What Is Chabad?


Chabad, also known as Chabad-Lubavitch, is an Orthodox Hasidic sect that originated in Brooklyn, New York. With its roots in 19th-century Russia, Chabad has gained worldwide recognition and prominence. This article will explore the background, philosophy, and impact of the Chabad movement.

History and Philosophy

Chabad was founded in 1775 by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe. He was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, who was the chief disciple of the Hasidic movement’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov. Shneur Zalman brought a rationalist approach to the mystical practices of Hasidism, making Chabad known for its philosophical teachings.

The name Chabad is an acronym for the three components of the intellect: chochmah (wisdom), binah (understanding), and da’at (knowledge). Shneur Zalman emphasized the importance of the mind over the heart, believing that the mind should govern one’s decisions and actions.

Chabad’s practices align with those of the wider Orthodox community, with some unique customs. Chabad men wear fedoras instead of the fur-lined hats worn by other Hasidic groups. They also wear two pairs of tefillin during morning prayers, reflecting a historical divergence in opinions. Additionally, Chabad observes unique holidays commemorating significant events in their movement’s history.

Influence and Outreach

Chabad’s influence stems from its extensive network of nearly 5,000 outreach professionals, known as shluchim or emissaries, operating in 100 countries and all 50 U.S. states. These dedicated individuals run over 3,500 Chabad institutions, including Chabad houses, which provide meals, classes, prayer services, and tourist services. In areas without organized Jewish communities, Chabad often becomes the sole Jewish presence.

Chabad’s outreach extends to American colleges and universities, where close to 300 Chabad on Campus centers serve Jewish students. The movement’s online presence is significant, with Chabad.org receiving 52 million annual visitors. It also boasts one of the largest Orthodox publishing houses in the United States and operates various organizations, including a global youth group and a network of yeshivas.

Chabad plays a vital role in the Jewish community federations in Russia and the former Soviet bloc. Notably, Chabad’s emissaries organize the world’s largest Passover Seder in Nepal every year.

The Rebbe and His Legacy

After the death of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, his son-in-law, became the seventh leader of the Chabad movement. Under his leadership, Chabad grew from a small Hasidic sect into a prominent force in modern Judaism. Schneerson emphasized the importance of Jewish education and the performance of biblical commandments to strengthen Jewish identity and hasten the arrival of the messiah.

Schneerson’s efforts focused not only on Jews but also on encouraging the observance of the Noahide laws among all of humanity. Chabad’s outreach network expanded globally, utilizing innovative methods such as converting campervans into mobile outreach centers and utilizing technology like satellite television and the internet to spread its message.

Schneerson’s leadership saw Chabad establish itself as a major educational, humanitarian, and spiritual force worldwide. He was widely respected and received honors from various heads of state. Today, Chabad continues to thrive, with thousands of emissary families operating institutions worldwide, shaping the face of modern Judaism.


Chabad, an Orthodox Hasidic sect, has become one of the most well-known and influential Jewish movements globally. With its emphasis on intellectual approach within Hasidism, Chabad’s outreach work has touched millions of lives, bringing people closer to their faith and heritage. Through their network of dedicated emissaries and institutions, Chabad continues to impact communities worldwide, creating a lasting legacy.

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