A just released book, “Rebbe: The Life And Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History” should be in the personal library of Americans of every faith. This multifaceted biography details the work and beliefs of the late Rabbi Schneerson, whose organization, Chabad-Lubavitch, remains the largest Jewish organization in the world. Schneerson, in a timeless manner, used authentic Jewish values to make the world a better place – and his disciples continue to work to make America and the world brighter and better. America, which is often said to be built on “Judeo-Christian“ values should encourage more student Bible Clubs, and prayer and references to God in the public sphere.
Rabbi Schneerson uniquely recognized how America was created as a nation of high ideals, a country which demands moral behavior from people, and that “In God We Trust” was amongst the bedrock principles of the special uniqueness of America. This biography shares many viewpoints on this tremendous man whose wisdom was personally imparted to politicians of all political parties – and Americans of all religious and political stripes – including world leaders Ronald Reagan, Robert F. Kennedy, Menachem Begin and others.
The Supreme Court has held, “[N]othing in the Constitution … prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day” – yet, despite this many school officials mistakenly believe that student prayer inside the public schoolhouse violates the so-called “separation of church and state.” Rabbi Schneerson – affectionately known as the Rebbe – wisely noted that “a daily prayer in the public schools is for a vast number of boys and girls the only opportunity for cultivating…an awareness of God.” Indeed, whether a moment of silence, or a prayer, these values one must believe could only strengthen America, as this amazing personal biography reassures us.
Schneerson noted in a letter to an academic, “children in the public schools should be allowed to begin their day with the recitation of a nondenominational prayer, acknowledging the existence of a Creator and Master of the Universe, and our dependence upon him.” There must always remain a constitutionally guaranteed right of public school students to pray, and one hopes that when protecting freedom in America, one also protects religious liberties of public school students and their families
In 2014, a debate continues about the public placement of a Ten Commandments monument on Oklahoma’s Capitol lawn, which the American Civil Liberties Union’s local chapter has opposed. One sees Bibles being confiscated in schools, and religious symbols forbidden from court houses and government buildings- and that is simply wrong.
The Rebbe often spoke of how religion and its positive values brought “light” and good values. Schneerson wrote of religion in the public sphere that his emissaries should “go out into the courtyard into the public domain, and create light which illuminates the entire world.” Prayer in school, public advocacy of a belief in God and the like have important spiritual and moral ramifications and benefits for Americans of all faiths.
As Telushkin’s book shares — which in today’s world of heroic athletes and reality stars is vital to note — “belief in a personal good before whom all people are accountable is exactly what the Rebbe believed was required.” What Jewish and non-Jewish children alike need – adults, too for that matter – is understanding that “the world in which they live is not a jungle, where brute force, cunning and unbridled passion rule supreme, but that it has a (Supreme Being) who… takes a ‘personal interest’ in the affairs of each and every individual, and to him everyone is accountable for his or her daily conduct.”
Personal responsibility is an important positive value, as is fear and respect for God. Self-empowerment and belief that there is something larger than us in this world are values which can only strengthen America.
Rebbe is a book which discusses how empathy, wisdom, learning and knowledge are just some of the many aspects of what made Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson such a special and great man who left an amazing impact on the Jewish people, American culture and the world.
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