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Family of Hasidic rabbis. Shneour Zalman (1748-1812), founder of the dynasty, was born in Liozno, White Russia, where he received a traditional Talmudic education. Won over to Hasidism, he founded a movement known as Chabad, which stressed Talmudic learning and the forms of Orthodox Judaism rather than the ecstatic mysticism of other types of Hasidism. Known as the Rabbi of Ladi, he drew many followers from among the conservative Jewish communities of Lithuania and White Russia. During his lifetime, Chabad had more than 100,000 adherents. Leadership of the movement, which has survived into the present, has remained with the Shneerson family. It passed from Shneour to his son, Baer (1774-1812), and then to his grandson, Menachem Mendel (1786-1866), whose direct descendants have remained the spiritual guides of Chabad. Menachem Mendel’s son, Samuel (1834-1883), settled in the town of Lubavitch; followers of Chabad consequently call themselves Lubavitch Hasidim. The leadership passed to Samuel’s son, Sholom Baer (1861-1920), whose son, Joseph Isaac (1890-1950), founded the World Chabad movement in 1934. In the tradition of his ancestors, who had fought assimilation in Tsarist Russia, Joseph Isaac refused to acquiesce to a Soviet order closing Jewish schools. For this refusal he was exiled from Greater Russia. In 1940, he settled in New York City; here he conducted Chabad activities and supervised the establishment of Lubavitch academies throughout North and South America.

The Lubavitcher movement’s most recent rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendl Shneerson, died on June 12, 1994. He built a worldwide Chabad network, sending young Lubavitch families as emissaries of Judaism to remote parts of the globe. Their primary purpose is to promote Jewish education in the spirit of Torah-true Judaism among all Jews, regardless of background, to establish contact with, and to retrieve alienated Jewish youth, and to promulgate the observance of the Torah as a daily experience among all Jews.

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