Includes a collection of videos highlighting the Rebbe’s care for individuals in need
By: Faygie Levy Holt
LifeTown, the recreational, social and educational center in Livingston, N.J., that serves some of the region’s most vulnerable populations, has launched an interactive exhibit of photos and videos that show visitors the love and care for every individual demonstrated by the Rebbe— Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
The video and photo exhibit is prominently featured in LifeTown’s new welcome area, and was launched last month on 3 Tammuz, the anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. The exhibit was dedicated by Livingston residents Larry and Barbara Ellberger, who credit the Rebbe for so many blessings in their lives, including their children.
“I like to think of the Rebbe as Hashem’s [G d’s] gift to the world,” Larry Ellberger said during the dedication. “Like he gifted manna that sustained the Jewish people in the physical desert of the Sinai, the Rebbe sustained the Jewish people in the spiritual desert that exists in this generation.”
He continued, “I think Hashem’s gift of the Rebbe is even better than the gift of the manna, because, as we know, the manna stopped after 40 years, but the Rebbe is the gift that keeps on giving.”
The exhibit contains a collection of images of the Rebbe, including interactions with children and with injured soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. It also includes an interactive video kiosk where visitors can watch videos of the Rebbe.
According to Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of Friendship Circle and LifeTown in New Jersey, the timing of the dedication could not be better. “The Rebbe continues to inspire everything we do at Friendship Circle and LifeTown, so it is especially meaningful that we dedicated the exhibit on 3 Tammuz, the day of the Rebbe’s passing.”
The display was created in partnership with JEM, Jewish Educational Media, and the video kiosk features all of JEM’s 70 Years videos. The documentary-style videos capture a wide array of subjects that appeal both to those who know about the Rebbe and to the many who may not be familiar with the Rebbe’s teachings.
“It’s very exciting to have helped create this installation,” said Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin, executive director of JEM. “It was a great experience because everyone at LifeTown was focused and worked collaboratively with our team. It’s especially meaningful that the exhibit focuses on individuals with special needs because that’s an area so near and dear to the Rebbe.”
Message of Inclusion
In numerous letters and conversations, the Rebbe stressed that every soul has a unique mission on earth and that every person has unlimited potential. He urged community leaders to ensure that individuals with special abilities are included in every aspect of the community and have educational and life-long opportunities as contributing members of society.
It is his work and teachings that guide the Friendship Circle’s mission to ensure that every child, regardless of their abilities, enjoys the benefit of friendship in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Levi Grossbaum, director of operations at LifeTown, worked extensively with the team at JEM to create the exhibit, and says it is already a hit with visitors to the center.
“We are so appreciative to everyone at JEM for their commitment to this project and for going above and beyond to create this exhibit,” he said. “The curators and programmers worked hard to find the appropriate photos and videos to bring the Rebbe’s message of inclusion and love to everyone who visits LifeTown.
“These messages resonate now more than ever,” continued Grossbaum.
While all Chabad centers have a photo of the Rebbe prominently displayed, the interactive video kiosk that was created for LifeTown will be available for Chabad Houses around the world to replicate. Each kiosk can be adapted to the specific needs or interests of individual Chabad centers and can utilize the extensive collection of videos that JEM produced as part of the 70 Years project.
“The Rebbe taught that as the world evolves, we need to embrace technological advancements and to explore new opportunities that they present,” said Yaakov Rozenblat, director of technology at JEM. “These interactive exhibits have been requested many times by shluchim, emissaries of the Rebbe, but this is the first time it’s been put into practice. This project brought together the creativity and expertise of the team at LifeTown, and great content on our end. We are sure it will spur other collaborations as well.”
Added Zalman Grossbaum, “Every day, people are being inspired by Chabad rabbis and rebbetzins sharing the Rebbe’s message. Having this video kiosk will bring the Rebbe’s message directly to people on their own level and in a setting they feel comfortable in, making it all the more accessible and personal.”