Messianism is alive and well within Chabad. Your local shliach (emissary/missionary) may be inclined to tell you otherwise, and declare that it is ‘just a tiny minority of crazy people.’ But Chabad rabbis know better, and sharing the complete truth with check-writing donors is very bad for business when you’re a Jewish organization that now holds much in common with Christianity.
Kfar Chabad, an exclusively Chabad city in Israel, is a messianist hotbed where many only refer to their deceased rebbe in the present tense as if he were alive today. That is more than apparent in this article from The Forward about the building of an exact reconstruction of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Crown Heights headquarters of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
It will be one of my goals on this blog to alert people targeted by Chabad outreach to the very real but unspoken phenomena of Chabad-Lubavitch messianism which is condemned in much of mainstream Judaism and viewed as a form of neo-Christianity by many others.
If it looks like it would fit perfectly in Crown Heights, that’s because it already does. The three-story apartment house topped by three gables is a brick-for-brick reconstruction of 770 Eastern Parkway, the storied headquarters of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and his Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The address is etched next to the doorway of the Israeli replica, 6,000 miles from Brooklyn and about 11 miles from Tel Aviv.
“The building is an alternative to whoever can’t go to him in the United States,” said Rabbi Menachem Latar, the manager of the Israeli version of 770, referring to Schneerson. “As a Chabad Hasid, if you were with the rebbe and had a meeting with the rebbe, you imagine everything that was in the presence of the rebbe.”
Kfar Chabad also has attracted some of the more extreme elements of Chabad ideology. In the past two elections, the vast majority of Kfar Chabad voters chose parties with far-right Kahanist candidates – hewing to Schneerson’s prohibition against Israel ceding land.
City leaders, along with many others, speak of Schneerson in the present tense, suggesting a belief that the rebbe, whom many believe is the Messiah, is not quite dead. The Torah ark in Kfar Chabad’s 770 replica refers to Schneerson as “the king messiah” and uses an acronym after his name that translates to “May he merit a long and good life, Amen.”
“He didn’t die,” Binyamin Lifshitz, the village manager, said of Schneerson. “He went away. He’ll come back.”
“He went away. He’ll come back.” Like the second coming of… Jesus?
(hat tip: dh)