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Outreach Explained

Outreach Explained

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 Chabad Outreach

The central teaching of the founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) was a concern and love for each individual. This theme was taken up by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the founder of Chabad. A pivotal theme in his Tanya is the idea of Love of One's Fellow. He cites the Sage Hillel, who declared this teaching "is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary".

outreach2.jpgThis central idea in Chabad thought leads to practical concern for the physical wellbeing of others, and also for their spiritual wellbeing. The application of this ideal in the context of the 20th century leads to what we call 'outreach'.

To some extent Chabad-Lubavitch engaged in outreach activities in pre-war Europe and the USA. However it was during the 1940s and, in particular, after Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became Rebbe in 1950, that the concept 'outreach' became synonymous with Lubavitch.

The particular significance of this concept was that at that time many Jewish leaders were frightened of the risk of diluting the Judaism of the small remnant of knowledgable orthodox Jews who had survived the Holocaust. Many advised focusing on consolidation of orthodoxy rather than expending time and energy on those Jews who were not observing Jewish law. The Rebbe sought to counter this attitude, through numerous talks, Torah commentaries and letters, presenting outreach as an important Mitzvah and, indeed, as the need of the time.

In 1967 the Rebbe launched the Tefilin Campaign. Lubavitch followers and other sympathisers asked Jewish men and boys to put on Tefilin, even if just once, and say the Shema. The Zohar declares that there is an infinite difference between a man who has never put on Tefilin and one who has put them on just once. Of course putting on Tefilin once would often lead to proper regular observance of this Mitzvah.

This was followed by a series of further campaigns during the 1970s. Eventually there were ten Mitzvah campaigns which provide an easy route for access to traditional Judaism. They are: Love of One's Fellow; Jewish Education for oneself and others; Torah study; Tefilin; Mezuzah; Giving Charity; Having Jewish Books; Kashrut; Lighting Shabbat Candles; Family Purity (Mikveh).

The 'Mitzva Tank' concept was developed as a way to spread the observance of these Mitzvot. The Mitzva Tank is a mobile caravan with leaflets and a team who will help a man put on Tefilin on the spot, and distribute leaflets and information about the other Mitzvot.

The Chabad House provides a centre where these and all other Mitzvot are promoted. During the 1980s there was a swift proliferation of Chabad Houses so that they now exist all over the world. Each one has as its central aim the strengthening of the Jewish observance and knowledge of the Jews in the locality.

outreach.jpgAt the same time a variety of Chabad organisations were being set up for the education of men and women who wished to increase their Jewish knowledge. Every Chabad centre had 'outreach' style classes, and the first 'Baal Teshuvah Yeshivot' were created in Brooklyn (Hadar HaTorah), Morristown (Tiferes Bachurim) and within the general Lubavitch Yeshivah at Kfar Chabad, Israel. The earliest equivalent Lubavitch Women's seminaries were in Minnesota (Beis Chana), Brooklyn (Machon Chana) and Tsfat (Machon Alta).

In the Chabad view, outreach remains 'the need of the time' and is a central activity not only of specific emissaries, teachers and activists but also of the ordinary member of the Lubavitch community. Through warm hospitality, concern and genuine feeling, together with creativity, organisation and dedication, many hundreds of thousands of Jews world-wide have been helped to discover or to strengthen their connection with their Jewish roots

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