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.