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Chabad Of Tzfas: A Community Like Kfar Chabad And Nachalat Har Chabad ...And Even More

Beis Moshiach correspondent Menachem Ziegelboim visited the Chabad community of Tzfas, where he found a most impressive community. * An interview with the first shluchim to Tzfas and with the directors of its schools. * Part 2 of 2 *
(Click here for Part 1)

The Chabad community of Tzfas is blessed with “gemachs,” for the g’milus chesed here is first rate. “The feeling here is of one large family,” says the principal of the girls school, Mrs. Nechama Navon. Mrs. Navon has won many prizes and awards from various professional educational associations for her administration of the school.

“First of all, in this community we don’t designate people as Ashkenazim, Sephardim, old and young, as baalei teshuva and those who have always been frum. Everyone is beloved and precious. Simplicity is the byword here. And when you live a simple life, there is no jealousy or competition like in other communities.”

*How is this feeling of community expressed?

“We do many things together. For a bris, women help by cooking, organizing and preparing everything for the meal. If a mother or father are not well, the women deliver food to her home and provide cleaning help and babysitters.

“There is also a gemach for kallos, the Shifra and Puah organization, and lending gemachs. But more than anything else, the feeling here is of community. There’s joy in meeting somebody in the building, the neighborhood or the grocery store, and it makes no difference what your views are. We are really ‘Chassidim – one family.’”

The basis for this sense of community is established when the children are young. The schools have developed from just nine children, who started the first gan, and have grown to over 1,500 students in all the mosdos chinuch.

Chinuch begins at a year to two years of age in eight daycare centers, and then in 15 kindergartens around the city. The daycare centers and kindergartens are run by shaliach Rabbi Aharon Eliezer Tzeitlin. He opens another gan nearly every year to meet the demand.

The boys elementary school is attended by 400 children and is run by Rabbi Y.Y. Lepkivker. There is a parallel girls elementary school with 420 girls, who come not only from the Chabad community, but from all over the city and even neighboring cities, such as Kiryat Sh’moneh, Yesod HaMaaleh, Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Teveria, Rosh Pina, Dishon, and other settlements. The school is so popular that this year there will be five first grades, the most they’ve ever had!

After graduating elementary school, the girls move on to the Beis Chana campus, which has 500 students and is run by Rabbi Shlomo Raskin. Beis Chana is housed in a number of buildings with an attractive garden surrounding it. The caring is obvious in all aspects, material and spiritual.

Beis Chana is divided into three divisions – the junior high, headed by Mrs. Notik, the high school, run by Mrs. Zalmanov, and the seminary, by Rabbi Y.Y. Chitrik. Many seminary girls are daughters of shluchim from the rest of the country or from Chabad families around the world. They attend the seminary in Tzfas because of its excellent reputation. Even girls from non-religious homes in Tzfas attend the seminary because of its high standards. Most of them have since become frum and have managed to inspire their families.

All these mosdos chinuch, run collectively under the organizational name of Ohr Menachem, are united under one hanhala headed by shaliach Rabbi Shneur Zalman Eliyahu Hendel.

Parallel to the high school for girls is the yeshiva for boys. In a previous article we spoke about the 250 boys from around the country who study at the yeshiva. There is also another yeshiva for teenage boys. This was Rabbi Leibel Kaplan’s, a’h, last project and it is directed today by his son, Rabbi Chaim Kaplan, and son-in-law, Rabbi Hertzel. Rabbi Kaplan began a yeshiva for those families who wanted an even more intensive educational program for their sons when they reach their teenage years.

There are two kollelim in Tzfas, one in the Tzemach Tzedek shul in the old city, directed by Rabbi Chaim Kaplan, and another kollel in the K’naan neighborhood.

Two mosdos were founded to be mekarev Jews to Torah and Chassidus. Machon Alte, for baalei teshuva women, attracts students from around the country and around the world. Some women go to visit Tzfas because of its captivating atmosphere, and while there, find their way to the school. There is also Ascent, headed by Rabbi Leiter, which is a study program for men and English-speaking students who typically visit Tzfas to sample some mysticism and Kabbala and end up staying to learn Chassidus. Both Machon Alte and Ascent have enjoyed great success and have excellent reputations.


They told me, “Come visit on Shabbos. You’ll see how this community comes alive.” When Shabbos spreads its wings over Tzfas, there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Anybody who has been in Tzfas for even one Shabbos can tell you that. Seeing the sun setting behind the mountains, feeling the pure atmosphere descending on the city... Reflecting on the author of Lecha Dodi (Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz), who wrote the piyut in Tzfas... Imagining the Arizal, wrapped in white, turning to his holy talmidim with the words, ‘Come, let us go up to Yerushalayim!’

Tzfas and Geula – it seems as though the words are synonymous. There is something in the air of this mystical city, a certain ancient charm hovers above it; one may try to penetrate its mystery, but the mystery remains.

As a resident of the center of the country, I know that today there is a spirit of Moshiach that emanates from Tzfas. Say Tzfas and people will say, “Oh, Meshichistim.”

Why is this the prevailing perception?

Rabbi Hendel: “I had the privilege of having a yechidus after Shavuos 5733. I presented a number of shlichus options and the Rebbe told me that Rabbi Kaplan was going to establish Kiryat Chabad in Tzfas and I should check it out. The Rebbe stated the purpose of establishing that community – “l’hachzir atara l’yoshna” (to restore the crown to its original glory). The spirit of Moshiach and Geula was always prominent in Tzfas, and Moshiach will come from the Galil. The purpose in establishing the community was to restore the crown of Chabad to its original glory.”

Rabbi Hendel considers the establishment of a Chabad presence here a preparation for Moshiach: “Every community the Rebbe established was founded for a reason. Kfar Chabad was founded for the Russians who came to Eretz Yisroel empty-handed. Nachalat Har Chabad was founded for new immigrants who came from Georgia and Bucharia. What was Tzfas lacking that the Rebbe bothered to establish a community here? It certainly wasn’t meant to solve problems with living quarters!”

Amram Moyal (a student of the yeshiva): The goal of restoring the crown to its original glory was fully realized. This was once a vacation spot. But now under Chabad influence, the city has acquired a religious character. The vacationers go to Teveria now. Now our city is a vacation spot mostly for the religious crowd. Three hotels have been transformed into Chabad mosdos over the years!

“The Rebbe restored the spirit of Moshiach in Tzfas, which has always been part of its character. He returned the city’s inner connection as a city of kabbala and p’nimiyus ha’Torah. In a number of sichos, the Rebbe speaks of Tzfas as a spiritual city. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was here, the Arizal was here, Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Alkabetz. They were all here. It’s a tremendously spiritual place, and that power exists in our time as well.”

The talmidim, who go out every Friday to disseminate the wellsprings throughout the north, do a good job; they tell every Jew they encounter about Moshiach’s imminent arrival.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Lepkivker: “Most of the talmidim live with Moshiach and constantly publicize the besuras ha’Geula. We have always focused on one point: the Rebbe! Even in Rabbi Wilschansky’s nigleh classes, he quotes relevant sichos and speaks about the ways of Chassidus. In the yeshiva we live with the Rebbe in every respect, indeed, we are living with Moshiach.”

Amram Moyal: “I also learned in another Chabad yeshiva, but here in Tzfas there is an amazing interweaving of learning with the Chassidic way of life, expressed in day-to-day living and in disseminating the wellsprings outward.”

How do you react to being called extremists with regard to the issue of Moshiach?

Rabbi Lepkivker: “Of course we’re extreme, for the Rebbe never compromises. At the same time, as the Rebbe writes in his letters, all publicity about Moshiach has to be presented ‘pleasantly and with strength.’ We need strength in order not to veer in the slightest from what the Rebbe said.  We must remember the principle of not lowering the Torah, but to elevate others to the heights of the Torah, to inform them about the besuras ha’Geula in a pleasant way. 

Rabbi Moshe Orenstein: “Man by nature is extreme. You can see this today with the different political parties in Eretz Yisroel, where those who tried to stay in the center have gone bankrupt. The younger generation wants the truth.

“What the Rebbe has said about publicizing the besuras ha’Geula is well known. A Lubavitcher Chassid who believes every word of the Rebbe has to know it is the truth. Obviously if there is extremism, it has to be tempered. But if it has to be one or the other, extremism on the side of simple faith is preferable.”

Amram Moyal: “In the time of Moshe Rabbeinu people erred because they weren’t sufficiently connected to Moshe and they didn’t believe enough in what he said. That’s why they sinned with the golden calf. We see this throughout Jewish history. All of our shortcomings came about because of a lack of connection with the tzaddik of the time.”

Here in Tzfas is where the students of the Arizal caused the Geula to be delayed because of personal calculations. Perhaps by your personal interpretation of what the Rebbe said, you are repeating the same mistake?

Rabbi Lepkivker: “We follow what the Rebbe said. Period. Whoever tries to add his own interpretations is missing the point. What is ofen ha’miskabel? What the Rebbe says is miskabel [able to be accepted]. If the Rebbe made a statement, it means that statement is automatically acceptable. The Rebbe does not want people to invent their own ideas.”

Amram Moyal: “As I said, the mistake of the Arizal’s talmidim was that they were supposed to realize that their Rebbe understood Shulchan Aruch better than they did, and thus they should have followed him without hesitation. 

“Originally, we all had complete emuna in the Rebbe’s words, not only extremists. However, after Gimmel Tammuz, some people withdrew from involvement in inyanei Geula and Moshiach and urged everybody else to stop, as well. Here in Tzfas we learned the lesson well, and we won’t make the mistake of introducing our own ideas instead of following the Rebbe’s words exactly.” 

Kfar Chabad magazine claims that the atmosphere you create here is what led to a man attacking a rav because the rav’s beliefs did not agree with those of the attacker.

Rabbi Lepkivker: “He was exposed to a community with a Jewish atmosphere. Does that mean that all Jews are responsible for his action? What’s the connection? He received encouragement for positive things and discouragement for negative things.

The atmosphere here is definitely Meshichistic. Do his actions reflect this? Definitely not. If he cared about the Torah or about what the Rebbe said, would he have done what he did? Absolutely not! It’s a false association which reminds me of similar tactics in the Middle Ages. When the rav said to cut off contact with him, everybody censured him and kept their distance.”

Rabbi S.Z. Hendel: “He caused the community many problems.”

Rabbi Avrohom Goldberg (one of the administrators of Beis Chana): “The atmosphere in the yeshiva and the community is greatly influenced by the three main rabbanim, Rabbi Wilschansky, Rabbi Lepkivker, and Rabbi Orenstein. They have been conveying their ideas about Moshiach and Geula to the talmidim and the community since before Gimmel Tammuz.

“I would emphasize again that there are differences of opinion, which is legitimate. At Beis Chana we invite rabbanim and mashpiim with varying views. When the rav comes to speak, not one girl ever challenges him. This is because we respect one another.”


Every Friday night at the conclusion of Lecha Dodi, hundreds of people dance to “Yechi Adoneinu” around the bima of the shul. Each Shabbos there is a farbrengen opening with Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Lepkivker’s words of inspiration about Moshiach.

Both the boys and the girls in school absorb this atmosphere from the youngest ages. We spent part of our conversation with Mrs. Nechama Navon on this subject. I wondered whether a school which had garnered prizes from the Ministry of Education, Aliyat HaNoar, and from the education department of the northern district, openly discussed Moshiach or perhaps toned things down a little.

Mrs. Navon, an articulate woman, exclaimed, “What do you mean?! We clearly teach that the Rebbe is Melech HaMoshiach and nobody is ashamed of it. Although they don’t always agree with our faith, parents of other groups send their daughters here and they see that our faith is sincere. ‘Yechi Adoneinu’ is printed on every document, including those we send to the government offices.”

Is there an educational purpose to the emphasis on Moshiach or is that just the natural expression of the teachers’ emuna?

“Our goal is to educate girls to be yiros Shamayim, Chassidiyos, and healthy of spirit. I believe that a girl who comes here is a “vessel” to receive all the positive influences and will succeed in her studies. A girl who has a message of strong faith in her heart that the Geula is imminent is a happy girl. The Geula gives us all chayus.

How do you instill a spirit of the Rebbe and Moshiach?

With varied activities, both during the learning and during vacation. I’ll tell you a little story. During the summer vacation we had computer courses for parents and their children. Although the walls were being painted and things were topsy-turvy, even people whose children don’t attend our school were full of compliments. One mother told me that we have a terrific school. When I answered, “It’s the Rebbe’s school, not mine,” she said, “You really feel the Rebbe here. Your walls radiate the Rebbe.”

When Mrs. Navon took on the school, she had 100 students. Today there are 420 students.

What’s the secret?

The Rebbe’s bracha. It’s the only thing that helped us throughout.

But what has been your contribution?

What an individual does isn’t ultimately what makes the difference. The beginning and end of every project is the Rebbe’s bracha. You can do a lot, put in time and energy, but if you don’t have the bracha, it’s a waste of time.

“Listen to this,” says Mrs. Navon. “We once put together a think tank at the school for a certain project. After a few days, we saw that things weren’t progressing as we wanted, so I wrote to the Rebbe and received the following answer: ‘In connection with the establishment of committees, as was decided in their school... it would be worthwhile for each committee to take upon itself...’ The Rebbe continued to mention specific directives.

“I’ll give you another example. We decided to take the girls to Ein Zeitim on Lag B’Omer. We made a program and decided to have a farbrengen with the hanhala with mashke. Soon after that we received the response, “Yashar ko’ach for the Lag B’Omer farbrengen in the forest, and gedola legima sh’mikareves ... (great is [the power] of drink, which draws close).”

As I said, it’s the Rebbe’s community and he runs it all... Tzfas is still awaiting the true and complete Redemption.


Rabbi Avrohom Goldberg relates: This little anecdote occurred nearly twenty years ago. At the edge of the city there was an abandoned army base used only in emergencies. Near the base were a few buildings belonging to a hotel. We wanted to buy these buildings for the girls school. When we wrote to the Rebbe about it, the Rebbe asked us to describe the area. We described the empty lot at a distance from the community, not far from an abandoned army base used only in emergencies.

The Rebbe’s response was not to buy there. Five or six years later, the Israeli army decided to re-open the base where the North’s central base is now located. The Rebbe selected another suggestion that at the time we had thought wasn’t appropriate because it was on the edge of the city. We took it, and today ours is a prime location in the center of the city.


On the first floor in one of the tall buildings in the center of Kiryat Chabad is a grocery store called Super Chabad. Everybody knows that in this store you don’t need to check the hechsher of any product, because the entire store is under the personal hashgacha of the rav of the city, Rabbi Levi Bistritzky.

This grocery store has become a well-known business center around the country, thanks to the widespread advertising, which has been done these past ten years under the heading, “Ofe Super Chabad – Sh’chitas Lubavitch.” In 5750, after the neighborhood grocery store was expanded to its present tremendous size, the store’s manager, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Bronstein, decided to go all-out in a campaign aimed at marketing chicken with Lubavitcher sh’chita to Chabad Houses around the country.

From a business perspective it was a risky venture, because in those days there wasn’t any special awareness of the advantages of Chabad sh’chita, and many Lubavitchers weren’t particular about it. It was this ignorance that pushed Rabbi Bronstein to take the plunge and to do a marketing campaign to reach the Lubavitcher consumer. The gamble paid off so well that today there are a number of chicken producers around the country who produce chickens with Chabad sh’chita, and baruch Hashem, many establishments are prospering from the business that was generated.  




Tzfas, the mystical city; alleyways
in the old city

“The Rebbe speaks of Tzfas as a spiritual city. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was here, the Arizal was here, Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Alkabetz. They were all here. It’s a tremendously spiritual place.”





Under Chabad influence, the city has acquired a religious character. Three hotels have been transformed into Chabad mosdos over the years!


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