On Monday evening, the Fourth of July, most people in the United States will still be celebrating the nation's Independence Day with barbecues and fireworks.
But there will be some converging on the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, Queens, New York to mark a Jewish date that begins at sundown and will last until Tuesday night – Gimmel Tamuz, the third day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz.
It is the 17th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Synagogues and organizations around the world will participate in prayers, lectures, musical tributes and extra performance of good deeds in the Rebbe's memory, according to Chabad.org.
By the end of this week tens of thousands of people will have prayed at the Rebbe's graveside. Those who are unable to make the trip physically will send prayer requests via fax and emails to the office at the “Ohel,” as the grave site is called.
Considered a place of deep spiritual sanctity, the Ohel is visited throughout the year by hundreds of thousands of people. Many are not Chabad-Lubavitch chassidim, and include among their numbers both Jews and Gentiles. They come to the Rebbe's grave to seek a blessing, guidance and spiritual inspiration.
In addition, more than 400,000 prayer requests are received annually via fax – and hundreds of thousands more via email.
One of the greatest spiritual leaders of the past century, the Rebbe left behind an extraordinary legacy. The Chabad-Lubavitch international network of emissaries stands as one example, noted Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the board of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE). Hecht is the son of the late Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht, one of the Rebbe's closest and most trusted officials, and one of the few that he referred to as his friend.
“The influence of the Rebbe grows every single day, simply because the family of Chabad grows every single day,” Hecht said in an exclusive interview with Israel National News. “Almost daily a new Chabad emissary is appointed somewhere in the world. It is the number one growing Jewish organization in the world.”
Most, “if not all” Jewish movements to bring Jews back to the faith have been inspired by Chabad, Hecht added.
“The influence of the Rebbe is felt everywhere in the world. Even Jews who do not follow his teachings feel that impact in some way, including those who criticize us. They too honor us in some way – they're saying that we are important when they are compelled to respond to us, because they feel so affected by our influence.”