Responsibility for our brethren

Cleveland Jewish News Opinion Commentary


Special to the CJN

Published: Friday, July 1, 2011 1:08 AM EDT 

Throughout history, Jews have been known to take responsibility for the well-being of our brethren. Whether we lived in the same village or on the other side of the world, we have always taken care of each other.  

In the 1970s, we demonstrated for Jews behind the Iron Curtain; today, we travel to Israel to show our solidarity with the Jews in Israel, and we always support Jewish causes. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory, whose yahrzeit is commemorated Tues., July 5, this year, introduced a new dimension to this feeling of responsibility for each other.  

The rebbe taught us that in addition to caring about the physical welfare of our brothers and sisters, we must also take responsibility for the spiritual well-being of every Jewish person – wherever they may be. When the High Holidays come around, it’s not enough to make sure your neighbor has enough to eat; we must ensure that he also has a place to pray. 

In the ’60s, a rabbi from Connecticut had a personal audience with the rebbe. This rabbi had been very instrumental in establishing the local Jewish day school and was well respected in his community. He asked the rebbe if he should make aliyah to Israel. The rebbe responded, “If you made up your mind to go, you have my blessing. But if you ask my opinion, I think you should stay in Connecticut.” The rebbe concluded, “There are plenty of rabbis in Israel. Connecticut needs you!” 
The rebbe inspired generations of young couples to leave their hometowns and go off into the world to share their Jewish experience with others. In my own family, many of my siblings moved to far-flung corners of the world just to be part of the building of a new Jewish community.  

If your travels take you to Shanghai, China; Anchorage, Alaska; Odessa, Ukraine; Paris, France; Hanover, Germany; Oceanside, Calif.; Vancouver, Wash.; Commerce, Mich.; as well as El Paso or Austin, Texas – stop by the local Chabad Center and send regards to my brother or sister! 

But sharing Judaism is not limited to my family or to my fellow rabbis. The rebbe’s vision was much broader. He taught us time and again that just as the physical welfare of the Jewish people is the business of every Jewish man and woman, so, too, we must all share the responsibility for the spiritual well-being of our brethren. This Friday night, share your Shabbat table with another Jew! 

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg is the spiritual leader of Solon Chabad.