The Organization of Lubavitch Synagogues

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


CHABAD:  A Different Jewish Congregation


Anyone who inspects the website of a Chabad congregation must notice that, unlike all other Jewish congregations, the names of the officers and the Board of Trustees are absent.

This means that either there are no officers and no Board of Trustees, or that such positions are of no importance to the Chabad movement.

The consequence of this arrangement is that there is no need for anyone attending and participating in the Chabad movement to seek an office or to become involved in synagogue politics with a view of getting elected to this or that.

Therefore the kinds of jealousies and political maneuvers that are so common in our congregations donít exist among the Chabad followers. This ensures that there is no elitism and no need to create the kind of oligarchy that is present in almost all voluntary organizations except those that simply have no structure, making synagogue politics possible.

For example, it is common to see synagogue politicians climb the ladder of offices until they reach the presidency and then never to appear in that congregation again after the conclusion of the term of office. This demonstrates an utter lack of interest in the congregation.

On visiting Chabad Shabbat services, I was astonished that I was greeted and welcomed, although I was a  stranger. This is most exceptional, since normally newcomers and/or strangers are ignored in our congregations, leaving the impression that only a limited in crowd is welcome.

Although the Chabad movement practices Torah true Judaism, sometimes also called Orthodox Judaism, the rabbi and others emphasize that all Jews are welcome even if they are nonpracticing or ignorant of the Hebrew language, the ritual, and the fundamental beliefs of the congregation.

Chabad congregations have no hierarchy. The membership and even visitors are all treated the same, and no effort is made to feature important people while ignoring unimportant people. Evidently it is the dictum of the movement that all are of equal importance to God, and that therefore the distinctions common in our congregations are spurious.

Because we Jews are so divided among ourselves, it is unlikely that we will ever agree on only one Jewish practice or one manner of conducting our religious obligations. Nevertheless, it would serve all of us well to learn from the above example that we donít need officers, boards of trustees, important people, and consequently unimportant people, but that we might instead remember that all that is required of us is Ēthat you shall walk humbly with your God and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.Ē

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including End of the Patriarchy (2015).

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