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Mrs. Shule Kazen and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson 

Mrs. Shule Kazen was hoping to finally settle down.

As a child, her family lived in the women’s section of a boarded-up synagogue in the Soviet Union, being refused housing by the communist authorities due to her father’s refusal to work on Shabbos. When she married, World War II broke out and they were forced to escape their hometown for the deep Russian interior. After a perilous escape from the Soviet Union, they spent years awaiting visas to the United States, and in 1953, they finally arrived.

In Russia, they had endured persecution for observing Judaism in an increasingly hostile climate. Now on safer shores, they hoped to finally settle and raise their five children in an observant Jewish community in the New York area. 

When the Joint Distribution Committee offered them an apartment in Cleveland, they were loath to accept, but as dedicated members of Chabad, they went to consult with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson.

The Rebbe told them to take the posting. 

“But we want to raise our children in the Rebbe’s community!” Mrs. Kazen argued.

The Rebbe insisted. 

“In Cleveland, you’ll be able to make a living and you’ll be able to make an impact,” he said.

“But after so much suffering, we really want to settle close to the Rebbe,” she begged. 

Yet the Rebbe insisted that Cleveland will be good for her and she will be good for Cleveland. 

As a true Chasid, she followed the Rebbe’s direction. 

They settled down in Cleveland. Mrs. Kazen began looking for ways to make a difference. 

She opened her home to Russian immigrants, welcoming them into the arms of the Jewish community. They established the Kosher Food Bank, providing families with much-needed sustenance on a regular basis. She impressed upon them the importance of giving their children a quality Jewish education, and led them to the Hebrew Academy, which opened a special Russian speaking division.  

Her daughters would spend Shabbos afternoons gathering the neighborhood children, teaching them Jewish songs and traditions. Her husband taught Torah and dispensed love from his pulpit seat in Zemach Zedek Congregation.

And when her daughter, Devorah, married Rabbi Leibel Alevsky and looked to settle down, they chose to return to Cleveland to establish a full-time Chabad center in the city, and to head Chabad in Northeast Ohio.

Things grew quickly, and in the next generation several of their children returned to start Chabad centers of their own. My parents, Miriam (Alevsky) and Rabbi Zushe Greenberg, founded Solon Chabad in 1991, receiving the Rebbe’s blessing for their first High Holy Days service shortly before his final illness. A number of additional Chabad centers have opened over the years, and two years ago, my wife, Mussie, and I opened Chabad in Twinsburg. When Mrs. Kazen, my great-grandmother, died three months ago at age 96, she had lived to see the friendships she built carry on into the third and fourth generations.

On July 6, we will mark the 25th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. What seemed to be a simple piece of advice to a refugee family was really a vision of what each person could accomplish, and how each individual’s contribution can make an indelible impact on his community.

Rebbe's books

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“Social Vision”

Philip Wexler, Eli Rubin, Michael Wexler

Herder & Herder 

300 pages |  Hardcover | 6 x 9 inches  

 

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902 to 1994), known to many simply as “the Rebbe,” was one of the most remarkable personalities of the 20th century. In 1994, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “extraordinary life and work.” Despite the Rebbe’s fame as the inspiring leader of a global movement, “Social Vision” is the first book to seriously explore his  social ideas and activism, persuasively demonstrating that he was a keen social analyst whose ideas are as original as they are practical. Schneerson’s engagement with the American counterculture of the 1960s, his vocal and controversial championship of a cabinet-level Department of Education, his advocacy for criminal justice reform, and his ecological philosophy, all bear directly on current policy debates in the 21st century.

“Social Vision” is a breakthrough work of scholarship by professor Philip Wexler, a leading sociologist and expert on education. Wexler distills Schneerson’s voluminous public teachings, letters and private conversations to make his ideas accessible to the general reader, and demonstrates the enduring relevance of Schneerson’s teachings to the manifold crises of modern life, politics and culture. Wexler delves deeply into the ways that religious ideas seminally shape society. 

Juxtaposed with what Max Weber called “the spirit of capitalism,” Schneerson’s Chasidic world view is compellingly framed as a practical path that can help us create a better future for all humanity. Schneerson was not simply a religious figure, but also a great philosopher who boldly upended conventional polarizations between tradition and progress, religion and science, mysticism and society. “Social Vision” tells the story of how Schneerson not only channeled his ideas into a global Jewish renaissance in the aftermath of the Holocaust, but also articulated a universal vision whose influence continues to shape better policymaking for a better world.

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“Positivity Bias” 

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson

Ezra, an imprint of Kehot and Chabad.org

404 pages | Soft Cover | 5.5 x 7.5  inches    

Through a mix of nature, nurture, social conditioning and free will, we each possess a personalized lens that frames, forms, clouds and distorts the way we see ourselves and the world around us. In order to live in the most meaningful and effective way possible, each of us needs to continually assess and adjust the default frames we have developed.

In “Positivity Bias,” we learn that life is essentially good; that positive perception is applicable and accessible to all; that it derives from objective, rational insight, not subjective, wishful imagination, and that positive living is a matter of choice, not circumstance. An inspiring and life-enriching tapestry woven from hundreds of stories, letters, anecdotes and vignettes – “Positivity Bias “highlights how the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, considered the most influential rabbi in modern history, taught us to see ourselves, others and the world around us.  

– Compiled by chabad.org

Rabbi Mendy Greenberg is spiritual leader of Twinsburg Chabad.

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