As the 27th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory approaches—preparations are underway for a livestreamed event that will highlight the Rebbe’s teachings on resilience and self-empowerment. The message is all the more relevant as the world emerges from a difficult pandemic year filled with challenges.
Throughout the world, the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit on 3 Tammuz—corresponding this year to Sunday June 13—will be marked by communal events, good deeds and personal introspection as the Rebbe’s impact on Jewish people around the globe—and the Rebbe’s moral and ethical imprint on the world at large—continues to be felt in a deeply meaningful way by so many.
This introspection will be channeled by a selection of Jewish leaders and people of influence during a worldwide live streamed event titled: Unfazed – A Symphony of Living Voices, Story & Song. More than 300 Jewish communities will join the event, which will take place Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m. EDT and is presented by Chabad.org and Merkos Suite 302. Thousands of more individuals are expected to log on from home on chabad.org.
The event, which will be hosted by Ari Hoffman and Chabad emissaries Rivka Slonim and Rabbi Dov Greenberg, will include greetings from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’lnyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and will feature a lineup of speakers from across the spectrum of Jewish life and experience, as well as acclaimed musical talents Itzhak Perlman and Shulem Lemmer. The speakers will share their own journeys of resilience and express how the Rebbe’s teachings continue to affect their lives today.
Elisha Wiesel, the only child of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, carries the torch of his father’s legacy today. He will share the Rebbe’s message of perseverance, as experienced by his father. In the early 1960s, Elie Wiesel visited the Rebbe for the first time. Typically, a yechidus—as meetings with the Rebbe were referred to—would last several minutes. Wiesel’s lasted almost an entire night.
As Wiesel related in his Memoirs: “ ‘Rebbe,’ I asked, ‘how can you believe in G‑d after Auschwitz?’ He looked at me in silence for a long moment, his hands resting on the table. The he replied, in a soft, barely audible voice, ‘How can you not believe in G‑d after Auschwitz?’ ” Wiesel would go on to speak of that night as a turning point.
The Rebbe’s words to Wiesel that night taught him perseverance, in faith and in action. And his son will share that message.
‘The Rebbe Has Given Us a Mission’
Dina Hurwitz can speak to a level of resilience that few are challenged to maintain. After her husband, Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, was diagnosed with ALS in 2013, they made the decision to live life to its fullest, despite the tremendous challenges brought on by the debilitating disease.
“We came to the realization that it’s important to live while you’re alive and live as many dreams as we can, enjoy as much of it as we can, make as many memories as we can,” Dina Hurwitz told Chabad.org in the midst of a trip that saw her husband travel 3,000 miles to celebrate his son’s Bar Mitzvah.
“The Rebbe has given us a mission; a dream in life that makes life worth living,” she said. “A dream of helping people, of connecting people through Torah, through shared circumstances, through love and understanding. I’m really very grateful for that because it’s given both Yitzi and me a purpose in the struggles that we have.”
Living Life Unfazed
Michal Oshman is a TikTok executive and author who overcame debilitating anxiety to succeed in her life, and she did so by channeling the Rebbe’s inspiration and teachings. She shares her journey in her recently published book, What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid (DK/Penguin Random House, 2021). Michal Oshman’s book leads readers—young and old—through a comprehensive process to see their own limitless potential, based on practical Jewish wisdom culled from the Rebbe’s teachings.
To audiences around the world, Oshman shares how the Rebbe’s teachings taught her to live life unfazed by the very real challenges she faced and how she has used those lessons as a springboard to success.
‘A Rabbi Who Is an Optimist Taught Me Optimism’
David Luchins served on the staff of US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan for twenty years. He was at Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s retirement party and he relates how the rebbe taught her to be unfazed by those who discriminated against her.
As the first black congresswoman, Chisholm faced racial discrimination which led to her being appointed to the Agricultural Committee of the House of Representatives—a move that was transparently designed to denigrate this representative of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan—a thoroughly urban area.
“She said she was very depressed, very upset,” Luchins related. Then she got a phone call: the Rebbe wanted to see her. During their meeting, Chisholm related, the Rebbe told her, “I know you’re very upset,” to which she replied, “I am upset; I’m insulted. What should I do?”
“And he said, ‘What a blessing God’s given you! This country has so much surplus food and there are so many hungry people—you can use this gift that God’s given you to feed hungry people. Find a creative way to do it.’ ”
Chisholm went on to expand the Food Stamps program and helped create WIC, the supplemental food program for mothers and young children. “I owe this because a rabbi who is an optimist taught me optimism; taught me that what you may think is a challenge is a gift from G‑d,” said Chisholm.
Tzemach Feller, Chabad.org/news
All are invited to join Unfazed – A Symphony of Living Voices, Story & Song on Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m. EDT