A few weeks ago, my grandfather, R’ Bentzion Rader passed away. Zayda Rader, as he was known, merited to have a unique relationship with the Rebbe. He spent hours upon hours in yechidus, and had many a lengthy correspondence with the Rebbe about a myriad of topics.
Needless to say, he had a wealth of personal stories with the Rebbe, and thanks to an interview with JEM’s My Encounter project more than a decade ago, many of them are recorded.
For us, his grandchildren, these videos are a most precious treasure. Looking at my children, I realize that although they will not have memories of their Zayda Rader when they grow up, they will know his story from JEM’s videos.
In the week before Lag B’Omer, one of JEM’s daily videos featured a My Encounter interview with my wife’s grandfather, Rabbi Eli Lipsker, who passed away a few months ago. Along with footage of the 1960 Lag B’Omer Parade, Zaidy Lipsker recounted the story of how he formed the first Lag B’Omer Drum Corps. It was not only a beautiful piece of Lubavitch history for all of Chabad to enjoy, it was a most meaningful, emotional and priceless experience for his family to see and hear his part in it.
While I have heard many of the stories from my grandparents themselves, I tend to forget details, and there are many more stories and encounters with the Rebbe that I did not hear which are now recorded for posterity.
More than the familial aspect, as someone who never saw the Rebbe, the guidance the Rebbe gave to real people (not just relatives, but the many other My Encounter videos) resonates deeply and makes the Rebbe that much more personal to me. I would argue that these videos are among the strongest hiskashrus tools we have.
So why do I say all this?
Not everyone with such experiences is willing to be interviewed. There are many reasons given — even my grandparents were reluctant to publicly share their deeply personal encounters with the Rebbe. Ultimately, they decided to do it for us, their grandchildren. Not only are we grateful they did — they were glad, too.
Rabbi Yechiel Cagen and the team at JEM go about the process with the professionalism of historians and documentarians, but with the warmth of fellow chassidim. Through the interviews, my grandparents developed a friendship with Yechiel.
If you, your parents or grandparents have experiences to share, I cannot urge you more strongly to be interviewed. No story or experience is insignificant. I’m not one to preach about the value your stories have for the entire Chabad community, but do it for your children, for your einiklach. Do it for the child who will one day carry your name — let him or her carry it with the pride and joy that comes with appreciating a rich history and the legacy they are living.
Full disclosure: I was not commissioned by JEM to write this. I am proud to have worked with JEM on numerous other projects as a freelance writer, but this was written out of appreciation for “My Encounter,” and no one at JEM had any editorial control over it.