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July 1, 2014 11:37 pm

Twenty Years Later, the Rebbe’s Leadership Endures

avatar by Peter Kalms

The Rebbe. Photo: Wikipedia.

For those of us who had the privilege of spending special time with the Rebbe, now, 20 years after his passing, there is a tremendous sadness for our own personal loss, and the special loss for the new generations who will not now be able to have this precious experience for themselves.

At the same time, paradoxically, his power and presence is so strong that he continues to lead and inspire. The work to which he dedicated his life was essentially to give understanding and pride to every Jew, and to demonstrate how rewarding it is to be Jewish – a task we know is still to be completed.

A good way to assess the character of a society is to look at those special individuals it chooses as its heroes, those it admires and emulates: Socrates or Aristotle  – and Newton or Darwin.

In recent times there are not too many examples of heroes, but as practicing Jews, we know what authentic qualities to look for. I have been involved in international business at a sophisticated level for 60 years and I’ve known many people who have been talented, smart, and even nice. But that surely is not enough.

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There is a different image at the back of our minds – an individual clearly of our flesh and blood, but one whose conduct always reminds us that we as humans are special creations, not just a higher form of animal. And if we are fortunate enough to encounter such a person, we recognize this quality immediately and are uplifted.

As I wrote in my books “Guidance from the Rebbe” and “A Place of Their Own,” as a busy guy I was fortunately persuaded by Rabbi Faivish Vogel as a favor to him to visit the  Rebbe at 770 Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn. I subsequently had nine ‘Yichidus’ (‘private audiences’) with thirteen hours of very special private meetings with a truly wise man, whose level of insight and true understanding was beyond comparison, many different subjects were discussed.

It was my good fortune to have first met the Rebbe in the sixties when he had more time, never showing any impatience, and it was my great privilege to carry out many different tasks with his assistance and encouragement, always under his guidance. They ranged from Chabad management assistance in England, rebuilding the Chabad Tzemach Tzedek in the Old City in Jerusalem, and in the later critical years when the first young idealistic Jews were allowed to leave Soviet Russia for Israel – establishing with Professor Herman Branover the Shamir Center in Jerusalem, which played a key role in their successful integration into Israeli society and Jewish revival inside Russia aided by twelve million of our specially translated key books.

Now, 20 years following his passing, the Rebbe’s leadership endures.

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