Mikvah: The Secret of Jewish Sisterhood

By Atara Kaye

The practice of mikvah was a conscious choice made Jewish women throughout history…. Contemporary studies of Jewry rebut claims that Jewish women are oppressed in this regard.

Mikvah, the ritual bath used by many Jewish women to purify themselves after their menstruation, is a subject of great significance to the Jewish People. It’s a ritual that traditional Jewish communities held sacred for thousands of years, one universally practiced in Orthodox Jewish communities today.

Contemporary Jews who are critical of the ritual maintain that mikvah oppresses the Jewish woman to be ‘sex ready’ and clean for their husbands. They assume that this ritual bath for women is forced upon them; they have no choice but to perform this hateful archaic ritual, a relic of an ancient world. Furthermore, the critics would understand this women’s ritual as an instrument of a patriarchy disgusted by menstrual bleeding, declared menstruating women as dirty and unclean. This fear by men was the reason for Jewish men to force their wives to accept oppressing laws that forbid intercourse during menstruation and took as far as forbidding the husband and wife to eat from the same plate of food. This fearful rite translated in Jewish women dreading their monthly menstruation, expecting to be met by the rejection by their spouses due to this oppressing ritual.

It’s likely that these arguments may be rooted in a Christian feminist allegation during the 1970s that the Jewish People invented the patriarchy and that Judaism is the source of society’s sexism, a claim which appeared to the Jewish community simply as a feminist version of classic Christian antisemitism.

Regardless of the source of the criticism of mikvah, this perspective very well may be the case for some women, at the same time, it would not reflect the entirety of the Jewish woman’s experience. Perhaps mikvah is more meaningful than one might think. Why would women continue to practice a law through the ages, even during times when performing any Jewish ritual could incur a death penalty from the non-Jewish authorities? If Jewish women were so oppressed by this seemingly ancient tradition, they would have dropped the ritual at the first opportunity, and there were numerous occasions throughout Jewish history to do exactly so (e.g. the Greek Hellenization, Roman occupation, Spanish Inquisition, etc.). Perhaps the reason this mitzvah continues to exist, even thrive, in a postmodern world is because this ritual is much deeper and meaningful for Jewish women. Perhaps the practice of mikvah was a conscious choice made Jewish women throughout history. Mikvah may just be the secret of the Jewish sisterhood, a sisterhood that both empowers women as well as gives them the feeling of equality in a patriarchal world.

If this positive perspective is true, mikvah may be a great historical example of feminism and sisterhood. The halacha of mikvah has been traditionally passed on to women, and many women see their fulfillment of the ritual at the very center of their religious identity. Of course, going to mikvah would be different for each woman. Context as well as environment can have a significant impact on a woman’s attitude to the arrival of her mikvah night. Some might see going to mikvah at night as exciting and even mysterious, while others may feel with anger and resentment for an obligation that would require them to go out late at night in the freezing winter or to pass through a dangerous side of town, etc. (Wasserfall, 1999). In some communities in Israel, women would see this ritual as either patriarchal (institutionalised by men) or increasingly politicised (Cicurel, 2000).

In any case, contemporary studies of Jewry rebut claims that Jewish women are oppressed in this regard.  Scholars have found that American Jewish women who are mikvah users do not have a significantly different negative view towards menstruation than non-mikvah users. Additionally, researchers found that mikvah users felt significantly more inter-menstrual arousal than non-mikvah users (Siegel, 1986). In fact, many observant American Jewish women see mikvah as an enhancement to their family life (Wasserfall, 1999). This finding may lend support for the Jewish understanding of the concept of mikvah as a tool for revitalising the marriage with passion (Boteach, 2000).

We see that the practice of mikvah is one Jewish women throughout the ages were proud of, and even today, it is a practiced embraced by many, a rite seen as a secret of Jewish sisterhood, a key to Jewish survival.


Boteach, S. (2000). Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy. Harmony Books.

Cicurel, I. E. (2000). The Rabbinate versus Israeli (Jewish) women: The Mikvah as a contested domain. Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 164-190.

Siegel, S. J. (1986). The effect of culture on how women experience menstruation: Jewish women and Mikvah. Women & Health, 10(4), 63-74.

Wasserfall, R. R. (1999). Women and Water. Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law. pp.1 – 14.


Tea Parties and #Farbrengens – An Overview of the #ChabadCalendar

Tea Parties and Farbrengens: An Overview of the Chabad Calendar

By: Dovi Seldowitz

The Chabad movement is widely known for their public celebrations of Jewish life and ritual; these celebrations are very often aimed at encouraging other Jews to celebrate Jewish religious holidays and to perform the rituals and customs associated with that day. Less widely known to outsiders is the additional number of Chasidic holidays on the Chabad calendar. These days carry a special significance to the Chabad community and are commemorated each year, mainly by the students and faculty of Chabad yeshivot, as well as a number of people living in various Chabad communities. The Chabad holiday is a particular type of Chasidic celebration, found in abundance in the Chabad movement; few other Chasidic groups claim so many days of celebration.

There are around two dozen Chabad holidays, each with varying degrees of notability and celebration.[1] Some are well known even outside of Chabad and are celebrated by many within Chabad. Others are relatively unknown and are celebrated in a number of yeshivot but little elsewhere. Chabad holidays usually involve three kinds of celebration, “liberation days” (or “chag hageula“), birthdays and yartzeits (anniversary of death). The “liberation day” typically involved the release of one of the Chabad rebbes from imprisonment by the Russian authorities (Czarist or communist), other days which loosely fit in this category include events which are considered as having the same spiritual associations as the other liberation days.[2] The Hebrew dates in this category include the 10th of Kislev, the 19th of Kislev and the 12th and 13th of Tammuz among others. Notable birthdays include the birthday of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad (on the 18th of Elul), and the birthday of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (11th of Nissan) among others. Notable yartzeits include the 3rd of Tammuz (passing of the Rebbe), the 10th of Shvat (passing of the previous rebbe) and the 22nd of Shvat (passing if the Rebbe’s wife, the Rebbetzin, Chaya Mushka Schneerson) among others. Birthdays and holidays are important days for Chabad Chasidim; among other Chasidic groups, birthdays are not commonly celebrated. There are some miscellaneous days, such as the marriage of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin (14th of Kislev), which do not fit in the above mentioned categories but are treated in a similar manner as birthdays or yartzeits.

For sociologists, holidays are seen as days serving to socialize members of society, however, no two holidays serve the same exact societal role. Also, holidays are often recast or re-engineered to render continued significance in societies undergoing significant changes.[3] In the case of Chabad holidays, this effort at socialization is quite salient as the most typical form of celebration of a Chabad holiday is in the form of the farbrengen, a gathering of Chasidim where the story and moral lessons of the holiday is retold and an effort is made by the participants to reaffirm their connection to God and their commitment to the teachings of the Rebbe.

Interestingly, Chabad holidays contain a certain level of innovative spirit in comparison to traditional Jewish holidays (as practiced in Orthodox communities); there are a number of stark differences between Chabad holidays and ordinary Jewish holidays. The most obvious difference is that Jewish holidays contain both cultural and religious elements; Chabad holidays have, for the most part, little or no “religious” aspect to them (there are no blessings to recite, etc.) leaving the day to be solely a celebration of Chabad history and culture.[4] And unlike traditional Jewish holidays which usually involve an event that occurred to the Jewish People, Chabad holidays revolve around the lives of the rebbes; that is not to say the original events did not involve the Chasidim, but that they occupy a peripheral space in the day’s history and celebration. Additionally, Chabad holidays are, for the most part, not celebrated in a uniform manner; there is little or no specific instructions on how these dates are to be celebrated, though there is plenty of open-ended customs (e.g. organize a farbrengen, commit to resolutions for additional Torah study and the study of the teachings of Chasidut)[5] all which lend to a good deal of variances in practice.

The Chabad calendar is a significant example of how the movement stands out among other Chasidic (and for that matter, Jewish) groups with regards to cultural innovation. The numerous Chabad holidays celebrated by the movement’s yeshiva students may help account for the high level of commitment the young men and women of Chabad have in dedicating themselves in outreach activities. Chabad holidays should be seen as exercise in some of the many ways the Jewish People may be reinvigorated, celebrating their heritage and living as proud Jews.


[1] See, Nachum Rabinowitz, Yomei D’pagra, Ledorot – Eshel, Kfar Chabad: Israel, 2012.

[2] For example, Hey Teves, the day marking the legal victory in the lawsuit over the ownership of the Chabad library, is considered in Chabad not merely a decision over physical books but over the spiritual approval for the spreading of Chasidic teachings. See, Chaim Miller, Turning Judaism Outward: A Biography of the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Kol Menachem, 2014, pp. 364-366.

[3] See, Amitai Etzioni, “Holidays: The Neglected Seedbeds of Virtue,” The Monochrome Society, Princeton University Press, 2003, pp. 118-119, 130-132.

[4] The rare example of a specific religious custom associated with Chabad holidays is the practice of omitting the confessional prayers (tachanun) on a number of Chabad “liberation days.” See for example, Menachem Z. Greenglass and Yehudah L. Groner, Sefer Haminhagim: The Book of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn: New York, 1994, pp. 89, 150.

[5] See for example, Menachem M. Schneerson, Hayom Yom… From Day to Day, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn: New York, 1988 pp. 4-4a.

Is There a Doctor in the House? #ChabadPhD

Is There a Doctor in the House? The Little Known Story of the Chabad PhD
By Dovi Seldowitz

When comparing and contrasting Chabad to other Chasidic groups it is fairly common to note their different attitudes towards general society. Other Chasidic groups are often described as “insular” and resistant to modernity, Chabad, on the other hand, is deemed open, welcoming and willing to utilize technology for the advancement of Jewish ideals. But looking deeper, Chabad has not only a different attitude towards the outside world, its community includes different types of Chasidim not found in other groups. Among the unique kinds of Chasidim in Chabad is the rather surprising “Chasid PhD.”

The idea of Chasid with a PhD is somewhat counter intuitive; the general Chasidic community and the world of academia are two realms not often bridged; the exception usually being some researcher wishes to study Chasidism and is compelled to spend time in or around the Chasidic community as part of their fieldwork. But in Chabad, mostly due to its intensive outreach, specifically its outreach on universities and college campuses, a significant number of men and women who have earned their doctorates have become a part of the Chabad community. And while the majority of Chabad PhDs joined the community as adults, a few Chabad PhDs were in fact Chasidim their entire lives. A number of these Chabad PhDs enjoyed a personal connection with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was known to have encouraged the PhDs with regards to their work in their respective disciplines, while the younger PhDs have earned their degrees (or joined the movement) after the Rebbe’s passing

Perhaps the most well-known Chabad PhDs are Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel and Dr. Herman (“Yirmiyahu”) Branover. In the Chabad community these three men are well-regarded for their various contributions to the community and have somewhat become “household names.” Immanuel Schochet (PhD in philosophy) authored and translated a number of works for Chabad. Some of his best known works are The Great Maggid, a biography of the Maggid of Mezritch (Rabbi Dovber ben Avraham, teacher and rebbe to the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi), the translation of the Baal Shem Tov’s ethical will (Tzava’at Harivash) and Mystical Concepts in Chassidism.[1] Nissan Mindel (PhD in philosophy, Semitic languages) is noted for serving on the Rebbe’s secretariat but is also highly regarded for his translation of the Tanya, the classic book of Chabad philosophy by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. He also is noted for writing a biography on Rabbi Schneur Zalman, his translation and editing of the previous Rebbe’s memoirs as well as for a number of books and magazines for children which he either authored and edited. Herman Branover (PhD in physics, a pioneer in the field of magnetohydrodynamics) is mostly known for his personal connection with the Rebbe and his work assisting Russian Jews who had migrated to Israel; Branover was also instrumental in the publication of the B’or Hatorah journal (geared specifically toward religious scientists and academics) and organizing the B’or Hatorah conferences.[2]

A number Chabad PhDs have become somewhat known in the Chabad community due to the popularity of stories about their personal connection with the Rebbe;[3] these include Drs. Velvl Greene (biology and epidemiology), Irving (“Yitzchak”) Block (philosophy), Jack (“Yaacov”) Hanoka (physics) and Avraham Michael Hasofer (mathematics) among others. Several Chabad PhDs used Chabad as a subject for their thesis and/or for subsequent academic treatment; included in this group are Drs. Nissan Mindel, Naftali Loewenthal, Kate (“Miriam”) Loewenthal (married to Naftali), Malcolm (“Menachem”) Kovaks, Yaacov Lefcoe among others.[4]

The Chasid PhD certainly plays an important role in the Chabad community but it can be expected to evolve over time. The Chasid-PhDs have been around for some time now and soon one might be able to clearly distinguish between the “first generation” of ChabadPhDs, who earned their degrees during the the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s, from the “second generation” of men and women in the Chabad community, who have earned their PhDs from the mid-90s on. Understanding where these men and women came from and their impact on Chabad will  certainly assist one to gain a finer and more comprehensive understanding of the societal makeup of the Chabad community.

In memory of Rabbi Dr. Akiva (Bernard) Greenberg, a Chasid and professor of sociology.


[1] See, Eli Rubin and Yaakov Ort, “Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 77,” Chabad.org, July 28, 2013.

[2] See, Dovid Margolin, “Torah and Science Conference: Putting the Universe in Perspective,” Chabad.org, December 12, 2013.

[3] See, Chaim Miller, Turning Judaism Outward: A Biography of the Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Kol Menachem, 2014, page 226; Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, HarperCollins, 2014; Yocheved Miriam Russo, “The Rebbe and the rocket scientist,” Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2007; Dovid Zaklikowski, “Chasidic Scientist, Solar Energy Pioneer, Passes Away: Yaacov (Jack) Hanoka, 75,” Chabad.org, May 11, 2011.

[4] See for example, Nissan Mindel, “Sefer Liqqutei Amarim (Tanya),” PhD diss., Columbia University, 1962; Naftali Loewenthal, Communicating the infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School, University of Chicago Press, 1990; Kate Loewenthal, “Marriage and religious commitment; the case of Chabad Chasidic women,” Journal of Contemporary Religion 5, no. 1-2 (1988): 8-10; Malcolm Kovacs, “The Dynamics of Commitment’: The Process of Resocialization of Ba’alei Teshuvah, Jewish Students in Pursuit of Their Identity at the Rabbinical College of America (Lubavitch),” PhD diss., Union Graduate School, 1977; Yaacov Lefcoe, “Project for a Judaism-inspired Transpersonal Psychology,” PhD diss., York University, Toronto, 2011.

Is it possible to estimate size of Chabad in the US? #Chabad #Statistics #ChabadSociology


Chabad estimates vary a great deal. It is often reported that Chabad members number some 200,000.

Samuel Heilman has estimated Chabad at around 40,000. But even he is unsure whether or not to count the Jews who have joined the many Chabad centers across the globe as members of the Chabad movement proper.

Heilman’s figure might not be that far off. But suppose we could get a solid estimate for Chabad in the US using Jewish day school figures?

In the US, there are around 13,000 students in Chabad day schools. Jewish day school education is pretty much the standard among US Orthodox Jews. So it is reasonable to assume that these students are from Chabad homes.

If this is so, suppose we try calculating based on this figure? All we would need is the number of children per Chabad home. Working backwards, we might be able to get a safe estimate for the number of Chabad Jews in the US.

Chabad of Montreal: Here’s the stats!!! #chabad #montreal #chabadsociology


In 2003, a study conducted in Montreal took a census of the ultra Orthodox in Montreal. Included in the reapondenta of that study, were 287 Chabad households (in this case, respondents self-identified as Chabad).

While the study was conducted a decade ago, it is the most current data on this community. So here’s what we know about Chabad in Montreal:

Total households
•There are around 287 households that identify as Chabad.
•Chabad households make up 13% of the ultra Orthodox community (there are an estimated 2,193 ultra Orthodox households), and 0.6% of the total Jewish population in Montreal (there are an estimated 41,125 Jewish households). Note that the general Jewish population has fewer persons per household.

Number of people
•The estimated number of persons living in Chabad households is 1,590 (the mean size of Chabad households is 5.54, and 6.67 when excluding childless households).

The number of persons per household varies:
•10.5% have 1 person (30 households in total)
•39.9% have 2-5 persons (114 households)
•39.2% have 6-9 persons (112 households)
•10.5% have 10+ persons (30 households)

•The estimated number of children living in Chabad households is 1,038 (the mean number per Chabad household is 3.62, and 4.63 when excluding childless households).

The number of children varies per household:
•9.9% have 1 child (22 households in total)
•58.3% have 2-5 children (130 households)
•26.6% have 6-9 children (59 households)
•5.4% have 10+ children (12 households)

Fertility rate
•The fertility rate among Chabad women of Montreal is estimated at 5.06.

•The mean age is 22.46.

Here’s a breakdown by age group:
•45.8% are aged 0-14 (712 persons in total)
•20.9% are 15-24 (324 persons)
•17.1% are 25-44 (266 persons)
•12.1% are 45-64 (188 persons)
•1.9% are 65-74 (30 persons)
•2.1% are 75+ (33 persons)

Ethnic background (Sephardi/Ashkenazi
•Of the 526 respondents and spouses, 94 (17.9%) identified as Sephardi, and 432 (82.1%) as Ashkenazi.


Shahar, Charles. “Main Report: A Comprehensive Study of the Ultra Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal (2003)”. Federation CJA (Montreal). (2003): pp. 7-33.

Chabad Synagogues Increase in MetroWest NJ #ChabadSociology #ChabadStatistics

MetroW NJThe 2012 MetroWest Jewish Population Update Study“, conducted by Ira Sheskin, updated the information from the 1998 MetroWest Jewish Population Study.

The study surveyed Jewish life in Essex, Morris, Sussex and northern Union Counties in the state of New Jersey.

Presented in the study’s report was the number of synagogues and affiliated households.

Chabad-affiliated synagogues were not specifically highlighted in the findings but were grouped within the Orthodox synagogue count.

After examining the report, it became clear that roughly half of the Orthodox synagogues are in fact Chabad. This was also true for the nuber of affliated households. See table below.

Synagogues 1998 Household Count 2008 Household Count 2012 Household Count
All Orthodox 33 1,031 3,217 3,378
Chabad 16 61 1,402 1,558
Chabad Percentage 48% 6% 44% 46%


And when comparing Chabad to all synagogues in that area, Chabad appears to make up 20% of all synagogues, but only 8% of affiliated households. See table below.

Synagogues 1998 Household Count 2008 Household Count 2012 Household Count
All Denominations 82 12,108 19,247 18,781
Chabad 16 61 1,402 1,558
Chabad Percentage 20% 1% 7% 8%


Methodology Note: We’ve identified this list of Chabad synagogues by a) having “Chabad” (or “Lubavitch”) in it’s name, and b) by visiting the synagogue website (e.g. on the “about” page). The other Orthodox synagogues either identified as “Modern Orthodox” or gave no indication as to being affiliated with Chabad.

Below is a complete list of Chabad synagogue totals, as listed in the report.

Synagogue City County 1998 2008 2012 2008-2012
Bris Avrohom/Congregation Shomrei Torah
Ohel Yosef Yitzchok
Hillside Union NA NA NA NA
Chabad at Short Hills/Ahavat Torah Short Hills Essex NA NA NA NA
Chabad Center of Northwest New Jersey Rockaway Morris NA 250 250 0
Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge/
Chabad of Somerset, Hunterdon & Union
Basking Ridge Somerset NA 75 150 75
Chabad of Montville Township Montville Morris 0 50 75 25
Chabad of Mountain Lake-Boonton
Denville Morris NA 30 30 0
Chabad of Northwest NJ-Western Region Flanders Morris NA 50 50 0
Chabad of Randolph Randolph Morris 0 60 40 -20
Chabad of Sussex County Sparta Sussex 0 70 100 30
Chabad of Union County Fanwood Union 0 15 30 15
Chai Center of Millburn/Short Hills Short Hills Essex NA 80 90 10
Congregation Levi Yitzchok/
Rabbinical College of America
Morristown Morris NA 100 100 0
Congregation Shaya Ahavat Torah/
Chabad Center of SE Morris County
Parsippany Morris 25 35 30 -5
Lubavitch Center Shul West Orange Essex 36 52 68 16
Maplewood Jewish Center / Congregation
Beth Ephraim
Maplewood Essex NA 35 45 10
Union County Torah Center Westfield Union NA 500 500 0
Total: 16 61 1402 1558 156


General Note: Many synagogues were unable to provide estimates for 1998 membership. Changes reflect only those synagogues for which 2008 and 2012 information is available. Italicized numbers are used to indicate reasonable estimates where data are not available.


Sheskin, Ira M. (2013). The 2012 MetroWest Jewish Population Update Study. Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. http://databank.bjpa.org/Studies/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=2383

Chabad and Hillel Learn from Each Other #ChabadSociology #ChabadandHillel

Hillel-LogoIn the spirit of the upcoming Jewish New Year, we’d like to point to a finding that should warm your heart.

Chabad on Campus and Hillel are two Jewish organizations that serve the needs of Jewish students at universities all across the United States.

In may ways, they are engaged in a fierce competition. They compete for student involvement and public support. Their approaches are different, but they are playing on the same turf.

But one student found that Chabad and Hillel learn from each other.

In her Master’s Thesis, Heath Watenmaker at HUC points to some of the ways the organizations influence one another. According to Watenmaker: “Largely in response to Chabad’s presence on campus, Hillel has actively tried to incorporate more of a family feel into their Shabbat experience… Perhaps as an adaptation to Hillel’s ability to successfully reach large groups of students with highly social events, Chabad now holds events like paintballing… and they have monthly social gatherings.”

While this does not account for the experience at all campuses, this is a development that is wonderful to see.


Watenmaker, Heath A. Building Bridges, Creating Community: How Hillel and Chabad Reach out to Students on Campus. HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (formerly School of Jewish Communal Service) Masters Theses. Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion School of Jewish Communal Service. May 2006: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=5126

Chabad Statistics: Let’s Examine the Estimates #ChabadSociology #ChabadStatistics


Let’s revisit a previous post on Chabad statistics.

I’ve pointed out that the figures posted on Wikipedia.org and elsewhere does not appear to be based on any actual survey or poll, it’s all just a hunch.

But let’s examine this a little closer. What have the authors of the Chabad Wikipedia article found for us?

Here’s what they wrote:

“The movement has over 200,000 adherents,[13][14][15][16] and up to one million Jews attend Chabad services at least once a year.[17][18] .”

Here are their sources:

13. The perfect matzo a matter of timing, Associated Press April. 12, 2006
14. “Wertheimer, Jack. A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America. New York: Basic Books (A Division of Harper Collins) (1993); pg. xiv–xv”. Adherents.com. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
15. Occhiogrosso, Peter. The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions. New York: Doubleday (1996), Chapter: Judaism; pg. 250.
16. Andryszewski, Tricia. Communities of the Faithful: American Religious Movements Outside the Mainstream. Bookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press (1997); pg. 95.
17.Slater, Elinor and Robert, Great Jewish Men, Jonathan David Publishers 1996 (ISBN 08246 03818). Page 279.
18.Sharon Chisvin (5 August 2007). “Chabad Lubavitch centre set for River Heights area”. Winnipeg Free Press. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.

For starters,  Associated Press (note 13) and Winnipeg Free Press (note 18) are both news sites, so you are relying on the reporter’s estimate. Not exactly scientific. In fact, the Winnipeg article claims there are over a million Lubavitchers globally, again with no source.

The source in note 14 actually points out to the lack of quantitative evidence. Here’s what the author actually wrote.

“The magazine of the New York Times ran a celebratory cover story of the Lubavitcher rebbe… Without adducing any quantitative evidence, the article claimed that the rebbe was “lionized by his nearly 200,000 followers” and declared his movement “a missionary juggernaut”. “

The sources in notes 15 and 16 state the 200,000 claim without providing sources And note 17 is a compilation of biographical sketches of “Great Jewish Men”, not the greatest primary source for Chabad demography.

What’s the bottom line here? There does not seem to be any serious demographic estimate of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Don’t Go Away!!! Stanford Scholar Asks to Collect Online Orthodox Material #ChabadSociology #OnlineResearch

Searching Chabad-Lubavitch on Google Scholar

Heidi Lerner, a Judaica cataloguer at Stanford University, has highlighted the scholarly value of preserving Jewish Orthodx materials being posted online.

“The research value of these materials to the study of Orthodox Judaism is quite considerable. Scholars have acknowledged the importance of  institutional collections of physical ephemera, notably the National Library of Israel (the new official name of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem); the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s broadside, poster, and “pashkevilim” (public wall posters used for communication in Haredi society) collections; and Harvard College Library Judaica Division’s collection of audio and videotaped sermons. The increasing concentration of such materials on the Web will necessitate new efforts at preservation.”

But doing that is not easy, as Lerner notes.

“The transient nature of these online sources and the difficulties in finding them are ongoing areas of concern that researchers and scholars need to address. There have been many third-party attempts to organize them on portals, individuals’ collections of links, scholars’ Web pages, etc. However, these do not provide systematic indexing or archiving, or any guarantee of longevity.”

I have seen a few attempts to try to organize Chabad-related resources, and I hope that they don’t just disappear…

Read more of Lerner’s article here.


Lerner, Heidi. Researching Orthodox Judaism Online. AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies. Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Spring 2008: 36-38

Campus Shabbat Experience @ Chabad – Sociologists Research & Make Recommendations #ChabadSociology #ChabadonCampus

Jewish Sociologists collaborating with the Chabad on Campus International Foundation examined the phenomenon of Shabbat dinner events held on American college campuses by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The researchers identified factors which make the program so successful, and make recommendations for how other Jewish programs can tap into the needs and desires that motivate young American Jewish college students to attend these events.

Chabad Mizou
Photo by MendyDesign

Their recommendations to Chabad were for them to:

1. Expand its work in this area.

2. Continue its willingness to think “out of the box.”

3. Expand the kinds of educators it has engaged in this work and increase the educational training of Chabad rabbis so that they can incorporate more pedagogic tools in their repertoires.

4. Take unique ideas that have chemistry and enable them to grow without turning them into routine.

You can view the full report here.


Cohen, Steven M. Chazan, Barry. Reimer, Joseph. Bryfman, David. Home Away From Home — A Research Study of the Shabbos Experience on Five University Campuses: An Informal Educational Model for Working with Young Jewish Adults. Chabad on Campus International Foundation. August 2006:http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=3623