World War I
The First World War sent floods of refugees streaming
into the interior of Russia.
Many arrived in Yekatrinoslav, where, in addition
to severe shortages of food, shelter and other basic necessities,
they had to contend with the hostility of the local authorities.
The Jews, in particular, suffered from the classically
anti-Semitic accusations of collaboration with the enemy, and were
subject to arrest, seizure for ransom, and even execution.
The Rebbe's mother and father opened their home
to the refugees and undertook to provide for them, ransom the captives,
and intercede with the government on behalf of the accused-at great
risk to their own life and liberty. The Rebbe was a full participant
in these activities. Years later, he recalled the deep and lasting
impression the devotion of his parents-particularly of his mother--had
upon his fourteen year-old self.
Attending to the material needs of one's fellow
has been a cornerstone of the Chabad Movement since its inception.
The Rebbes of Chabad never saw themselves as "spiritual"
leaders: the bodily condition of their people was no less important
to them than the state of their souls. In Czarist Russia, they established
agricultural settlements and factories to provide a livelihood for
destitute Jews; under the communist regime, they clandestinely supported
the "counter-revolutionaries" who had been deprived of
all means of support; in the wake of the Holocaust, they sent emissaries
bearing succor and aid to the DP camps.
Today, the Rebbe's disciples are running drug rehabilitation
centers in California, airlifting children out of the radioactive
Chernobyl area in Belarus, and operating soup kitchens in cities
from Jerusalem to Moscow. By the Rebbe's directive, every Chabad
House has a free loan fund and devotes a significant portion of
its resources to serve the social needs of its community.