Question: "What is Chabad Lubavitch?"
Answer: The word Chabad” is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chochmah (“wisdom”), binah (“comprehension”), and da’at (“knowledge”). The word Lubavitch is the name of the town in Belarus where the movement was based for more than a century. Lubavitch in Russian means the “city of brotherly love.” Chabad Lubavitch is an orthodox Jewish organization that seeks to minister brotherly love primarily to Jewish people around the world through a variety of services, programs, and institutions. Chabad Lubavitch is concerned with every aspect of Jewish life, whether physical or spiritual, and its teachings and philosophy are based on principles found in Jewish mysticism.
The social outreach of Chabad Lubavitch includes the following:
• support to Jews in the military
• encouragement to Jews who are incarcerated and are facing the challenge of maintaining their Jewish identity while incarcerated—services include advocating for the right to have kosher food and observe Jewish holidays
• the Chabad Drug Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, open to those of any religious background, although treatment is based on Jewish teaching
• relief and emergency services in the wake of natural disasters
• spiritual guidance, comfort, and assistance after terrorist attacks (which are a regular occurrence in Israel)
• soup kitchens operating in Israel and in areas of the former Soviet Union with significant Jewish populations
• orphanages for Jewish children in the former Soviet Union
• programs to assist Jewish families with special needs children
The educational outreach of Chabad Lubavitch includes the following:
• the operation of thousands of accredited preschools and day schools around the world
• after-school programs, summer camps, and special holiday programs
• a children’s museum in Brooklyn, New York, emphasizing Jewish heritage and practices
• a wide variety of adult education programs through the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute
• the world’s largest publisher of Jewish educational and religious literature, the Kehot Publication Society
• a Chabad website of Jewish knowledge
• instruction by telephone (recorded messages in English, Hebrew, or Yiddish) on various aspects of Jewish thought and practice
• multimedia products such as CDs, DVDs, games, and Jewish holiday guides and songs
The Chabad Lubavitch organization also seeks to foster community in these ways:
• by providing volunteer opportunities for Jewish teenagers
• by providing campus centers that can be “a home away from home” for Jewish college students
• by offering classes on Torah and Jewish life for Jewish senior citizens and providing classes and social activities for Jewish residents in nursing homes
• by reaching out to remote communities through emissaries whose goal is to bring Judaism “to every single Jew, regardless of their geographic location”
Chabad Lubavitch has centers, offices, schools, and other institutions located in 75 countries around the world. Without question, Chabad Lubavitch does a great deal of good work for Jews and benefits many non-Jews as well. It is striking that Chabad Lubavitch is not “evangelistic” in the sense that there is absolutely no attempt to “convert” non-Jews to Judaism, nor is there any attempt to convince Jews who are not particularly observant that they should become more observant. Members of Chabad Lubavitch simply want to service Jews to the extent that they want to participate in Jewish life. Their motivation does not seem to be devotion to God as much as devotion to fellow Jews.
Chabad Lubavitch does object to Jews becoming Christians. When asked if a Jew could believe in Jesus, one of the rabbis on their official website answered, “As long as logic and clear thinking are suspended, anything makes sense!” and the book Jews for Judaism was recommended on the site as a “comprehensive counter-missionary handbook.”
Many Christians who love Israel and the Jews support organizations that minister to the needs of Jewish people; however, we would caution evangelical Christians to only support organizations that bring the gospel in addition to physical aid. The apostle Paul, an expert in first-century Judaism, puts it in perspective: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Paul’s heart yearned to see his fellow Jews turn to the Lord Jesus for salvation: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1–4).