November 4, 2013 | 1st of Kislev, 5774

Recent Scholarship Unveils New Evidence of Colel Chabad Activity in the 18th Century

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi founder of the Chabad movement and of Colel Chabad
Israel's leading daily news paper,the liberal-leftwing Haaretz recently carried a long review by David Assaf of a new major scholarly research on the founder of the Chabad movement (and of Colel Chabad/United Soup Kitchens), Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Haaretz made special note of the genesis of Colel Chabad the umbrella social welfare network in Israel which sponsors United Soup Kitchens. for which Rabbi Schneur Zalman was arrested and incarcerated by the Czarist Government. He was eventually released because he was able to prove that helping the needy in the Holy Land was not a treasonous activity.

As Haaretz wrote:

One interesting chapter is only indirectly related to its main subject, but will be of great importance to scholars of the history of the Old Yishuv (Jewish population of Palestine). It concerns an unusual collection, one that was confiscated at the Vilna home of one of the Hasidim who was arrested together with Shneur Zalman. It contains some 70 bills and receipts that were sent to members of the Vidzh community in Belarus, in return for donations they sent to Palestine in the years 1793-1796. These funds, collected among the Jews of Eastern Europe, were life-savers, literally; without them, their fellow Jews living in the Holy Land would not have been able to survive.

(Rabbi) Shneur Zalman (of Liadi) was accused of being in charge of that enterprise, which took money out of Russia and transferred it overseas. In responding to the charge, the rabbi noted that the custom was an ancient one, by which means Jews aided their destitute brethren. It was not currency-smuggling, but rather a charitable duty, a part of the Jewish religion that had been recognized by the government: "Thus does our religion provide for the poor of the Land of Israel, so they will pray there for all the Jews."

Colel Chabad/United Soup Kitchens is indeed the oldest social services charity in Israel, having been established by Rabbi Schneur Zalman in 1788. Ever since it as remained true to its original mission of helping the poor and destitute in a manner that preserves their dignity.

(from a review of the new book Hama'asar)