The Rebbe's Arrival in the US, 770 Eastern Parkway Crown Heights

Published on 4 November 2022 at 13:09

In 1929 the Rebbe spend almost a year in the US in support of the Russian Jewry there, the Rebbe received a hero' s welcome, he visited major Jewish communities, in Baltimore and Boston, in the west St Louis, and the Rebbe received another warm welcome in both Chicago and Detroit. Thoughout his visit, he gained a lot of undrstanding of the challenges the American Jewry were facing.

His visit did set the stage for a revolution, which would start a decade later, after his escape from Nazi Europe. During this visit, he strengthend Agudas Chassidei Chabad, wich Morris Kramer started in 1924. In total there were some eighty Nusach Ari Shuls, who followed Chabad custom, their members were mostly Russian immigrants who had ancestral connection with Chabad.

Just before the Rebbe returned to Europe, he went to president Hoover, to thank him for his help in saving him from the death sentence in Russia.

A decade later, at 57th Street Pier, were the American Chassidim celebrated the Rebbe's escape from war in Europe. It was a morning in March of 1940 when a delegation of important Chassidic leaders went to the ship to welcome the Rebbe, among were the Kramer family, Rabbis Shmuel Levitin, Shlomo Aaron Kazarnovsky and Israel Jacobson. Levitin was a scholar who had studied in the orginal Yeshiva in Lubavitch, and was sent to the US. Before the war as a " Shadar" a Shluchan Derabanan, this is a private emissary of the Rebbe. Levitin had also been send by the 5th Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, in realizing Jewish education in the very remote Russian Georgia, during his stay there he was arrested by the communists and sentence to three years in prison.

Reb Shmuel's wife and some if his family members who were trapped at the time in Poland,lost their lives in the Holocaust. After the Rebbe's arrival in the US, Reb Shmuel would become the Mashpiah, this is a spiritual leader of students at the time in Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Rabbi Shlomo Aaron Kazarnovsky arrived in 1924, he was a key figure in the Rebbe's efforts and arranging to purchase the Rebbe's home in Crown Heights. He was a very good fundraiser and played a leadership role in the Chabad devolpement.

On the ship the Rebbe received the Chassidim delegation one by one in his Stateroom. It was when Israel Jacobson entered, that the Rebbe told him " The suffering I endured in prison, do not compare to the torment of the 12 weeks under there rule " but now we have to take care of formalities and get to work,  he went on and told him that Torah and Yiddishkeit was their work. The Rebbe's arrival in the US was joyful moment, as he was wheelchair bound, he did not walk of the ship like he done eleven years earlier, but he was radiant and nodoby knew at that time that the Rebbe had been diagnosed and suffering from with Multiple Sclerosis for seven years. It was at this time the Rebbe was wearing his Shtreimel, only for Shabbat, Holidays and special festive occassions, and this was one of these occasions, the Rebbe was wearing his Shtreimel when wheeled of the ship.

The police had a hard time to control the crowd, as the Rebbe was the leader of the Jewish people.  They all came to welcome the Rebbe,it was a few hours later in a hotel in Manhatten,that the Rebbe said he wanted Jewish education to intensify, and therefore to establish schools and yeshivas, it was hard work but the Rebbe referred that once on a heated disagreement, when was that they were weak, physically, that we have to strengh, but he want on saying that the Aibisther is after all Who gives strengh to the weary.

It was months after his arrival in NY that 770 Eastern Parkway was purchased, and a commitee of Chassidim headed with the attorney Sam Kramer and Rabbi Shlomo Aaron Kazanarvosky organized the campaign in raising funds. 770 Eastern Parkway was located in  upper- class Crown Heights, a three story building, the Rebbe moved into the second floor,  the Yeshiva in Beth Medrash on the ground floor. Chassidim began to call the new center of Lubavitch " 770" .

The location in Crown Heights a expression of the Rebbe's vision to change American Jewry, the Rebbe's residence was in Brownville, this is the centre of Orthodox Judaism, at that time it was called Jerusalem of America. Instead the Rebbe settled in a neighborhood, which represented Jews making their first steps away from observamce, he was making it his first priority in his campaign to change Jewish life in the US.

Just a block away from the Rebbe's new home, was the Brooklyn Jewish center, this was one of the well known Conservative tempels in de country, they had more than two thousand members, and this had an influence on the neighborhood. The Conservative Rabbi Isaac Leventhal did not want the Rebbe down the block, and was claiming that property values would go down and antisemitism would rise, if the Rebbe moves in.

The workmen's circle, a center of the Yiddish secular movement, in President street, was just two blocks away from the Rebbe's new home, an Israeli writer, M. Nirberger wrote " The Rebbe's move's into one of the most affluent and secular neighborhood was intentional".

The Yeshiva was the crown jewel of the Rebbe's efforts, and would eventually be the largest network of college- level Rabbinical Yeshivas in the US., the vision was beyond all others small Orthodox communities. Many who fled Europe and arrived in the US established too centers of Jewish education, they created small fortress of Torah that included some ingagement in larger communities. These communities were similar to those in Europe and were reconstructed and trough encouragement an elite group of Scholars in Citadel of Torah, in the hope to ensure survival of Judaism in the US, as Jewish education is essential in Jewish survival, and in the Rebbe's vision this included all Jews. Every Jewish child must be placed in a Jewish school.

There was a desire to withdraw from the broader society, which started in the mid- nineteens century, when the Yeshiva system had been under attack in Europe. First there was the Haskalah, which drew many students away from study of Torah, and secondly, new ideologies emerged and promised to be the solution to antisemitism in Europe, Zionism offered a secular homeland, communism equalty for all and socialism workers rights, these ideologies drew Jews away from Yeshivas and observance, when arrving in the US, many Jews disrecared there observance in quest of the American dream.

The Rebbe 's new strategy of the US received little support from secular Jewish establishments, from Reform and Conservative movements was a major force in Jewish lives.

The Rebbe's theme was " America Iz Nisht Anderish " just as Yiddiskeit flourished in Europe, so too could this in the US. In 1943 the Rebbe established a organisation that would have great impact on Jewish life, Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel, the mandate of Merkos was Jewish education and Machne focused on  the needs of observant community. 

The Rebbe's second son- inlaw, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was known at the time as Ramash, the Rabbi had escaped the horrors of Nazi - controlled France via Vichy to Portugal, arriving in the US in spring of 1941.