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December 08, 1989 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LUBAVITCH

One Year Later

ARI L. GOLDMAN

Special to The Jewish News

After the fallou
over Who Is
A Jew, has the
Chasidic group
suffered or
prospered?

Lubavitch leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

The looming
question for
Lubavitch is
what will
happen after
Rabbi
Schneerson's
reign.

28

I

n the heat of the Israeli elections last
year, one religious group above all
others bore the brunt of the criticism
for the chaos resulting from the strug-
gle over the question of Who Is A Jew.
It was the Lubavitch Chasidim, and,
to the leaders of many American Jewish
organizations, they became "the enemy." In
the process, Lubavitch was accused of
fanaticism, sowing divisiveness and of pro-
moting Messianism.
But now, just one year later, it appears
that Lubavitch has regained its stature as a
respected, if not mainstream, member of
the American Jewish community. While it
still has its detractors, Lubavitch has per-
severed.
"Lubavitch has bounced back," said

Ari Goldman covers religion for the
New York Times. This article was made
possible by a grant from the Fund for
Journalism on Jewish Life, a project of
the CRB Foundation of Montreal, Cana-
da. Any views expressed are solely those
of the author.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1989

Steven Bayme, director of Jewish commu-
nal affairs for the national American Jewish
Committee.
The remarkable reversal has taken place,
in part, because Lubavitch has halted its
vigorous public advocacy of Who Is A Jew,
but, more importantly, because of a core of
lay support, most of it non-Orthodox, that
was unshakable throughout the controver-
sy. These supporters praise Lubavitch's
wide variety of good works, both religious
and social, in behalf of Jews around the
world.
As in an old Chasidic tale ; it seems that
the good works of Lubavitch came back to
argue in its favor when it found itself in dis-
tress.
The most dramatic sign of the unflagging
support for Lubavitch comes every Sunday
morning outside the office of the Lubavit-
cher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. By
the thousands, men and women from across
the religious spectrum of Judaism line up
for a brief moment with the Rebbe in which
they receive a dollar bill and a blessing.
"Brocho V'hatzlocho," the 87-year-old
Rebbe intones as his blue eyes meet each

visitor. Blessings and good fortune.
The bedrock of support is also evident in
the sentiments of people like Martin Stein
of Milwaukee, the national chairman of U-
nited Jewish Appeal, one of the groups that
fought against the Lubavitch agenda in Is-
rael last year. "I disagreed with their ap-
proach on Who Is A Jew," Stein said in an
interview. "I think they made a mistake.
But that doesn't negate the wonderful work
they are doing for Jews all over. No one else
is reaching out to Jews the way that they
are."
Stein, a major financial backer of Lubav-
itch, spoke of Rabbi Schneerson's involve-
ment in the Who Is A Jew debate with
great respect. "The fact is that the Rebbe
did this because he loves Jews, not because
he hates Jews."

Into The Fray

That is not how the issue was perceived
when it erupted last fall. Who Is A Jew is
a shorthand for a controversial amend-
ment to the Law of Return, a law that

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