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The Rebbe was concerned with Chinatown

Thursday, 4 July, 2019 - 8:32 am

Once a state senator from New York asked for a private meeting (yechidus) with the Rebbe. Over an hour later, he came out excited. “I never realized what a great man your Rebbe is,” he told Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary.

The senator explained that he had sought the Rebbe’s counsel concerning his personal affairs. After the Rebbe had advised him with regard to these matters, he asked if he could request a favor from the senator.

“‘Here it comes,’ I thought to myself,” he told Rabbi Groner, “‘just like all the others, he’s also looking for the payoff.’

But what did the Rebbe ask me?

“‘There is,’ the Rebbe said, ‘a growing community in Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard-working and law-abiding, the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so out-going and the Chinese are, by nature, so reserved, they are often overlooked by government programs. As a state senator from New York, I suggest that you concern yourself with their needs.’

“I was overwhelmed. The Rebbe has a community of thousands in New York and institutions all over the country that could benefit from government programs. I am in a position to help secure funding for them, but the Rebbe didn’t ask about that. He was concerned with Chinatown. I don’t think he has ever been there, and I’m certain that most people there don’t know who he is, but he cares about them. Now that’s a true leader!”

The Rebbe did not merely manifest an unbounded concern for the welfare of all mankind, he provided us with teachings which motivate and enable us to share this mindset and put it into practice. A rabbi working in a university once asked the Rebbe what fundamental message he should communicate to his students. The Rebbe answered: “Teach them that they all possess a soul that is a spark of G‑d. This knowledge will continually inspire them and influence them to improve their conduct.”

And the Rebbe did more than inspire; he was a leader. He was able to give people an ideal that imbued their lives with lasting meaning. He took the truth from Sinai, the centuries-old Biblical tradition, and applied it to every aspect of contemporary life. To him, the Bible was not a book, but a blueprint for life, one which contained G‑d’s instructions on how to deal with every issue that day-to-day life presents.

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