Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Myth # 9: Chabad accepts all kinds of Jews

If there’s one thing that Lubavitchers love highlighting, it’s our openness to Jews of all walks of life, Jews of every observance, style, color, political bend and affiliation.

With pride, we will proclaim, “We love all kinds of Jews!”

Oftentimes, this is how we win the hearts of the people who comprise our Chabad Houses. With our “Chabad is into all types of Jews!” proclamation, people feel they are dealing with a revolutionary new Jewish group, one that hails openness as their genuine creed.

And then we get them to declare the same: “Come to the Chabad House,” they will tell their friends. “The Rabbi is so accepting.”

But the whole thing is a total misunderstanding.

In truth, Chabad is quite far from embracing types of Jews.


What everyone loves about Chabad - that image of openness that draws us in – is not their tolerance of peoples’ differences, not their acceptance of various types of Jews.

Rather, it is Chabad’s insistence on seeing what’s all the same.

Chabad barely hears the people that try to say that they’re a different type.

“Rabbi, I’m reform,” the young man will say.

The Shliach is like, “What? Huh? Come again?

“I’m just a different kind of Jew,” she says.

But the Rabbi doesn’t understand this language.

“What’s a Reform Jew? Huh? Kind of Jew? What?”

The Rabbi is utterly confused.


While Chabad House guests often feel accepted for their differences, it’s all a guise. The deeper feeling that makes them feel so at home is Chabad’s allergic reaction to typifying - their blindness to distinctions.

It is not because of openness to all kinds of people that Chabad Houses open their door to both the bearded and the dreadlocked. Rather it’s a lack of openness to seeing a Jew as anything but, well, a Jew. What makes us different is not our liberalism, our welcoming of types of Jews. It is our refusal to see anything but the soul. So the best Chabad Houses are run by people who know that Jews don’t really come in all sorts of flavors. Deep down, there’s just one kind of Jew.

While other Jewish sects accept kinds of Jews, Chabad stands out by refusing to do so.

So, yes, while Chabad House communities do seem made up of Jews from a spectrum of backgrounds and lifestyles, it’s because when a Jew is all you see, the diversity among them is embraced as part and parcel of their very core. Every thing that makes them unique is embraced more fully than if you saw their “type” before their essence.

This is where other so-called “kiruv movements” fail. They try to bear an openness that Chabad has, not realizing that what seems to be openness is really just a deep understanding of what it means to be Jewish. Their openness is in reality insular, while our intolerance allows true acceptance to reign. They say, “We love dreads like we love beards” while Chabad says, “Um, we love Jews!”

That’s the revolution. That’s the genuine creed. That’s Chabad.

Where ya been?

Let's get to the bottom of this. I want G-d. Don't wanna just keep running and running and - what? Why you walking so slow? Want to go to Jerusalem, but they say my life here is a go. Where? I'm looking, but not finding. Love your fellow Jew, love your fellow Jew. Do this and don't do that. And you're not tall enough. Smack. Wake up - Israel is being divided. But, hey, sit pretty. Keep doing what you're doing to stop what you should be doing. Quit one job, keep the other. Striving for sincerity. Stand up for your rights. Don't stop to write. So I threw my letter into the Ohel. I tore it and let go. They fell like my tears, hitting the heart of a leader so missed. But one piece landed on the outside, atop the stone wall. I picked it up. On the rough-edged piece read my words, the end of my sentence: " do good." I was screaming out, "I want to do good." And G-d through back those words. Like, "Mimi, talk to yourself." I have a cold but my soul is even worse. At night, I toss and I turn. And I've never been so happy. But, still, an incomprehensible potential is burning within. And I've never been so thankful. But, still, I want more and more and more. I think it can be better. And I've never been so alive. But, still, you aint seen nothing yet. Nothing yet. Nothing yet. Yet, I'm full Satiated: the evil today. And talking, too much talking. Need to just settle down and draw it in and allow some space. To let it sizzle and take shape. The mission, the future. But I just don't get it. I like a struggle, but, c'mon, like this? Just give me a sign. Meanwhile, I'm make my way around. Trying to do good. And Smiling and laughing and walking with a strut. And buying the New York Times. Because, while I toss and turn - while I be happy and thankful and alive - at least someone's making news.