After many years of research, I finally found the collection of letters written by the Rebbe, of righteous memory, to late Jan and Alice Peerce. Jan Peerce, known as the “American Tenor,” was considered the longest-standing performer at the Metropolitan Opera House during his career. He became close to Rabbi Chaim Drizin while visiting Chabad at Berkley University with his grandson.
Although Jan and Alice had kept the Rebbe’s responses, they had not kept copies of the letters they had written to him. I did, however, find three drafts in their personal files. I spent time trying to piece together the sequence of the correspondence and it turned out that the Rebbe’s response to one of the letters – the very first letter the couple ever wrote – seemed to be missing. I was perplexed but decided that the couple must have received an oral response, relayed through Rabbi Drizin, as much of their communication had been.
But recently Rabbi Levi Garelik gave Lubavitch Archives his personal collection of correspondence from the Rebbe in English. Upon looking through the letters, to my great joy, I discovered the Rebbe’s response to the Peerce’s first letter.
Alice Peerce letter to the Rebbe:
Perhaps you will think we have waited a bit too long to express our thanks.
It has been eleven weeks since Jan had his accident. The time has been very difficult due to the complications that befell us. We say with humility thank you for your blessings, interest and concern.
At the time when we needed moral support Rabbi Cunin and Rabbi Drizen never failed us, giving us strength and courage.
When Rabbi Drizin explained the Lubovitch theory to me, to give of ourselves to the Lord one might be fortunate to receive. I became Shomer Shabbis. I have found peace and happiness in doing this and, of course, Jan’s very recovery continues.
Jan and I have become staunch Chassidim of Lubovitch more so than ever before.
With thanks to G-d and you,
Mrs. Jan Peerce
Here is an excerpt of the Rebbe’s response:
Your joining this ever growing Chasidic family who have found a new meaning in life and, with it, peace and happiness, has a special significance in that you are a Kohen,
and also in that Divine Providence has given you a gift of song and melody. For this is a medium that directly communicates with the heart and the inner aspects of the soul, unlike prose which speaks to the intellect and only then can probe deeper. Through the medium of song and melody one can touch directly upon the heartstrings of the listener and inspire his inner soul, which is the reason why song and melody have such a prominent part in Chasidus in general, and in Chabad in particular.
In the light of the above, I extend to you both my prayerful wishes to utilize to the full the capacities and opportunities which G-d has given you in the above mentioned direction, and to do this in the Chabad way – with complete trust in G-d and with inspiration, and may G-d bless you with Hatzlocho to go from strength to strength in all above, in good health and with gladness of heart.
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