By COLlive reporter
On one of the days of Chanukah this year, Boonya Laskey took a subway ride in New York. As a Lubavitcher ready to fulfill the Rebbe‘s instruction of reaching out to fellow Jews, she took with her a tin Menorah kit.
It quickly came to use when she saw Isaac Liev Schreiber, a Hollywood film actor, director, screenwriter, and producer.
After gifting him the Menorah, the two were seen chatting on the train. Little did the passengers know that this wasn’t the first interaction that Schreiber had with Chabad. To be precise, this wasn’t the first interaction that Schreiber had with the Laskey family.
Boonya’s father, Rabbi Aryeh Laskey gave COLlive.com the details:
It was in the spring of 1976 when Laskey was driving a Mitzvah Tank late on Friday afternoon. He was waiting at a traffic light and with him was Rabbi Yossi Groner, today of Melbourne, Australia.
Groner spotted a tall elegant, young mother with a little boy with flowing long hair. Learning that they are Jewish, the Chabad bochurim handed the mother and girl a set of Shabbos candles, encouraging them to light them before sundown.
“Shabbos candles are very nice for girls to light,” Laskey told the little girl.
“I’m a boy!” the 8-year-old child replied with a strong shout.
This was Laskey’s first interaction with Yitzchok Schreiber. His nickname was “Huggy” until he became known as Liev Schreiber.
While his father came from a Protestant family in Pennsylvania, Schreiber’s mother Miriam (who goes by Heather) was born to the Milgram family in Brooklyn, NY, descendent from Polish Jewish and Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.
Laskey tells that Mrs. Schreiber was very happy to meet them and welcomed the opportunity to bring her son to visit the Rebbe at Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.
“I brought him to the Rebbe many times during Release Time programs,” Laskey tells COLlive.com. “I remember going by the Rebbe’s room and Isaac received coins from the Rebbe.”
Laskey remembers being asked by a nearby chossid in the hallway of 770 as to when he plans to give an “upsherin” to the boy with long flowing hair. Schreiber lived in poverty and Laskey recalls their apartment in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan without electricity and hot water.
That summer of 1976 (5736), the young Schreiber was happy to go to Camp Gan Israel of Parksville, the overnight Chabad boys summer camp in New York’s Catskills. “It was an experience that he really fondly remembers,” Laskey says.
Schreiber lived with his mother, an eccentric artist and painter. At the age of 12, Liev was briefly forced to go to an ashram school near Hartford, Connecticut. Laskey remembers visiting him there.
“I contacted Rabbi Yossi Gopin (the nearby Shliach) and he drove us to the ashram where we met Isaac and his spiritual personal guru, who also was Jewish. This teacher met up many times with Rabbi Gopin after this meeting,” he recalled.
Laskey has lost contact with Schreiber as he transitioned from the Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah in Crown Heights to Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch in Morristown, New Jersey, and later to the Central Tomchei Tmimim Yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway.
“Then, I remember one day learning in 770, when a bochur comes over to me and says he met this very articulate 13-year-old in Manhattan who said that he has a Chassidic big brother named Aryeh Laskey,” Laskey said.
Schreiber passed along the phone number of his grandfather, Alex Milgram, whom Laskey remembers as a strong Zionist, but not religious. “He was strongly against his grandson having a Bar Mitzvah. He very emphatically kept telling me, “No Bar Mitzvah for my grandson!'”
Laskey says he suggested that instead of a Bar Mitzvah ceremony and celebration, they simply have Liev Schreiber called up for an Aliya to the Torah during a prayer service in the presence of the Rebbe.
“Oh sure, that would be really nice,” replied the grandfather.
Laskey was he was surprised by the response and went to work on making it happen, speaking with the 770 Gabbai Rabbi Meir Harlig.
“A few days later, Isaac and his grandfather came to the Rebbe’s minyan of Krias HaTorah where Isaac was called up for his aliya right before the Rebbe was called for for Shlishi.
“I had cautioned everyone there not to say any mention of a Bar Mitzvah but we did make him a beautiful L’chaim for the great honor to be called up to the Torah – and by the Rebbe.
“As the bochurim lifted Isaac on their shoulders to dance around, the grandfather was crying as he was so touched by the experience. Since it wasn’t meant to be a “Bar Mitzvah,” I foolishly made sure not to take any photos…”
A few years ago, when Liev Schreiber was one of the guest speakers at the gala of Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl, he proudly mentioned the name of his big brother from Chabad: Aryeh Lasky.