By COLlive reporter
The last time it occurred, Eastern Parkway was closed off for traffic, Chassidim and their families stood excitedly, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe presided over the rare ceremony of Birchas Hachama.
That memorable occasion in 1981 seems like history today, in every sense.
Efforts to organize a similar event this year for the Blessing of the Sun – recited once every twenty-eight years – were met with less enthusiasm by Crown Heights community activists.
Throughout the last few days, meetings were held in Brooklyn’s Lubavitch enclave by private individuals, officials in local organizations and the Gaboim of 770 in an attempt to organize a united Birchas Hachama on April 8, 2009 (14 Nissan 5769).
Lubavitch World Headquarters, famously located on 770 Eastern Parkway, is dually controlled by the messianic-associated Gaboim (Congregation Lubavitch, Inc.) and the Chabad establishment (Agudas Chassidei Chabad and Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch). Both fought for their rights in court.
Due to the local dynamics, the proposed program was designed to be “one hundred percent neutral,” according to one of the planners.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source involved in the efforts told COLlive.com: “Many of the local Shuls and mosdos were approached and expressed a strong interest in joining, but stressed that it would have to be neutral for them to join.”
The plan was to draw a crowd of close to 10,000 people and 12 residents undertook the responsibility to raise $20,000 for the event, which was to also include a children’s program. A permit from the police department was said to be obtained.
But they met fierce opposition from Zalmen Lipskier, one of the 770 Gaboim.
“The Rebbe gave the event to the Gaboim and asked them to take care of it as you can see from the video,” he told COLlive in a phone conversation. “The event will be exactly like it was then.”
Asked if the messianic motto “Yechi” (“Long Live the Rebbe…”) was said in 1981, Lipskier answered: “They said ‘We Want Moshiach Now.’ Today we say ‘Yechi.'”
Other 770 Gaboim – Avraham Holtzberg, Yosef Losh and Menachem Gerlitzky – were said to be behind the idea. But when contacted by COLlive, they were either unavailable or said it was Lipskier’s domain.
Lipskier acknowleged that local institutions and schools might not participate under his conditions.
“We asked other mosdos to come, but they wanted their things. Not saying Yechi is not believing the Rebbe is Rebbe. This event is for everybody, and we’re going to say Yechi.”
Lipskier was heard last week saying about the event, “We are putting up Yechi signs, saying as much Yechi as we want, and everyone should kush mir in ——-.”