November 11, 2014
Avremele Rainitz in #948, Profile

From the life of RYehoshua Shneur Zalman Serebryanski ah

Over the years, RZalman developed interesting relationships with certain people in the Mizrachi movement, and thereby the yeshiva and other Chabad mosdos were helped. One of them was with RAvrohom Shmuel Leibler, a diamond dealer and big philanthropist. He was from Antwerp and had immigrated to Australia before World War II. Although he belonged to the Mizrachi party, his lifestyle was more ultra-Orthodox. As a Jew who loved Torah and respected mitzva observers, he made donations to Chabad mosdos, keeping that separate from his political affiliation.

Over time, he became closer with Chabad Chassidim. In Teves 5716 on a business trip to the United States, he had a private audience with the Rebbe. The Rebbe updated RZalman about this in a letter written on 25 Teves:

When Mr. Leibler visited me here, based on your first letters I spoke to him and urged him about the necessity of a Lubavitch girlsschool, but I told him that the impression from your letters was that it would be in the yeshiva building or by expanding it. He said that he did not think there was space in the yeshiva building, but there was plenty of room to expand the building by adding behind it. He promised me that after he would return from his travels to Australia, which apparently will be in another few weeks, he will help with the yeshiva and also with the girlsschool, as much as he can.

By the way, my impression of him is that he is a G-d fearing man. It is surprising that until now they utilized him, apparently, only in a minimal measure for Lubavitch matters.

It seems to me that even before he returns, you can increase this to a certain degree by getting his wife involved in yeshiva matters, because it seems from what he said that she is more attached to the yeshiva than he is, and she has influence on him in this.”


This surprising fact, that they were not sufficiently making use of people like Mr. Leibler, is something the Rebbe said to another Chassid from Melbourne in a letter that he sent the same day. In this letter, the Rebbe states that when you want to be mekarev someone, you need to draw a little nearer to his world in a way of closeness and involvement. One needs to be very careful not to become immersed in the assumptions of the world, and therefore one needs a bit of ascendancy and to always remember that this is not the ultimate goal. But, writes the Rebbe, it seems that for some of Anash, the ascendancy aspect dominates the closeness aspect and therefore they miss out on opportunities to be mekarev people to Torah and Chassidus.

By way of example, the Rebbe writes:

One of the examples I saw last week when Mr. … from …. visited me and the impression he made after a long conversation is that he is a G-d fearing man. As for his wife, not only doesnt she interfere; on the contrary, she adds in these matters, and it appears that until now they did not utilize him for Chabad matters at all and even more so that they didnt draw him in. And he also mentioned Mr. … and it seems that with him too they still only accomplished a little bit. I am afraid that the reason is as stated above. As it is explained in a number of places that a mashpia needs to assess the vessels of the recipient and with the proper contemplation of this, will arrange the influence in such a way that it will be fully accepted. May Hashem help them so that they will accomplish in these matters regarding the Jewish people in the country ofandin particular, and may Hashem grant success.”


After RZalman received the Rebbes letter about Mr. Leibler, he responded in a letter dated 12 Shvat and wrote that surely when Mr. Leibler would return to Australia, Anash would try to be mekarev him more, as the Rebbe instructed.

RZalman apologized for the fact that Anash, until then, had not been involved in being mekarev Mr. Leibler, since he was one of the heads of the Mizrachi movement in Melbourne and even served as the chairman of the community for a period of time. He donated large sums to the Mt. Scopus Zionist School and was always boasting about the activities of the Mizrachi movement. In light of all that, Anash were hesitant to be mekarev him too much to the hanhala of the yeshiva because he might then express his opinions in how the yeshiva should be run, especially with his Zionist leanings. RZalman even mentioned in his letter that at one of the meetings of Mizrachi, Mr. Leiblers son spoke and emphasized that the Chabad Yeshiva opposed the Zionist ideal.

As for Mrs. Leibler, RZalman said she was intelligent and dynamic and was considered one of the successful activists of the womens division of Mizrachi. Therefore, when they put together a committee of women for the yeshiva, they invited her to the first meeting and asked her to join the committee and to use her talents for the yeshiva. However, she declined and said she was busy with her work for Mizrachi.

That is the reason for the cool relationship between us,” wrote RZalman, “even though openly we are friendly.”

In addition, RZalman apologized for not being mekarev him until now becauseeach of Anash has financial problems and the little free time that they have they use for the yeshiva in raising money etc. and they dont have the time and the settled mind to deal with this.

But,” he concluded, “after the Rebbes instruction, we will consider how to find the best ways to fill the Rebbes instruction.”

(RZalman generally refrained from writing negative things to the Rebbe, especially not about specific people. In this case, he made an exception and a few days later he wrote a sort of apology to the Rebbe for having to write what he did. “I try not to describe people in my letters to the Rebbe, especially in the negative, but had to write about Mr. Leibler a little bit in order to explain why we were not mekarev him much.”

He likewise sought to minimize the impression he made at first about Anash and wrote that what he saidabout Anash was brief and in general terms from which it was possible, G-d forbid, to understand things negatively. Therefore, I will add now that Anash here are doing beyond their abilities for the yeshiva, each according to his level, without considering their lowly material and spiritual state, and even though much is lacking. When the Rebbe demands greater efforts, surely Anash will be able to find the strength for this within them. But according to their abilities which are apparent, each of them is doing what he can. May Hashem have mercy on them and on each individually to help them in all that they lack.”)


In a letter of 9 Adar 5716, the Rebbe responded to RZalman:

What you wrote about Mr. Leibler: throughout our conversation he spoke like an actual friend and with a promise for the future with greater measure in all matters of the yeshiva. And even if what you write about this is correct, sometimes it pays to hold a person to his word, similar to that which is explained in Avos DRabbi Nosson regarding the midda of Aharon.”

(This seems to be a reference to what it says in Avos DRabbi Nosson Chapter 12, Halacha 3: “RMeir says: What does it mean when it saysand many he turned back from sin?’ When Aharon would be walking he would meet a wicked person and greet him. The next day, the man wanted to sin. He said, ‘Oy, how will I be able to look at Aharon afterward? I am ashamed before him since he greeted me’” – i.e. when someone is reached out to, he is ashamed to behave in a way that is not befitting the kiruv).


In accordance with the Rebbes instructions, RZalman tried to be mekarev Mr. Leibler and even arranged to meet with him, but for various reasons the meeting kept getting postponed. In the end, a serious meeting took place on Motzaei Shavuos with RZalman going to visit him together with RShmuel Betzalel Altheus.

At the time, there had been talk about the need to bring one of the Tmimim from the United States to help with the yeshiva. In their meeting with Mr. Leibler, they asked him to help with the big expenses entailed in bringing someone new from the US. Their meeting lasted a few hours, in the course of which they told him about the development of the school. They asked him to get involved and to help them increase the schools income.

Mr. Leibler was very impressed by the Chabad Schools success and committed to help in a number of areas, but he said he could not devote himself overly much to the school because he had prior commitments.

RZalman knew from the Rebbes letter that during the yechidus the Rebbe had spoken to him about the girlsschool and that Mr. Leibler had promised to help as much as he could. He tried to remind him of this and told him of his plans in this regard. But Mr. Leibler did not remember (or did not want to remember) and said it was not worthwhile rushing to open a new school as long as the boysschool wasnt financially stable.

When RZalman mentioned that they planned on having a fundraiser for the yeshiva, Mr. Leibler recommended that they do so in coordination with the Jewish Community Council. In Melbourne it was an accepted practice for community institutions that were united under the Community Council to plan fundraisers in coordination with the other institutions. Each institution was given a few weeks a year in which they could fundraise. This was meant to prevent a situation in which two organizations would have conflicting fundraisers and both would lose out because people would be unable to donate large sums to both.

Mr. Leibler, who was one of the community leaders, wanted the yeshiva to register under the authority of the khilla too, but RZalman was afraid to do so. In a letter to the Rebbe, he reported about this and asked the Rebbes opinion.


A year later, in 5717, Mr. Leibler passed away following a heart attack at the young age of 47.


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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