By Dovid Zaklikowski for COLlive and Hasidic Archives
A supporter of Chabad in Charlotte, North Carolina, was upset. There was a public dispute going on between several national Jewish organizations that he felt was unnecessary and unbecoming. While he had refrained from attacking the other organizations, Chabad had taken a strong stance in defense of Jewish law.
Mr. Goldberg (not his real name) supported many of Chabad’s programs in the area and allowed the camp, Gan Israel, to use the pool on his family’s large estate. “There has to be a stop to it,” he told the rabbi. He wanted Chabad to compromise for the sake of Jewish unity.
“Only the Rebbe can represent Chabad,” Rabbi Yossi Groner replied, “and every person could write to the Rebbe.”
Mr. Goldberg wrote to the Rebbe describing the situation and stating his desire that the groups involved should find a way to coexist peacefully and have a meeting.
The Rebbe wrote back a cordial letter, “Many thanks for the spiritual satisfaction which your letter brought me, seeing that someone has finally reacted to a spate of anti-Lubavitch attacks in the media and otherwise.”
In the long letter, the Rebbe said that Chabad, as a rule, does not respond to name calling, and a meeting would be pointless, “for it would place aggressor and victim in the same category and at the time, would create the impression that the leadership of your movement has done all it could and fulfilled its duty both in regard to the movement and in the eyes of the world.”
Mr. Goldberg wrote yet again, requesting that the groups involved should meet and negotiate a compromise.
“I do not doubt your sincerity and good intentions,” the Rebbe responded, but a summit between the groups would not work. Chabad was simply defending Jewish law, while the other groups had turned the disagreement into a personal feud that could not be settled through negotiation.
“I would be remiss in my duties and responsibilities if I did not express my shock and disappointment at the manner in which you perceived the problem as expressed in your letter, namely as if it were a ‘mutual’ problem caused by two movements against each other and equally reprehensible, etc., and therefore should be ‘shared personally’ and mutually resolved.”
Incensed at having his request denied, Mr. Goldberg wrote a letter to the Rebbe that was disrespectful and sent a carbon copy to Rabbi Groner. The rabbi immediately called his father, Rabbi Leibel Groner, one of the Rebbe’s aides, and asked him to remove the letter from the mail. “It cannot be the Rebbe should put his eyes on it.”
The elder Rabbi Groner explained that he could not take anything out of the mail. “Whatever comes, the Rebbe receives.”
The Charlotte rabbi was heartbroken. He could not eat or sleep and spent the next three days reciting Psalms. When the letter finally reached New York, the elder Rabbi Groner handed it to the Rebbe with trepidation. The Rebbe read it and broke into a smile. Then, becoming serious, he turned to his aide, “How is your son?”
Rabbi Groner said he was reciting Psalms, fasting, and weeping. The Rebbe told him to go call his son immediately and tell him to stop. “All is in order.”
The younger Rabbi Groner calmed down on hearing that the Rebbe was not offended. Still, he decided, he would not ask Mr. Goldberg for the use of his pool that year.
A few days later, the Rebbe asked his aide what was happening in Charlotte. Rabbi Groner told him about his son’s decision not to ask Mr. Goldberg for help.
“What? On the contrary,” the Rebbe said, “they need to continue their relationship with him. Do everything as it was before, and even more.”
It was a difficult call to make for the young rabbi. He doubted whether his erstwhile supporter would even be willing to assist with the camp. To his surprise, however, Mr. Goldberg was happy to hear from him. “Everything is set up for the camp, and I cannot wait to see the kids come to our place.”
The story was relayed to the Rebbe, and from then on, the Rebbe would inquire from time to time what was happening with the Goldbergs.
Today, Mr. Goldberg’s son and grandchildren are members of the local Chabad and pray there weekly.