"Lubavich" and "Lubavitch" redirect here. For the Russian village associated with Chabad, see Lyubavichi, Rudnyansky District, Smolensk Oblast.
For other uses of "Chabad", see Chabad (disambiguation).

Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, Habad and Chabad-Lubavitch,[1] (Hebrew: חב"ד) is an Orthodox Jewish, Hasidic movement. Chabad is today one of the world's best known Hasidic movements and is well known for its outreach. It is the largest Hasidic group[2][3][4] and Jewish religious organization in the world.[5][6]

Founded in 1775 by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the name "Chabad" (Hebrew: חב״ד) is a Hebrew acronym for Chochmah, Binah, Da'at (חכמה, בינה, דעת): "Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge", which represent the intellectual underpinnings of the movement.[7][8] The name "Lubavitch" is the Yiddish name for the originally Belorussian village Lyubavichi where the movement's leaders lived for over 100 years.

In 1951, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the seventh Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, and he transformed it from a small chasidic movement into the largest and most widespread Jewish movement in the world today. He established a network of more than 3,600 institutions that provide religious, social and humanitarian needs in over 1,000 cities, spanning 80 countries and 49 of the 50 American states.[9][10][11][12][13][14] Chabad institutions provide outreach to unaffiliated Jews and humanitarian aid, as well as religious, cultural and educational activities at Chabad-run community centers, synagogues, schools, camps, and soup kitchens.

Studies conducted between 1993-1996 stated the movement is thought to number between 40,000[15] and 200,000 adherents.[16][17][18][19] In 2005 the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported that up to one million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.[15][20][21] In 2013, Chabad forecasted that their Chanukah activities would reach up to 8,000,000 Jews in 80 countries worldwide.[22]


The Chabad movement was established in the town of Liozna, Grand Duchy of Lithuania (present day Belarus), in 1775, by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi,[23] a student of Rabbi Dovber ben Avraham, the "Maggid of Mezritch", the successor to Hassidism's founder, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. The movement was based in Lyubavichi (Lubavitch) for over a century, then briefly centered in the cities of Rostov-on-Don, Riga, and Warsaw. Since 1940,[23] the movement's center has been in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.[24][25]

While the movement has spawned a number of other groups, the Chabad-Lubavitch branch appears to be the only one still active, making it the movement's main surviving line.[26] Sarna has characterized Chabad as having enjoyed the fastest rate of growth of any Jewish religious movement for the period 1946-2015.[27]

In the early 1900s, Chabad-Lubavitch legally incorporated itself under Agudas Chasidei Chabad ("Association of Chabad Hasidim").


The Chabad movement has been led by a succession of Hasidic rebbes. The main line of the movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, has had seven rebbes in total:

Oppression in Russia

The Chabad movement was subject to government oppression in Russia. The Russian government, first under the Czar, later under the Bolsheviks, imprisoned all but one of the Chabad rebbes.[39][40] The Bolsheviks also imprisoned, exiled and executed a number of Chabad Hasidim.[41][42][43] Since the fall of communism in 1991, Chabad has enjoyed warm relations with the Russian government.


Main article: Chabad philosophy

Chabad Hasidic philosophy focuses on religious and spiritual concepts such as God, the soul, and the meaning of the Jewish commandments. Classical Judaic writings and Jewish mysticism, especially the Zohar and the Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria, are frequently cited in Chabad works. These texts are used both as sources for Chabad teachings, as well as material requiring interpretation by Chabad authors. Chabad philosophy is rooted in the teachings of Rabbis Yisroel ben Eliezer, (the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism) and Dovber ben Avraham, the "Maggid of Mezritch" (Rabbi Yisroel's successor).

Rabbi Shneur Zalman's teachings formed the basis of Chabad philosophy, as expanded by succeeding generations. Many Chabad activities today are understood as applications of Shneur Zalman's teachings.


Main article: Tanya

Sefer HaTanya, Shneur Zalman's magnum opus, is the first schematic treatment of Hasidic moral philosophy and its metaphysical foundations.[29] The original name of the first book is Sefer Shel Beinonim, the Book of the Intermediates. It is also known as Likutei AmarimCollected Sayings. Sefer Shel Beinonim analyzes the inner struggle of the individual and the path to resolution. Citing the biblical verse "the matter is very near to you, in your mouth, your heart, to do",[44] the philosophy is based on the notion that the human is not inherently evil; rather, every individual has an inner conflict that is characterized with two different inclinations, the good and the bad.[45]


According to Shneur Zalman's seminal work Tanya, the intellect consists of three interconnected processes: Chochma (wisdom), Bina (understanding), and Da'at (knowledge). While other branches of Hasidism focused primarily on the idea that "God desires the heart," Shneur Zalman argued that God also desires the mind, and that the mind is the "gateway" to the heart. With the Chabad philosophy he elevated the mind above the heart, arguing that "understanding is the mother of fear and love for God".[46]

Chabad often contrasted itself with the Chagat schools of Hasidism.[47] While all Hasidism have a certain focus on the emotions, Chagat saw emotions as a reaction to physical stimuli, such as dancing, singing, or beauty. Shneur Zalman, on the other hand, taught that the emotions must be led by the mind, and thus the focus of Chabad thought was to be Torah study and prayer rather than esotericism and song.[29] As a Talmudist, Shneur Zalman endeavored to place Kabbalah and Hasidism on a rational basis. In Tanya, he defines his approach as moach shalit al halev (Hebrew: "מוח שליט על הלב", "the brain ruling the heart").[48]

The Chabad community

An adherent of Chabad is called a Chabad Chasid (or Hasid) (Hebrew: חסיד חב"ד), a Lubavitcher (Yiddish: ליובאַוויטשער), a Chabadnik (Hebrew: חבדניק), or a Chabadsker (Yiddish: חבדסקער).[49]

The Chabad community consists of the followers (Hasidim) of the Chabad Rebbes. Originally, based in Eastern Europe, today, various Chabad communities span the globe; the communities with higher concentrations of Chabad's Hasidic followers are located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Kfar Chabad, Israel. Other communities hold smaller population sizes.

The members or adherents of the Chabad movement are formally called "Chabad Chasidim" (Hasidim). Other designations include "Lubavitchers", "Chabadskers" (Yiddish) and "Chabadnikim" (Hebrew). Chabad's adherents include both Hasidic followers, as well as non-Hasidim, who have joined Chabad synagogues and other Chabad run institutions.[50]

According to sociologists studying contemporary Jewry, the Chabad movement neither fits into the category of Haredi or modern Orthodox, the standard categories for Orthodox Jews. This is due in part to the existence of the "non-Orthodox Hasidim", the general lack of official recognition of political and religious distinctions within Judaism and the open relationship with non-Orthodox Jews represented by the activism of Chabad emissaries.[50][51]


Chabad adherents follow Chabad traditions and prayer services based on Lurianic kabbalah.[52] General Chabad customs, called minhagim, distinguish the movement from other Hasidic groups. Some of the main Chabad customs are minor practices performed on traditional Jewish holidays:


There are a number of days marked by the Chabad movement as special days. Major holidays include the liberation dates of the leaders of the movement, the Rebbes of Chabad, others corresponded to the leaders' birthdays, anniversaries of death, and other life events.

The days marking the leaders' release, are celebrated by the Chabad movement as "Days of Liberation" (Hebrew: יום גאולה (Yom Geulah)). The most noted day is Yud Tes Kislev – The liberation of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement. The day is also called the "New Year of Hasidism".[57]

The birthdays of several of the movement's leaders are celebrated each year include Chai Elul, the birthday of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement,[58][59] and Yud Aleph Nissan, the birthday of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh rebbe of Chabad.[60]

The anniversaries of death, or yartzeit, of several of the movement's leaders are celebrated each year, include Yud Shvat, the yartzeit of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth rebbe of Chabad,[61] Gimmel Tammuz, the yartzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh rebbe of Chabad,[61][62] and Chof Beis Shvat, the yartzeit of Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the wife of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.[63]


Demographic accounts on the Chabad movement vary. Chabad adherents are often reported to number some 200,000 persons.[16][18][19] Some scholars have pointed to the lack of quantitative data to back this claim,[64] and some place the number of Chabad followers at around 40,000 but note that the number may be higher if the non-Hasidic Jews who join Chabad synagogues are included as well.[15]

Compared to other Hasidic groups, Chabad is currently thought to be the largest,[65] the third[66] or fourth[67] largest Hasidic movement.

United States

An estimate for Chabad in the United States places the movement's followers in the US at around 18,600. The estimate is drawn from existing data on the Montreal Chabad community, and Chabad Day School figures.[68]

Student body in the United States

The report findings of studies on Jewish Day Schools and supplementary Jewish education in the United States show that the student body currently enrolled in some 295 Chabad schools exceeds 20,750.[69][70][71]


Rabbi Yeshaya HaLevi Horowitz (1883–1978), a Safed native and direct descendant of Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz, author of the Shnei Luchot HaBrit, served as the rabbi of the Chabad community in Safed from 1908 until his immigration to the U.S. during World War I.[74]

Members of the Chabad community run a number of outreach efforts during the Jewish holidays. Activities include blowing the shofar for the elderly on Rosh Hashana, reading the Megilla for hospital patients on Purim and setting up a Sukka on the town's main street during the Succoth holiday.[73]


Chabad Ashkenazim and Sephardim

Though the Chabad movement was founded in Eastern Europe, a center of Ashkenazic Jewry, it has in the past several decades attracted a significant number of Sephardi Jews as adherents.[78] Some Chabad communities are now a mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Chabad Hasidim. In Montreal, close to 25% of Chabad households include a Sephardi parent.[79][80]


Chabad's influence since World War Two has been far reaching among world Jewry. Chabad pioneered the post-World War II outreach movement, which spread Judaism to many assimilated Jews worldwide, leading to a substantial number of baalei teshuva ("returnees" to Judaism). The very first Yeshiva/Rabbinical College for such baalei teshuva, Hadar Hatorah, was established by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It is reported that up to a million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.[20][21]

According to Steven I. Weiss, Chabad's ideology has dramatically influenced non-Hasidic Jews' outreach practice.[81]

Because of its outreach to all Jews, including those quite alienated from religious Jewish tradition, Chabad has been described as the one Orthodox group to evoke great affection from large segments of American Jewry.[82]


Chabad's central organization representing the movement at large, Agudas Chasidei Chabad, is headed by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov. The educational and outreach arm, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, is headed by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky. Other central organizations include Lubavitch Youth Organization and Mahane Israel.

Local Chabad centers and institutions are often incorporated as separate legal entities.[83]

Chabad institutions

As of 2007 there are 3,300 Chabad institutions around the world.[10][11][12] As of 2006 there were Chabad centers in 75 countries.[13]

Listed on the Chabad movement's online directory are around 1,350 Chabad institutions. This number includes schools and other Chabad-affiliated establishments. The number of Chabad centers vary per country; the majority are in the United States and Israel. There are over 40 countries with a small Chabad presence.

In total, according to its directory, Chabad maintains a presence in 950 cities around the world: 178 in Europe, 14 in Africa, 200 in Israel, 400 in North America, 38 in South America, and about 70 in Asia (excluding Israel, including Russia).[14]

Chabad institutions by geographic region

See also Chabad institutions by geographic region

Chabad presence varies from region to region. The continent with the highest concentration of Chabad centers is North America. The continent with the least centers is Africa.[84][85][86][87][88]

Geographic location Chabad institutions
North America 2,894
South America 208
Europe 1,133
Asia 615
Africa 55
Oceania 67
Total 4,972

The "Chabad House"

Main article: Chabad house

A Chabad house is a form of Jewish community center, primarily serving both educational and observance purposes.[89] Often, until the community can support its own center, the Chabad house is located in the shaliach's home, with the living room being used as the "synagogue". Effort is made to provide an atmosphere in which the nonobservant will not feel intimidated by any perceived contrast between their lack of knowledge of Jewish practice and the advanced knowledge of some of the people they meet there.[90] The term "Chabad House" originated with the creation of the first such outreach center on the campus of UCLA by Rabbi Shlomo Cunin.[91] A key to the Chabad house was given to the Rebbe and he asked if that meant that the new house was his home. He was told yes and he replied, "My hand will be on the door of this house to keep it open twenty-four hours a day for young and old, men and women alike."[92]

In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the local Chabad house was targeted.[93][94] The local Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, and four other Jews were brutally murdered by Muslim terrorists. Chabad received condolences from around the world.[95]


Funds for activities of a Chabad center rely entirely on the local community. Chabad centers do not receive funding from Lubavitch headquarters. For the day-to-day operations, local emissaries do all the fundraising by themselves.

Chabad emissaries often solicit the support of local Jews.[96] Funds are used toward purchasing or renovating Chabad centers, synagogues and Mikvahs.[97]


The Chabad movement has been involved in numerous activities in contemporary Jewish life. These activities include providing Jewish education to different age groups, outreach to non-affiliated Jews, publishing Jewish literature, summer camps for children among other activities.


Chabad runs a number of educational institutions. Most are Jewish day schools; others offer secondary and adult education.

Outreach activities

Main article: Chabad outreach
Group photo of Chabad Shluchim (emissaries) in 2007

Much of the movement's activities emphasize on outreach activities. This is due to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson encouraging his followers to reach out to other Jews.[104] Chabad outreach includes activities promoting the practice of Jewish commandments (Mitzvah campaigns), as well as other forms of Jewish outreach. Much of Chabad's outreach is performed by Chabad emissaries (see Shaliach (Chabad)).

Mitzvah campaigns

Main article: Mitzvah campaigns

The Rebbes of Chabad have issued the call to all Jews to attract non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance, teaching that this activity is part of the process of bringing the Messiah. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson issued a call to every Jew: "Even if you are not fully committed to a Torah life, do something. Begin with a mitzvah — any mitzvah — its value will not be diminished by the fact that there are others that you are not prepared to do".[105]

Schneerson also suggested ten specific mitzvot that he believed were ideally suited for the emissaries to introduce to non-observant Jews. These were called "mivtzoim" — meaning "campaigns" or "endeavors". These were: lighting candles before Shabbat and the Jewish holidays by Jewish women; putting on tefillin; affixing a mezuzah; regular Torah study; giving Tzedakah; purchasing Jewish books; observing kashrut (kosher); kindness to others; Jewish religious education, and observing the family purity laws.

In addition, Schneerson emphasized spreading awareness of preparing for and the coming of the moshiach Jewish messiah, consistent with his philosophy. He wrote on the responsibility to reach out to teach every fellow Jew with love, and implored that all Jews believe in the imminent coming of the moshiach as explained by Maimonides. He argued that redemption was predicated on Jews doing good deeds, and that gentiles should be educated about the Noahide Laws. Chabad has been a prime force in disseminating awareness of these laws.

Schneerson was emphatic about the need to encourage and provide strong education for every child, Jew and non-Jew alike. In honor of Schneerson's efforts in education the United States Congress has made Education and Sharing Day on the Rebbe's Hebrew Birthday.

Shluchim (Emissaries)

Main article: Shaliach (Chabad)

Following the initiative of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson spurred on the movement to what has become known as shlichus ("serving as an emissary [performing outreach]") in 1950–1951. As a result, Chabad shluchim ("emissaries", sing. shliach) have moved all over the world with the stated mission of encouraging non-observant Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish observance. They assist Jews with all their religious needs, as well as with physical assistance and spiritual guidance and teaching. The stated goal is to encourage Jews to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to practice Judaism.[106]

The Chabad movement, motivated by Schneerson, has trained and ordained thousands of rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers, and ritual circumcisers, who are then accompanied by their spouses to many locations around the world. Typically, a young Lubavitch rabbi and his wife, in their early twenties, with one or two children, will move to a new location, and as they settle in will raise a large family who, as a family unit, will aim to fulfill their mandate of bringing Jewish people closer to Orthodox Judaism and encouraging gentiles to adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah.[106]

Mitzvah tank

Main article: Mitzvah tank
Chabad Lubavitch Mitzvah tank in Golders Green, London

A mitzvah tank is a vehicle used by Chabad members involved in outreach as a portable "educational and outreach center" and "mini-synagogue" (or "minagogue"). Mitzvah tanks are commonly used for advancing the Mitzvah campaigns. Mitzvah tanks have been commonplace on the streets of New York City since 1974.[107] Today, they are used all over the globe, in countries where Chabad is active.

Campus outreach

In recent years, Chabad has greatly expanded its outreach on university and college campuses. Chabad Student Centers are active on over 100 campuses, and Chabad offers varied activities at an additional 150 universities worldwide.[108] Professor Alan Dershowitz has said "Chabad's presence on college campuses today is absolutely crucial," and "we cannot rest until Chabad is on every major college campus in the world."[109]


Chabad publishes and distributes Jewish religious literature. Under Kehot Publication Society, Chabad's main publishing house, Jewish literature has been translated into 12 different languages. Kehot regularly provides books at discounted prices, and hosts book-a-thons. Kehot commonly distributes books written or transcribed from the rebbes of Chabad, prominent chassidim and other authors who have written Jewish materials.

Kehot is a division of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the movement's educational arm.


More than any other Jewish movement, Chabad has used media as part of its religious, social, and political experience.[110] Their last leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the most video-documented Jewish leader in history.[110]
Main article:

The Chabad movement publishes a wealth of Jewish material on the internet. Chabad's main website, is one of the first Jewish websites[111] and the first and largest virtual congregation.[112][113] It serves not just its own members but Jews worldwide in general.[114]

Community websites

Popular Chabad community websites include,,,,, and the Hebrew site,[115][116]

Summer camps

Chabad has set up an extensive network of camps around the world, most using the name Gan Israel, a name chosen by Schneerson although the first overnight camp was the girls division called Camp Emunah. There are 1,200 sites serving 210,000 children — most of whom do not come from Orthodox homes. Of these, 500 camps are in the United States.[117][118]

Political activities

Schneerson involved himself in matters relating to the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.[119] He maintained that as a matter of Jewish law,[120] any territorial concession on Israel's part would endanger the lives of all Jews in the Land of Israel, and is therefore forbidden. He also insisted that even discussing the possibility of such concessions showed weakness, would encourage Arab attacks, and therefore endanger Jewish lives.[121]

In USA domestic politics, Schneerson supported government involvement in education and welcomed the establishment of the United States Department of Education in 1980, yet insisted that part of a school's educational mission was to incorporate the values espoused in the Seven Laws of Noah. He called for the introduction of a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day, and for students to be encouraged to use this time for such improving thoughts or prayers as their parents might suggest.[122]

In 1981, Schneerson publicly called for the use of solar energy. Schneerson believed that the USA could achieve energy independence by developing solar energy technologies. He argued that the dependence on foreign oil may lead to the country compromising on its principles.[123][124]


Main article: Chabad messianism

In the late 1980s, the Rebbe called for his followers to become involved in outreach activities with the purpose of bringing about the Jewish Messianic Age.[29] Statements concerning the advancement of the Messianic age was a factor leading to the controversy surrounding the messianic beliefs of some members of the movement.[125] Some Chabad Hasidim, called mashichists, "have not yet accepted the Rebbe's passing"[126] and even after his death regard him as the (living) 'King Messiah' and 'Moses of the generation'.


A number of controversies have occurred during the Chabad movement's history. Today, Messianism within the Chabad movement appears to be among the most frequently cited controversies within the Orthodox Jewish community.

Offshoot groups

A number of groups have split from the Chabad movement, forming their own Chasidic groups, and at times, positioning themselves as possible successors of previous Chabad rebbes.

Disputes over succession

Following the deaths of several of the rebbes of Chabad, disputes arose over their succession.


Several followers of Chabad broke from the movement, forming their own groups. These former followers drew upon their experiences at Chabad. In some cases, their teachings incorporated ideas they learned at Chabad.

Chabad in art


Chasidic artists Hendel Lieberman and Zalman Kleinman have painted a number of scenes depicting Chabad Chasidic culture, including religious ceremonies, study and prayer. Chabad artist Michoel Muchnik has painted scenes of the Mitzvah Campaigns.[110]:156

Artist and shaliach Yitzchok Moully has adapted silkscreen techniques, bright colours and Jewish and Hasidic images to create a form of "Chasidic Pop Art".


Vocalists Avraham Fried and Benny Friedman have included recordings of traditional Chabad songs on their albums of contemporary Orthodox Jewish music. Bluegrass artist Andy Statman has also recorded Chabad niggunim.

Reggae artist Matisyahu has included portions of Chabad niggunim and lyrics with Chabad philosophical themes in some of his songs.


Novelist Chaim Potok authored a work My Name is Asher Lev, in which a Chasidic teen struggles between his artistic passions and the norms of the community. The "Ludover" community is a thinly veiled reference to the Lubavitcher community in Crown Heights.

Chabad poet Zvi Yair has written poems on Chabad philosophical topics including Ratzo V'Shov (spiritual yearning).


The Chabad-Lubavitch community has the been the subject of a number of documentary films. These films include:

See also


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  3. Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
  4. An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn.
  5. Martin Barillas (June 23, 2008). "US Court finds that Chabad Can Sue for the Return of Precious Archives held by Russia".
  6. Ronn Torossian (May 14, 2012). "The First Jewish Start-Up Nation ? Chabad: Marketing Genius". Jewocity. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  7. Dara Horn, June 13, 2014 "Rebbe of Rebbe's" Archived October 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. The Wall Street Journal
  8. "About Chabad-Lubavitch on". Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  9. Jewish Literacy, Telushkin, William Morrow 2001, p. 470
  10. 1 2 Gelbwasser, Michael, Mansfield rabbi reaches out, Sun Chronicle, March 31, 2007
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  13. 1 2 Drake, Carolyn (February 2006). "A Faith Grows in Brooklyn". National Geographic.
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