Today, June 13, 2021, is the Hebrew anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was a man who could set people free from their own misconceptions about the powers they have been granted to do good – Jews and non-Jews alike.
This article portrays that quality in him well. It was written several years ago, but is certainly still relevant.
“The Rebbe ignited the latent powers he discerned so clearly in every one, Jew or non-Jew. Even more remarkable to me, was that he related to every Jew not as someone to be made into a follower, but as someone to be made into another Rebbe.”
“I especially cherish the personal stories about the non-Jews whom the Rebbe also touched. One of my favorites deals with Shirley Chisholm, whom I had remembered from the 1960s as a fiery street activist from Brooklyn. In 1968, she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress. I had no idea that the Rebbe was involved in her career, and she didn’t reveal it until her retirement in 1983. Conservative racist Southern congressmen tried to thwart the newly elected Chisholm by assigning her to the Agriculture Committee. What could this urban radical who wanted to work on education and labor issues possibly do on the Agriculture Committee? She was dejected and frustrated. She was also the representative from the Rebbe’s area of Brooklyn, and she received a call that he wished to see her. Telushkin recounts the story in his book as well, and describes how the Rebbe told her he recognized how upset she was. She acknowledged her frustration and feeling of being insulted, and asked him, “What should I do?”
“What a blessing God has given you,” the Rebbe answered. “This country has so much surplus food and there are so many hungry people and you can use this gift that God’s giving you to feed hungry people. Find a creative way to do it.”