NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tens of thousands of worshipers from around the world headed to Queens Tuesday, to observe the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the crowds lined up in intense heat at Ohel at Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, Queens, to pray and show their respects to the man simply known as “the Rebbe.”
Schneerson was last Grand Rebbe of Lubavitcher Hasidim. He was considered by some to be the most influential rabbi of modern history.
Rabbi Berel Pewzner came all the way from the Cayman Islands for the memorial event.
“This is a very, very important event not only for me personally, but for the entire Chabad movement, and the entire Jewish world at large,” Pewzner said.
The lines to pay tribute to Schneerson stretched out to and along Francis Lewis Boulevard. Families came with their young children.
The occasion, rarely observed up close, revealed the emotional moment when personal printed prayers were read before Schneerson’s gravestone. The sheets of paper on which the prayers were written were then tossed into a huge container before the Rebbe’s headstone.
“Jewish tradition teaches that the day of a righteous person’s passing is an auspicious day for our prayers to be answered,” said Leah Schmetov of Stamford, Connecticut.
When Rabbi Schneerson died in 1994, his passing drew great crowds and sparked an emotion in the streets of Brooklyn. A generation later, the Rebbe may be even more influential.
In fact, a recent biography of the Rebbe became a New York Times bestseller this spring.
Those who came to the cemetery to honor the rebbe’s memory spoke of the example he set.
“Just because he was un-judgmental — he never judged people,” said Lev Rivkin of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. “He taught his students to love other Jews in any way or form, color or no color.”
The memorial event was considered a living, breathing testament to the powerful memory of a historic figure.
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