I got a new phone. A fancy pants smart one. You know, the ones you talk to for a few minutes when you open it up, then look at it and say “now what?”. Well it came with brand-spankin'-new phone number. It’s 510-309-7701.
510 because Berkeley rocks.
309 because t-mobile.
770 because Chabad.
1 because 1 is Hashem. In the heavens and the earth. Ooh aah.
770? huh? Chabad? huh? Good questions (though poorly articulated).
Well, you see, many years ago, when Europe was on fire, and the future of Torah-true Jewry was questionable, the Previous Chabad Rebbe parked himself and the remnants of the Chabad Chassidic dynasty smack-dab in middle of upper-middle-class Brooklyn.
His message? “America iz nisht anderesh” America is no different. People thought that he was a bit crazy. America is not Europe, Judaism must look and act different. The old ways were out. The new post-war consumerism was in. Spirituality was outdated. But the Rebbe had a different idea.
Well much has changed since then, but Judaism and Chassidism has more than flourished. Chabad went from an almost-gone remnant of quainter days past, to the largest Jewish organization. Ever. With families stationed in over 80 countries, helping and teaching those less knowledgable. Spreading the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings. Showing how G-d and the Torah are relevant. More than relevant. Pertinent. Needed.
And the heart of all this is and was that first purchase in Crown Heights. 770 Eastern Parkway. It’s where the Rebbe answered tens of thousands of letters to people across all sorts of spectrums. It’s where the Rebbe initiated the programs and campaigns that would change the face of world Jewry. It’s where the Rebbe would teach, lead, pray. Where he would meet with people until ridiculous hours in the mornings. Talking, giving advice, blessings, answers.
And it’s where we reconnect. If not the actual place, the concept. The idea that there is a Rebbe who genuinely cares about every. single. Jew. Really really cares.
Whenever I get some time in New York I spend some time there, learning, praying, and hopefully snapping some photos. Here are some.
I also got a little tour of the offices upstairs. Where the gears are set in motion. From publishing previously unpublished material (you could see the hand-written notes), to outreach, to education etc.
For more reading about Chabad and the Rebbe I HIGHLY suggest “Rebbe” by Joseph Telushkin, and “Turning Judaism Outwards: A Biography of the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson” by Chaim Miller.