Today is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, aka the Chabad Rebbe. Whether you think that Chabad is the greatest thing ever or that Chabad secretly thinks the Rebbe was the messiah, you have to admit that Reb. Schneerson had a gigantic impact on how religious Jews engage with secular Jews…and frankly, how Jewish people deal with the outside world all together.
In his honor, I give you the three things that I learned from Chabad:
Don’t Call It Outreach, But Make Sure To Do It
The Rebbe taught that Chabadniks should never use the term kiruv, or outreach, to promote their work in the Jewish community. Outreach implies that there are insiders who are (duh!) “reaching out” to those on the outside. The Rebbe explained that this hierarchy was wrong: that it puts one set of Jews as higher on the Great Jew Ladder over others, and that everyone was equal in the eyes of God. I like that.
Don’t Judge, At Least Not Openly
In my conversations with Chabadniks, the one thing everyone says that they love about Chabad is that they do not judge. Frankly, that’s a load of nonsense. Everyone judges everyone all the time! What people really mean (and what Chabad really does) is to set aside open judgement of others. The motto of Chabad can be best summed up as: we don’t get in the way of you being Jewish incorrectly, but if you ever want to do it right, we’re here for you.
Technology Is Everything
Chabad was the first Jewish org to radically embrace the internet. I will be the first to admit that a major amount of my research for articles starts with Chabad’s website. While PunkTorah goes further with using technology and the sacred with OneShul and The G-d Project, it must be said that Chabad laid the groundwork.