The Lubavitcher rebbe’s 91st birthday last week was celebrated by his Hasidim and admirers in an array of special events held around the world.
For his adoring followers, the 91st birthday of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson on April 2 was especially meaningful since it was just over a year ago that he suffered a stroke so debilitating that he was not seen in public for six months and still has not regained the ability to speak.
His birthday was celebrated with the attention-getting events that have become the Lu-bavitchers’ hallmark — a “mitzvah-tank” caravan of five mobile homes concluded five weeks of traversing the United States by gathering in the heart of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn last Thursday night to honor the rebbe.
More mitzvah tanks fanned out across New York on Thursday afternoon, adorned with banners declaring that the Messiah is on his way.
At the United Nations, in Washington and in about 20 statehouses across the country there were public proclamations and speeches by elected officials celebrating the event.
In Israel, 91 girls and 91 boys from the former Soviet Union celebrated their bat-and bar-mitzvahs to mark the occasion.
Over 5,000 people crowded into Jerusalem’s convention center, Binyanei Ha’uma, to witness the mass celebration.
Those present included Israeli Chief Rabbis Mordechai Eliyahu and Avraham Shapiro, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and Russian Ambassador Alexander Bubin.
The event was broadcast by satellite to television sets worldwide.
In Brooklyn, where the Hasidic movement is based, elementary school boys at the Lubavitch yeshiva spent months memorizing 120,000 mishnahs in honor of their leader.
And early Thursday evening the frail rebbe joined his followers for prayers. As usual, he was ensconced in a chair on the specially constructed enclosed balcony in the cavernous hall which serves as the movement’s main synagogue.
And as the rebbe’s blue eyes gazed over the sea of black-hatted followers they chanted the song that has become the movement’s anthem: “Long live our master, our teacher, our leader, King Messiah!”
The JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published Tuesday, April 13, which is the eighth day of Passover.