Thursday, June 09, 2005

Weird and wonderful world of Lubavitch

Sue Fishkoff writes in JTA that a decade-long argument over whether a plaque outside 770 (Lubavitch HQ) should refer the Lubavitcher Rebbe as 'of blessed memory' -- ie. dead -- or not is now in court. It's been a decade-long farce: When the plaque was first put up in 1995, she says,
It was defaced almost immediately and the phrase was scratched out by, it was widely presumed, messianists, who oppose any suggestion that the rebbe is dead.
The defaced plaque remained up until Nov. 4, 2004, when some young Lubavitchers, including the three named defendants in the current case, removed it in the middle of the night and tried to replace it with a plaque that referred to Schneerson as the Moshiach, or Messiah.
They were caught in the act, arrested and their new plaque was removed under police guard.
The conflict escalated: Merkos [non-Messianist Lubavitch body -- MS] hired installers to replace the original, non-Messianist plaque, they were met by groups who pushed and shoved them, the police got involved and Merkos got a temporary restraining order against the three young men. Then Congregation Lubavitch Inc. [Messianist group who are co-defendants in this case -- MS] tried to have the restraining order voided on the grounds that its gabbais, as duly elected trustees, were the only ones who should control the plaque, the synagogue and the surrounding buildings.
The restraining order stood, barricades went up, guards were posted and Merkos’ plaque was finally affixed — and then vandalized by a blow torch.....
The trustees from Congregation Lubavitch Inc. say they tried to put up their own, “neutral” plaque that doesn’t refer to Schneerson at all, but were prevented from doing so by the restraining order.
How about no plaque?
In any case, Fishkoff puts the case into the context of the wider struggle between the Messianists and non-Messianists for control over the main Synagogue in the basement of 770, which is currently a Messianist stronghold. Indeed, the case includes an explicit request for the court "to declare that Congregation Lubavitch Inc. has 'no right, title or interest in' the synagogue, and that control rightfully belongs to Merkos and Agudas. "
Read more about this all at this insider's blog, which also includes some of the court papers, and a rather interesting insight into the weird and wonderful world of Lubavitch besides. And now I refer you to Shmarya, the blogosphere's senior Chabad fisker, for more on the Fishkoff piece. We also eagerly await Tzemach's comment.

1 comment:

Zoe Strickman said...

Thank you for the update on this issue. I knew about the controversy as it was happening, but I didn't realize that it turned into a court case. Thank you for the heads up!