The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn obm, (also known by his initials as the Rebbe RAYYATZ) was an intrepid leader who confronted the challenges of maintaining and advancing Jewish life during the turbulent years that saw the fall of Czarist Russia and the rise of the new Bolshevik regime, and during the darkest days of World War II. He then launched a renaissance in Jewish life and Torah in – and from – the United States following the ravages of the Holocaust.
As a young man, during the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, the sixth Rebbe spearheaded the effort to bring matzo to Russian soldiers serving on the front in the Far East. Following the pogroms in the Pale of Jewish settlement, he traveled to Germany and Holland where he successfully enlisted the intercession of world leaders. Because of these activities on behalf of the Jewish community he was arrested by the Czarist regime four times between 1902-1911.
By the time he became the Rebbe in 1920, following the death of his father the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe (The Rebbe RASAHB), Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok was already recognized as a towering Jewish figure through his activities at the 1917 and 1918 Assemblies of Jewish Leaders in Moscow, as well as through his myriad efforts on behalf of beleaguered Jewish communities throughout Russia.
Following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Rebbe RAYYATZ defied the Soviet regime, and especially its notorious Jewish Yevsektzia, by fearlessly stoking the embers of Yiddishkeit under the lethal Communist boot. At the same time, recognizing the diminishing opportunities for Jewish learning under Soviet rule, he established a formidable Torah learning center in Warsaw, to which he eventually relocated in1934.
The Bolsheviks considered Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok a direct threat to official Soviet atheism, and had him arrested in Leningrad, and sentenced to death in 1927. Thanks to major foreign intervention, the death sentence was commuted to exile in the Ural Mountains, and ultimately to relocation in Riga where he, yet again, established a new Talmudical Seminary in 1929.
It was also in 1929 that he visited New York for the first time where he presciently planted the seeds for revitalizing Jewish life on American shores.
During the Nazi conquest of Poland and the devastating bombardment of Warsaw, the Rebbe RAYYATZ worked mightily to rescue as many Jews as possible before escaping to New York, where his first order of the day was the creation of a relief fund for European Jews, especially those in the Baltics and the USSR.
From his new headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, the Sixth Rebbe established a series of educational, publishing and outreach efforts that continue to serve as the fountainhead of Chabad-Lubavitch activity to this very day. They include the Central Talmudic Academy Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch, Machane Israel, Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, Beth Rivkah, Beth Sarah, and Mesibos Shabbos.
Additionally, the Rebbe RAYYATZ, recognizing the dire spiritual situation in North Africa and Australia, launched a network of Jewish schools to serve those communities, thereby enabling them to flourish to this day.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn passed away on Shabbat, 10 Shevat 1950, at which time the mantle of leadership was passed on to his son-in- law and successor, The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who played a pivotal role in the success of the Rebbe RAYYATZ’s efforts.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, is considered the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times; the single individual most responsible for stirring the conscience of world Jewry.
Born in 1902 in Nikolaev, Russia, The Rebbe was named after his great-grandfather, the third Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch.
In 1929 Rabbi Menachem Mendel married the sixth Rebbe’s daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. He later studied in Berlin and at the Sorbonne where his formidable knowledge of mathematics and the sciences blossomed.
The arrival of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin in the United States in 1941 marked the launching of sweeping new efforts toward bolstering and disseminating Torah, Judaism, and Chassidic teachings through the establishment of three central organizations under the Rebbe’s leadership: Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch (“Central Organization For Jewish Education”), Kehot Publication Society, and Machne Israel, a social services agency. With the publication of the Rebbe’s notations to Chassidic and kabbalistic treatises, as well his responsa on wide-ranging Torah subjects, the Rebbe’s genius was acclaimed by scholars everywhere.
In 1950, after the passing of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson ascended to the leadership of the Lubavitch movement thereby launching an unprecedented flowering of new Lubavitch institutions and outreach activities, and the establishments of a global network of Chabad Houses in cities and on campuses worldwide.
The Rebbe passed away 3 Tammuz 5754 (June, 12 1994), orphaning a generation.
With the Rebbe’s teachings and personal example as its guide, Lubavitch has expanded into a global presence. Small wonder then, that many ask, “What is it about his leadership that was — and, in so many ways, still is — so unique? Why do leading personalities of the day maintain such profound respect and admiration for him?”
Radiating a keen sense of urgency, the Rebbe demanded much from his followers, and even more from himself. The Rebbe led, above else, by example. He was a rare blend of prophetic visionary and pragmatic leader, synthesizing deep insight into the present needs of the Jewish people with a breadth of vision for its future. He charted the course of Jewish history by initiating as well as reacting to current events. His knowledge was encyclopedic, yet all his pronouncements and undertakings were rooted in our Holy Torah.
For the Rebbe, every Jew — indeed every human being — has a unique role to play in the greater scheme of things. He had an uncanny ability to meet everyone at their own level. The Rebbe advised Heads of State and leading professionals and corporate titans, yet spoke to small children with warm words and a fatherly smile.
Through his writings and videos, the Rebbe continues to teach and inspire. In each case the same strong, if subtle, message is imparted: “You are Divinely gifted with enormous strength and energy — actualize it!”
Help us continue his tradition — one that spans well over two centuries.