In honor of the 115th birthday of the Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, A Chassidisher Derher presents for COLlive readers an advertisement that was published in the New York Times on May 1st 1988.
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It was Chof Hey Adar, 5748; the Rebbetzin’s 87th birthday, and just over a month since her passing on 22 Shevat. Shacharis had just ended, and the Rebbe was Chazzan. The Rebbe had already gone up to the second floor while the crowd had slowly dispersed. A handful of people remained when suddenly they were caught by surprise: the Rebbe was descending the staircase again and began to deliver a Sicha in which the Rebbe launched a unique campaign.
Progressing on the theme the Rebbe had spoken so much about over the past month since the Rebbetzin’s passing “the living should take to heart,” the Rebbe suggested that this day, being the Rebbetzin’s birthday, was an opportune time to focus on the customs befitting each and every one’s personal birthdays. Thus began “The Birthday Campaign.”
Never before did the Rebbe suggest that a specific mivtza should be done in honor or in memory of one individual. The Birthday campaign, on the other hand, was explicitly connected with the Rebbetzin, as the Rebbe said, “Those who wish to do so can take this upon themselves in honor of [the Rebbetzin]…”
One month later at the farbrengen on the last day of Pesach, the Rebbe discussed the matter even further, citing many Torah sources that support the notion of celebrating one’s birthday.
Shortly thereafter, a detailed list of appropriate customs for a birthday based on the Rebbe’s letters and sichos throughout the years was prepared and edited by the Rebbe, consisting of ten sections.
Chassidim immediately took to the task of publicizing and spreading the Rebbe’s new initiative to the broadest reachable audience.
Full-page ads adorned newspapers, touting the message to readers across the globe.
The Yiddish Algemeiner Journal presented a special memo, meticulously edited by the Rebbe, under the title “A Proposal by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita”, calling upon all to mark their birthday with the significance it deserves.
Additionally, a full-page ad appeared in the New York Times, edited by the Rebbe, entitled “Birthdays Matter.”
The full page ad was a project of The Chai Foundation, organized by Rabbi Yehoshua Metzger (Chabad of Midtown Manhattan) as part of its publicity campaigns in newspapers and subways.
The ad appeared in many newspapers in different languages.
Interestingly, before the ad was published, the Rebbe made one correction to the text: One of the instructions given by the Rebbe for a birthday is to increase in Tzedoka. Originally, the ad said that one should “give some money to charity”. The Rebbe amended the text by crossing out the word “some” and left it to read “give money to charity.”
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