Although many Hasidic sects exist today, Chabad-Lubavitch is by far the most well-known, because of its public profile. Starting in the 1950s, the group’s leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson–the seventh and last Chabad rebbe-emphasized outreach to non-observant Jews. To increase Jewish observance, he sent emissaries around the world to revive small communities, bring individuals to more traditional practice, and establish Jewish communities where none existed before.
Schneerson died in 1994 at the age of 91, after which media coverage of Chabad focused mostly on the belief of some Lubavitchers that the rebbe was the messiah and would come back from the grave as King Messiah. As the following article shows, there is another story of Chabad in the years since Schneerson’s death. Excerpted with permission from The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch (Schocken Books).
In the decade after Schneerson’s death, Chabad’s infrastructure grew faster than during his lifetime. Between 1994 and 2002, more than 610 new emissary couples took up their postings and more than 705 new Chabad institutions were opened, including 450 new facilities purchased or built from scratch, bringing the total number of institutions worldwide–synagogues, schools, camps, and community centers–to 2,766. In the year 2000, 51 new Chabad facilities were established in California alone.
Annual operating costs of Chabad’s empire today approach $1 billion. And that budget doesn’t include construction costs for new buildings, which have been going up at an astonishing rate since Schneerson’s passing: a $10 million synagogue in Bal Harbour, Florida; $25 million for a Chabad complex in San Diego; $20 million for a Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights; plus a $1 million Chabad center in Las Vegas, $2 million for American Friends of Lubavitch headquarters in Washington, D.C., $5 million for a day school in Pittsburgh, and $3 million for a community center in Montreal.
Chabad building projects around the world have kept pace with those of North America: a $15 million girls’ school outside Paris; a $14 million community center in Buenos Aires; plus soup kitchens in Brazil, synagogues in Germany, schools in Latvia and Lithuania, and orphanages in Ukraine. Chabad’s expansion into the former Soviet Union alone is phenomenal. In 1994 the movement maintained emissaries in just eight cities in Russia. By January 2002, Chabad had full-time emissaries placed in 61 cities across Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics, and Central Asia, with 13,000 children studying in their day schools and thousands more attending their kindergartens and summer camps….
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