I’m writing to you because your magazine represents Chabad leaders. Perhaps you can shed some light on something that is really disturbing to me.
I am one of many who loved coming to Chabad when I was a college student. So it was terribly upsetting for me to learn about a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist who was feeling right at home at Chabad, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
American campuses are so hostile to Israel today. As Jews, I believe we must speak in support of Israel, and that we must speak out against the organizations that threaten its survival. Why should Chabad at any university welcome the representative of an organization that aims to bring an end to the Jewish state?
Graduates of the Sinai Scholars program at Chabad at UW-M can earn a trip to Israel
You say that you loved coming to your campus Chabad House. Why? What was it that made you feel comfortable at Chabad?
Was it that your religious practices were identical to Chabad’s? Perhaps all of your beliefs aligned?
I ask these questions rhetorically, of course. If you’re like the rest of us, it’s Chabad’s policy of unconditional love that made you feel at home.
At Chabad, we aim to embrace every Jewish individual with the kind of unconditional love that the Lubavitcher Rebbe modeled for us. The Rebbe often quoted the great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva, who said that unconditional love for our fellow Jew is “the great principle of Torah.”
It’s a value that we, Chabad representatives, aspire to live by—particularly on campuses, where opinions and persuasions are especially diverse.
Our religious practices may not be identical. Our beliefs might not align. They may even be at polar opposites! I may even consider a person’s opinions on Israel to be dangerous and deplorable. But unconditional love is not conditioned on a person’s views.
Just because someone’s at our table, that doesn’t mean that we embrace their views or their values. Unconditional love and welcome is extended to the individual, not to their beliefs.
At Chabad, we teach and share the beliefs and practices of Torah Judaism. That includes the belief that we must protect the 8 million citizens who reside in our Holy Land. That includes the belief that the Jewish people are indigenous to Israel, and are not, as some detractors like to say, European colonialists. And it includes the belief in an indivisible Jewish people, united in their unconditional love for each other.
There’s no mistaking how strongly we disagree with the SJP president and her activism on this important issue. (That’s why we’ve asked her not to advocate for SJP at Chabad). And yet, she still feels comfortable with us. Because she knows that we love her. As a Jew. Unconditionally.
I hope you will agree with me that it is possible, worthy, and powerful to connect to the essential soul of our fellow human, while rejecting their point of view.
Rabbi Mendel Matusof
University of Wisconsin-Madison
This conversation is printed in the Letters to the Editor column in the Pesach 2019 issue of Lubavitch International. To order Lubavitch International as a holiday gift: lubavitch.com/subscribe.