What is Chabad-Lubavitch?

Chabad-Lubavitch is a Jewish movement that began over 250 years ago in Eastern Europe. The movement is rooted in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century and grew from the teachings of the founder of Chassidut, the Baal Shem Tov who was known for his boundless love for every Jew. With much personal sacrifice, the Chabad leaders, or Rebbes, fought for the survival of Jewish life under the oppressive communist government.


Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia where the movement was based. After the Holocaust, Chabad headquarters were moved to Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York and were run out of the famous building—widely referred to just as “770”— located at 770 Eastern Parkway. Under the leadership of the final Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Chabad expanded to become a global presence.

According to Chabad.org, “The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chochmah—wisdom, binah—comprehension and da’at—knowledge.” Chabad’s philosophy and approach, which is based on the teachings of Chassidut, reveal the inner dimensions of the Torah and “teaches understanding and recognition of the Creator, the role and purpose of creation, and the importance and unique mission of each creature.”

Today, over 3,000 Chabad centers are operating in more than 65 countries, with new centers constantly opening, including in Israel – read more about Chabad in the pro Israel news site. In many places around the world, Chabad is the most active, and sometimes the only source of Judaism for the Jews who live or visit these communities.

Where in the World are the Chabad Emissaries?

Chabad emissaries and Chabad houses can literally be found all over the world. These dedicated individuals and families make their homes in distant locations far away from family, friends, and the comforts and familiarity of home because they are committed to helping Jews—whether they are permanent residents or visitors—in the communities in which they establish their center. Here is a partial list of just some of the more than 3,330 places around the world where you can find a Chabad center:

Goa, India

Asuncion, Paraguay

Curitiba, Brazil

Hamburg, Germany

Moscow, Russia


Oslo, Norway

Leeds, England



Cancun, Mexico

Central Lucerne, Switzerland

Mariupol, Ukraine

Katmandu, Nepal

Salta, Argentina

Noord, Aruba

Kinshasa, Congo

Yerevan, Armenia

St. George, Grenada

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Singapore, Singapore

And many many more!

Chabad’s Global Presence: the Shluchim-Emissaries

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the final Chabad Rebbe, left an everlasting contribution to world Jewry: the over 3,300 Chabad centers that have been established in more than 65 countries. What is even more incredible is that approximately every ten days a new Chabad center opens. These Chabad centers are run by Chabad emissaries, or shluchim—a husband and wife team who are dedicated to the spiritual and material needs of the entire Jewish community which they serve whether they are in New York, Israel, Germany, Brazil, Vietnam or on a college campus.

Each Chabad center provides different services depending on the needs of the individuals and the community it serves. Generally, however, a Chabad house offers Torah classes, lectures, Shabbat meals, social gatherings, religious services, holiday and special events, as well as volunteer services for those in need. Notably, and in contrast to many other institutions, participating in Chabad house services are free and many other events are typically free of charge as well.

The Rebbe: Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)

The seventh and final Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is thought to have been one of the most—if not the most—influential Jewish leaders of modern times. Largely referred to simply and lovingly as the “Rebbe” by his numerous followers and supporters around the world, the Rebbe is known for the tremendous caring that he displayed for the welfare of every single Jew despite their affiliation, level of observance, or where they were in the world.

He was born in 1902 in Nikolaev, Russia to his esteemed parents Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson. Already from a young age the Rebbe showed exceptional talent and intelligence and was soon considered to be a Torah prodigy. In 1929, he married the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe’s daughter, Chaya Mushka in a wedding in Warsaw.

After studying at the University of Berlin and at the Sorbonne in Paris, in 1941 the Rebbe and his wife made their way to America after having escaped from the Holocaust in Europe. In America, the Rebbe immediately initiated a campaign to spread the teachings of Torah and Chassidut, and launched various programs to help Jews in every way.

The Rebbe was known far and wide as a brilliant thinker, an insightful leader, a visionary and a pragmatist. Yet, above all else, he will be remembered for his sincere love of every Jew; he asserted that each Jew regardless of age, sex, level of observance, position in society, or any other factor, has a unique and meaningful role to play in this world and is a crucial part of God’s creation. Moreover, the Rebbe had the rare ability to relate meaningfully to each person; he advised prime ministers and presidents and discussed the nuances of fields such as medicine and science with experts, but he could also relate with warmth and love to young children and people with struggling with problems of all kinds. He connected with everyone he met because he had the uncanny ability to see the immense value and potential, the Godly spark, in each person, and helped the person to become aware of and actualize his or her potential.

In 1950, after his father-in-law passed away, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson reluctantly accepted the leadership role of Rebbe. Under his direction the Chabad movement flourished, its activities began expanding, and Chabad houses opened in cities and university campuses across the world. On March 2, 1992, the Rebbe suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak and on June 12, 1994 the Rebbe passed away. Although the Rebbe is no longer alive, his legacy lives on through his teachings and the network of Chabad houses and emissaries stationed throughout the world who spread his wisdom, love, and concern for the welfare of the Jewish people.

The First Six Chabad Rebbes

Up until 1950, the Chabad movement was led by six Rebbes. After one Rebbe passed away, he was succeeded by a new Rebbe, either a son or a son-in-law. The Rebbes are as follows:

1. The founder of Chabad was Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi who was a scholar, pillar of the community, a magnificent composer of music, a Talmudic master, and a spiritual leader whose teachings taught the simplest to the most learned Jew how to establish a relationship with God. He is the author of the Tanya, a fundamental and widely studied work that encapsulates Chabad philosophy and teachings of Chasidut.

2. Rabbi Dov Ber, born in 1773, was the second Rebbe of Chabad and is known as the Mitteler Rebbe. He was the son of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman and he is known for turning the small Russian town of Lubavitch into the center of Chabad headquarters. He showed brilliance as a young child, and became a teacher of advanced students by age 16. He was also a prolific writer who added many volumes to Chabad teachings, philosophy and mysticism. He loved music, opened a yeshiva in Lubavitch, and with much personal sacrifice, dedicated himself to helping the Jews in Russia with all matters both physical and spiritual. He passed away on his birthday at age 54.

3. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the third Chabad Rebbe, is widely referred to as the “Tzemach Tzedek” after the title of one his publications. He was born in 1789 and exhibited dazzling intelligence as a youngster. Rabbi Menachem Mendel rose to the position of Rebbe after the passing of the Mitteler Rebbe. He was a prolific writer, and also selflessly assisted the Russian Jews—going so far as to purchasing a large area of land near Minsk so Jews could live there in relative safety and earn a livelihood. He also worked diligently to rescue Jewish children who were kidnapped and forced to serve in the Russian army. He served for 38 years as Rebbe of Chabad until he passed away in 1866.

3. Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, known as the “Maharash,” was born in the small Russian town of Lubavitch in 1834. He was the youngest of the third Rebbe’s seven sons. He is known for offering guidance and inspiration to his students and followers and for writing many discourses on Chassidic teachings and philosophy. He also went to great lengths to pressure the Russian government to stop its incitement of pogroms against the Jews.

5. The fifth Chabad Rebbe was Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn, known by the acronym “Rashab,” who was born in the town of Lubavitch in 1860. He is famous for his brilliance and for his more than 2,000 discourses. He also initiated a campaign in which he sent out emissaries to isolated communities to educate the Jewish children. He passed away in 1920.

6. The sixth Rebbe was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. Born in 1880, he was an incredible leader despite the brutal challenges he faced in his life. He initiated a complex secret network to educate Jewish youth and perpetuate Jewish life in communist Russia. He suffered through pogroms as well as imprisonment, torture and exile for his selfless efforts on behalf of Russian Jewry. Due to international pressure, he was released by the communists and permitted to leave Russia. He eventually reached America where he relocated Chabad headquarters from Lubavitch to Brooklyn, New York. Nevertheless, the network of Jewish services he set up in Russia continued to operate while he was in America. In America, too, he worked tirelessly to infuse energy and Chassidic thought into Jewish life in post-World War II America. His daughter, Chaya Mushka, married Menachem Mednel Schneerson who after Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson’s passing in 1950, became the seventh and final Chabad Rebbe.

The Ba’al Shem Tov and Chabad

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov whose name means “master of the good name,” was the Eastern-European 18th century founder of a Jewish movement known as Chassidut. The philosophy of Chabad is rooted in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov is famous for employing a new approach and infusing new energy into Jewish thought after the bloody pogroms of the 17th century left the Jewish communities in Europe in devastation, despair and poverty. In the aftermath of the pogroms, a rift emerged between the educated and the simple Jews to the extent that the two groups stopped affiliating with each other and even prayed in different synagogues.

During this tumultuous time, Yisrael Baal Shem was born in a small Polish town to righteous parents. As he grew up, he became known within his circles as a scholar, teacher and healer who taught that the Torah demands that Jews serve God with optimism and joy. The Hebrew word “tov” which means good, was added to his name because of the love and kindness he expressed towards his fellow Jews.

It was not until 1734 that the Baal Shem Tov’s became widely regarded for his teachings. When he began openly disseminating his teachings, Jewish thought was revolutionized. The Baal Shem Tov’s point of view was that even the simplest Jew was created in the image of God and therefore was inherently holy, and that every Jew could serve God with joy. Jews from far and wide travelled to hear the Baal Shem Tov’s rejuvenating and groundbreaking words and to be in his holy presence.

Many of the finest Jewish minds of that time studied under the Baal Shem Tov and after his passing in 1760, they continued to spread his teachings throughout Europe. Yet, the Baal Shem Tov’s innovative teachings and approach were rejected by much of the traditional Jewish Talmudist movement who felt that his lessons and affections for simple and unlearned Jews were misguided. The discord between the two movements continued for many years, but eventually even many of the opponents of the Baal Shem Tov’s Chassidic thought began to value and respect his teachings.