Hasidic Jews are a familiar sight in New York. What many people don’t know is that Brooklyn is home to the headquarters of one of the most significant offshoots of Hasidic Judaism, the Chabad-Lubavitch sect.
Chabad-Lubavitch is one of the oldest Hasidic sects, founded in the Russian Pale of Settlement 250 years ago by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Leadership of the movement was passed on through male heirs until the seventh “Rebbe” (rabbi), Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Seventh Rebbe had no children and has continued even in death as the central figure of the movement.
Schneerson was born in 1902 in Nikolaev, Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and subsequent crackdown on religious groups forced the movement to shift its headquarters from Lyubavichi (Lubavitch), where it had been based for over a century, to Warsaw, Poland. It was in Warsaw that Schneerson married Chaya Mushka, daughter of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1929.
The nucleus of Chabad-Lubavitch leadership was rescued from Nazi-occupied Warsaw and began planting new roots in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940. Ten years later, the Sixth Rebbe died, and Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Over a 44-year career as head of Chabad-Lubavitch, the Rebbe (a generic title that quickly became his own universal moniker) guided the movement from a parochial holdout of a bygone world into a global organization with tens of thousands of representatives on six continents. The Rebbe was revered for his spiritual greatness and astounding success in ushering a very traditional strand of Judaism into the modern world.
Towards the end of his lifetime, these accomplishments led a vocal minority of the Rebbe’s followers to declare him the Messiah. Even 20 years after his death in 1994, the Messianist subset of Chabad-Lubavitch counts followers around the world, and the center of their reverence is the Rebbe’s former home and headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.
The typical building situated in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has become the center of one of the world’s youngest Messianist movements. The 770 building holds such significance for this subset of Chabad-Lubavitch believers that a number of exact 770 replicas have been built around the world, including in Los Angeles, New Brunswick, Australia, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and Israel.
The image of the building can often be found on items around Chabad-Lubavitch households and Tefillin bags bearing the image of the building have become very popular Bar Mitzvah gifts for Lubavitcher boys.
Know Before You Go
Half a block from the 2,3,4,5 Kingston Ave.