] Today, they are used all over the globe, in countries where Chabad is active.

Campus outreach

In recent years, Chabad has greatly expanded its outreach on university and college campuses. Chabad Student Centers are active on over 100 campuses, and Chabad offers varied activities at an additional 150 universities worldwide.[83] Professor Alan Dershowitz has said that "Chabad’s presence on college campuses today is absolutely crucial", and "We cannot rest until Chabad is on every major college campus in the world".[84]


Chabad publishes and distributes Jewish religious literature. Under Kehot Publication Society, Chabad's main publishing house, Jewish literature has been translated into 12 different languages. Kehot regularly provides books at discounted prices, and hosts book-a-thons. Kehot commonly distributes books weitten or transcribed from the rebbes of Chabad, prominent chassidim and other authors who have written Jewish materials.

Kehot is a division of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the movement's educational arm.


Main article:

Chabad publishes a wealth of Jewish material on the internet. Chabad's main website, is one of the first Jewish websites[47] and the first and largest virtual congregation.[85][86] It serves not just its own members but Jews worldwide in general.[87] According to, is currently the largest Jewish educational website worldwide.[88]

Summer camps

Chabad has set up an extensive network of camps around the world, most using the name Gan Israel, a name chosen by Schneerson although the first overnight camp was the girls division called Camp Emunah. There are 1,200 sites serving 210,000 children — most of whom do not come from Orthodox homes. Of these, 500 camps are in the United States.[89][90]

Political activities

Schneerson involved himself in matters relating to the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.[91] He maintained that as a matter of Jewish law,[92] any territorial concession on Israel's part would endanger the lives of all Jews in the Land of Israel, and is therefore forbidden. He also insisted that even discussing the possibility of such concessions showed weakness, would encourage Arab attacks, and therefore endanger Jewish lives.[93]

In USA domestic politics, Schneerson supported government involvement in education and welcomed the establishment of the United States Department of Education in 1980, yet insisted that part of a school's educational mission was to incorporate the values espoused in the Seven Laws of Noah. He called for the introduction of a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day, and for students to be encouraged to use this time for such improving thoughts or prayers as their parents might suggest.[94]

In 1981, Schneerson publicly called for the use of solar energies. Schneerson believed that the USA could achieve energy independence by developing solar energy technologies. He argued that the dependence on foreign oil may lead to the country compromising on its principles.[95][96]


In the late 1980s, the Rebbe called for his followers to become involved in outreach activities with the purpose of bringing about the Jewish Messianic Age.[25] Statements concerning the advancement of the Messianic age was a factor leading to the controversy surrounding the messianic beliefs of some members of the movement.


A number of unrelated incidents, deemed controversial by some, have occurred over the Chabad movement's near 300 year history. These incidents range from the time of the first rebbe of Chabad, to the present day. Today, Messianism within the Chabad movement appears to be among the most frequently cited controversies within the Orthodox Jewish community.

Offshoot groups

Main article: Chabad offshoot groups

A number of groups have split from the Chabad movement, forming their own Chasidic groups, and at times, positioning themselves as possible successors of previous Chabad rebbes.

Disputes over succession

Following the deaths of several of the rebbes of Chabad, disputes arose over their succession.

  • The death of Rabbi Shneur Zalman – Following the death of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad rebbe, a dispute over his succession led to a break within the movement. While the recognized successor was Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, a student of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, Rabbi Aaron HaLevi assumed the title of rebbe, and led a number of followers from the town of Strashelye. The new group had two rebbes, Rabbi Aaron and his son Rabbi Haim Rephael. The new group eventually disbanded, following Rabbi Haim Rephael's death.[23][97]
  • The death of the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the Tzemach Tzedek) – Following the death of the third Chabad rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the Tzemach Tzedek), a dispute over his succession led to the formation of several Chabad groups. While Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn was recognized as the heir to the Chabad-Lubavitch line, several of his brothers formed groups if their own in the towns of Kopys (forming the Kapust dynasty), Nezhin (forming the Niezhin dynasty), Lyady (forming the Liadi dynasty), and Ovruch (forming the Avrutch dynasty). The lifespan of these groups varied; Niezhin and Avrutch had one rebbe each, Liadi had two rebbes, and Kapust had five. Following the deaths of their last rebbes, these groups eventually disbanded.[98][99][100][101][102]
  • The death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson – Following the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Chabad rebbe, an attempt was made by one follower to form his own group. Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutch assumed the title of rebbe of Liozna (after the town where Rabbi Shneur Zalman first led the Chabad movement). This attempt failed to gain broad support, and it is unclear whether Deutch continues to claim the title of rebbe.

Other groups

Several other groups were formed by former followers of the Chabad movement; in forming their own groups, these former followers drew upon their experiences at Chabad. Their teachings at times incorporate ideas which they learned at Chabad.

  • The Malachim – The Malachim were formed as a quasi-Hasidic group. The group claims to recognize the teachings of the first four rebes of Chabad, thus rivaling the later Chabad rebbes. The Malachim's first and only rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Avraham Dov Ber Levine haCohen (1859/1860–1938), also known as "The Malach" (lit. "the angel"), was a follower of the fourth and fifth rebbes of Chabad.[103][104][105] While Levine did not leave a successor, the Malachim group continues to maintain a yeshiva and minyan in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

See also


Further reading
  • Dein, Simon and Dawson, Lorne L. "The 'Scandal' of the Lubavitch Rebbe: Messianism as a Response to Failed Prophecy," Journal of Contemporary Religion, 23,2 (2008), 163-180.
  • Drake, Carolyn. National Geographic )February, 2006).
  • Ehrlich, Avrum M. Leadership in the Habad Movement: a Critical Evaluation of Habad Leadership, History, and Succession, Jason Aronson, 2000. (ISBN 0-7657-6055-X)
  • Feldman, Jan L. Lubavitchers As Citizens: A Paradox of Liberal Democracy, Cornell University Press, 2003 (ISBN 0-8014-4073-4)
  • Fishkoff, Sue. The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, Schocken, 2003 (ISBN 0-8052-4189-2)
  • Heilman, Samuel and Menachem Friedman. The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson (Princeton University Press; 2010) 400 pages
  • Hoffman, Edward. Despite All Odds: The Story of Lubavitch. Simon & Schuster, 1991 (ISBN 0-671-67703-9)
  • Jacobson, Simon. Toward A Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe, William Morrow, 2002 (ISBN 0-06-051190-7)
  • Katz, Maya Balakirsky, "Trademarks of Faith: "Chabad and Chanukah in America"," Modern Judaism, 29,2 (2009), 239-267.
  • Kravel-Tovi, Michal, "To see the invisible messiah: Messianic socialization in the wake of a failed prophecy in Chabad," Religion, 39,3 (2009), 248-260.
  • ISBN 0826605400)
  • Challenge: an encounter with Lubavitch-Chabad, Lubavitch Foundation of Great Britain, 1973 ISBN 0-8266-0491-9
  • Mindel, Nissan. The philosophy of Chabad. Chabad Research Center, 1973 (ISBN 082660417X)
  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. On the Essence of Chasidus: A Chasidic Discourse by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch. Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, 2003 (ISBN 0-8266-0466-8)
  • Weiss, Steven I. The Forward (January 20, 2006)

External links

  • Chabad Lubavitch official website
  • Chabad Lubavitch on the web
    • About Chabad-Lubavitch
    • Global Chabad-Lubavitch Centers and Institutions Directory
    • Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes (leaders)
  • Chabad on Campus
  • The philosophy behind Chabad's outreach
  • Lubavitch Archives — Chabad history on the web
  • The Chabad Library
  • Chabad Website about Moshiach
  • Virtual library of Chabad books in Hebrew
  • Official website of Jewish Community Chabad Odessa (Ukraine)
  • Official website of Jewish Community Chabad Kherson (Ukraine)
News sites
  • Lubavitch News Service
  • Chabad News and Events
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