The Making of a Shliach

“Be thorough,” she told the Alef-Beis teacher. “Be thorough, because each of these little boys will use their knowledge. Perhaps one day they will be a rabbi, a baal koreh, a rov in their own community.”

Mrs. Bassie Raskin is the Head of the Lubavitch Nursery in Stamford Hill. The nursery is the first step in the path so many young boys and girls have taken. A path that will see them take posts across the country and around the globe, spreading warmth, love, and Yiddishkeit wherever they go.

Oftentimes, the Chabad shliach and his wife — the shlucha — are the only observant couple for miles around. Small wonder, then, that already from an early age focus is placed on giving them an education that will prepare them for these roles.

This high standard of education continues on through primary school and secondary school or yeshivah. This year, utilising a comprehensive study and review programme developed locally, over 75 percent of students in Lubavitch Yeshiva Ketana memorised an entire masechta of Gemara. The unique curriculum has since been adopted by over 20 other yeshivos across Europe, America and Eretz Yisrael.

Graduates move on to Yeshiva Gedolah Lubavitch, led by renowned gaon and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Hertz shlita. Many will go on to receive ordination as a rabbi. Not only proficient in the laws of kashrus, adept in intricacies of Shabbos law, and Jewish life-cycle events, they also get practice in teaching Torah at all levels. Some will spend additional years in study to be ordained as a dayan, versed in Jewish civil and marital law.

 

An Oasis of Judaism

You wouldn’t blame Rabbi Shmuli and Rivkie Pink if they described their hometown as a spiritual wasteland.

Fifty kilometres from the next Chabad centre, and over 160 kilometres from the Jewish communities in both London and Manchester, it is not easy being an observant Jew in Leicester, UK.

But the Pinks don’t look at it that way. They’re too busy sowing seeds of growth.

They lead a vibrant congregation composed of Jews from all walks of life. There’s a modern, fully equipped Mikva, enabling the laws of family purity to be kept. There’s even a kosher shop; for the first time in decades, challah and glatt kosher chicken can be purchased in town.

And they do all this while raising their 10 children up as young shluchim, each with an integral role in the family’s Shlichus.

“People ask me all the time how it is that my children are able to grow as frum Yidden and shluchim so far from all the things other Jewish children take for granted,” relates Rabbi Pink. “Imagine having to drive an hour for a playdate!” But my kids grow up knowing that they aren’t just regular kids — they’re shluchim! Our Rosh Hashanah cards are signed by myself, my wife, and each of our children. They feel empowered to do the right thing, to lead by example.”

“We are instilled with the Torah view of unconditional love for every Jew, and a simultaneous uncompromising devotion to Torah and halacha,” Rabbi Pink continues, “The Baal Shem Tov taught that a neshamah may spend a lifetime on this earth just to do a favour for another. That’s what we’re here for: To help our fellow Jew, one favour at a time.”

 

Passing it Forward

Many of these rabbis, both those educated in London and Manchester and those raised on shlichus will go on to become teachers themselves, passing the knowledge they have gained onwards. Throughout the UK, hundreds of people of all backgrounds join professionally developed courses offered by Chabad’s Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (jli).

Jli set out to find out what would draw people in; where does Torah intersect with their careers, hobbies, and interests? In a study, 82% of Jews expressed a particular interest in law, finance, medicine, or psychology. Annually, at least one of the three new six-week courses that jli produce focuses on one of those fields, in many cases accredited by the respective profession’s recognised associations. Many students come for a course focused on their specialist field, and enjoy the learning so much that they keep coming back to courses in other topics.

The jli courses, which are presented using latest developments in technology and pedagogic techniques, have become popular in many of the Jewish communities throughout the UK.

Also popular are the jli courses geared towards women, which have also been taking place in Stamford Hill over the past few months. As popular as these jli courses are, they are a fraction of the hundreds of hours of Torah classes available each week throughout the country.

From beginner to scholar, there are shiurim and classes for everyone. Whatever the subject, you’ll find friendly faces and engaging topics!

 

Lubavitch Beats Inflation

In 1959, a litre of petrol cost 5p. For another 5p you could buy a loaf of bread, and for 13p, a pint of milk. The prices for milk, bread and petrol may have changed, but there’s one price that has stayed the same for nearly 60 years: The entrance fee to High Holidays services at Chabad Lubavitch in the UK. It was free then, and it’s still free now.

"The gates of Heaven are open on Rosh Hashanah, and Hashem accepts prayers from everyone," said Rabbi Bentzi Sudak of Lubavitch UK. “That serves as our inspiration to keep our doors open to the entire community."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory, insisted that authentic Judaism be made accessible to all Jews. During the High Holidays, accessibility can translate into different forms for different people. For one it could mean a non-judgmental atmosphere, for another affordability of the services, and for a third a beginner’s ability to follow along. Chabad’s goal is to remove the barriers of entry, and encourage each and every Jew to actively participate in these days of holiness and introspection.

Going the Extra Mile

What does a Yiddishe Bobbe do when her grandson is undergoing chemotherapy in England and could use a visit and some words of encouragement, but she’s in South Africa, 18 hours away by plane? She calls Chabad, of course!

Rabbi Asher Deren, Chabad shliach on the west coast of South Africa, relates:

“A few weeks ago, I got a call from a friend of ours living near Cape Town, asking if I could possibly help a friend of hers from Hout Bay, also near Cape Town. This friend’s grandson, Eitan, lives in Cornwall, England. He is undergoing chemo at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Could I please find someone from Chabad Lubavitch in the UK to go visit him?

“ ‘Sure,’ I said. I get these phone calls all the time.

“Then I checked Google Maps and realised that the only nearby Chabad House, or any form of Yiddishkeit for that matter, was between three and four hours’ drive away from this outlying city. My desperate attempts to find someone to go visit an unknown Jew in the hospital so far away weren't going that well, until I got on the phone with Rabbi Mendy Singer from Chabad in Bristol.

“As shluchim have done for decades, without question Rabbi Singer set out to visit this neshamah in need of love and assistance.

“The response I got back from this young man’s grandparents in Hout Bay conveyed feelings of being simply overwhelmed by the Ahavas Yisroel of someone travelling all the way out to Cornwall just to spend a few moments of connection and moral support with their grandson Eitan and his family.”

Eitan’s story is hardly unique. At 60 Chabad institutions in every major city in the UK, every university campus in the country, at hospitals, prisons and airports, Chabad is there to share Yiddishkeit with true Ahavas Yisroel.

Chabad Rabbi Hershi Vogel serves as a chaplain in Heathrow Airport. Trusted by airport officials and Jewish travellers alike, he says he is frequently called upon to clarify misunderstandings and bridge gaps, helping to accommodate religious requirements while assisting immigration officials as well. “I’m often called upon to vouch for people, to help them with their unique needs,” says Vogel, “when it seems there’s no-one to turn to, Chabad will be there.”

A Pioneering Visionary

Every mission needs a visionary, and Lubavitch UK is no exception. When Rabbi Nachman Sudak z”l came to the UKin 1959 as the Rebbe’s shliach, the word kiruv or even Baal Teshuva would have drawn a blank from many who now embrace it. Unassuming, yet unwavering, Rabbi Sudak attracted Jews from various backgrounds, drawn by his authenticity, spiritually empowering message, and non-judgemental acceptance of every Jew. For over 55 years, Rabbi Sudak stood at the helm of Lubavitch UK. After his passing, his vision and dedication to his Shlichus continues to guide Chabad Lubavitch UK, as it continues his work in realising the vision of the Rebbe to bring warmth, love, and Yiddishkeit to every Jew.