Op-Ed Response: Organic Chabad

by Yochanan Gordon

A brother-in-law of mine residing in Crown Heights sent me an op-ed published on Crownheights.info entitled ‘Chabad Lite.’ In it, the author bemoans the spiraling state of altruistic Chassidic values which is widespread amongst many of today’s youth specifically in Lubavitch circles. It seems, in the words of the author, that people choose for one reason or another to identify with Lubavitch but are not prepared to hold themselves accountable and continuously refine their character and connection to the Rebbe’s ideals as old world Chassidim did.

This brings to mind a joke that Chassidim say about today’s gezhe: The joke goes. “Gezhe are like carrots, the best part is in the ground.” However, as funny a joke it is, it is just as much a call to reality for all of us who fall within that category. When I tell people that I carry the name and am the great grandson of the late Yochanan Gordon of Dokshitz and esteemed Gabbai of 770 Eastern Parkway and friend of the Friediker Rebbe and the Rebbe they almost always follow by saying, “are you aware of the shoes that you have to fill?” It is the question that is important at this point to dwell on.

Taking credit for family pedigree is in a sense stealing the crown off the king’s head. Being born a Jew, or to any prestigious family within Jewish life is more of a liability than it is a reason to pursue honor or respect. In fact, more times than not it is those people who fail to follow the call of their predecessors who are in search of their birthright. Those who realize the enormity of the challenge they have encountered by being born into a gezhe family have no time to worry about honor or respect for something they have not earned themselves.

The author chose to title his op-ed as Chabad Lite following the modern fad to indulge in specific culinary pleasures without accumulating the calorie intake that the real thing would result in. It’s a spinoff of the diet or low fat generation that has been a part of us for so long already. But I believe that the world has moved on since then. It seems from my point of view that sugar substitutes are no longer as convincing to the weight conscious as they once were. In fact, a recent study shows that sweet n low or other such sugar supplements prevent weight loss and contains the risk of other medical complications. So while psychologically it may seem like the right thing to do the truth is that it could take a long time but you will come to realize that it was not the quick fix that it was meant to be.

It is a perfect analogy. On a superficial level, while it would seem to an outside observer that someone walking with a beard, sirtuk, bent down hat and a gartel belongs to the Lubavitch affiliation, it may take some time but at the end the mask will be pulled off and the person’s true identity known to all. Growth as a Jew has to start from the inside and make its way out. If the foundation is not strong then the building built upon it is at serious risk of collapsing.

I believe it is this realization that introduced a new phenomenon in the food industry called organic. Today, a quick walk through your local supermarket will reveal a whole line of organic products from lolly pops to chickens. Even cleaners claim they have the ability to use untainted cleaning agents and charge the client more for doing so. In following with modern trends I think today’s Lubavitch community in particular and the Jewish community in general would do well to return to their natural state of being, free of the environmental hazards that continue to abound within our midst.

The benefit of an organic product and the factor which raises its value on the market is the watchfulness invested within it to ensure that it is free of any hazardous influences. The point is, although the two maybe indistinguishable to the naked eye the effects will be seen overtime. In fact, if there were no health benefits to going green then certainly in a faltering economy nobody would even think twice about it. However, despite the ever-present financial strain people are reaching deeper into their pockets to do all they can to ensure their health and the well being of those near and dear to them. It seems then that the organic way of life improves the overall quality of life.

The truth is that the Baal Shem Tov introduced the system of Chassidus to improve the overall quality of life. Someone who closely adheres to this system, not by convenience, rather on principle has improved his value as a person and will enjoy a much more meaningful existence. But just to go through the motions without the religious fervor is similar to a monkey who imitates everything they see. But, then again, from the perspective of the monkey, just imitating the motions of man will get scientists to debate the relationship between monkeys and men. Hopefully, we understand our heritage well enough, and respect the self sacrifice of our predecessors not to be content with ‘professors’ debating whether or not we are Chassidic or not.

A story to illustrate the seriousness that Chabad demands: Although the tradition today is for married Chabad men to wear a gartel during prayer, at one point it became customary for a boy who became Bar Mitzvah. During the Reign of the Rebbe Rashab some boys would cavalierly twirl twirl the gartel around their finger in a playful, lightheaded manner. In order to stop that prevailing trend, the Rebbe decreed that only married men should wear gartels during prayer.

Today, if the gartel was our problem we would be alright. Sadly, the malady has spread fast and furious plaguing some of the most prestigious families in Chabad and it’s all a result of outside influences that have crept into and has seriously deteriorated the Jewish pride and fortitude to stand firm amidst the prevailing trends of a demoralized society.

Until we realize the value of a Chassidic way of life and understand that no other system or path will offer us the benefits that a Chassidic approach achieves at the end of the road, sadly nothing will change. Because no one is prepared to invest time or exert effort into something that they could get without it. Once we realize that there is only one road that takes us there we will be prepared to do the work, despite the setbacks that we might encounter along the way, because ultimately we will get there b’derech aruchah uketzarah b’ezras Hashem….


  • Nice but please explain!!!???

    Great points, but this has nothing to do with what the last writer wrote, what you are saying if I may iny own words, is that chabad has to deal with the problems of the times and what the other writer was saying was what we should do, so if this op-Ed came out first I would get you and where your coming from and then by reading the other one have a solution to the problem but what your writing now is just confusing me as to what you want from your op-Ed!?

  • jewish mother

    yichus is a bunch of zeroes, only worth something if you put a 1 in front of it

  • should I be sad?

    Must be nice to be gezhe. I wouldn’t know, I’m just a regular Frum Lubavitcher trying to keep my family on track & B”H, succeeding. Rabbi Gordon really does think a lot of himself, doesn’t he?

    By the way, I don’t get his point either. Too many self-serving analogies, stories & ramblings.

  • Beautiful piece

    Stunning! A brilliant exposition with depth vs. an emotional rebuttal with fluff. To #1, it seems like Rabbi Gordon is presenting a similar idea with a totally different perspective – it’s not about “get out of town you’re ruining my children – but about the beauty and depth of the chassidic lifestyle that cannot be found in any other path on earth.

  • Why knock anyone?

    As a BT, I love associating with gezhe. I get to see what I missed as a child and learn so much about how to bring the chassidishe lifestyle into everyday life. Why are people so often angry, jealous, sarcastic, condescending about gezha? I’m so happy I have role models to look up to…

  • Take a second look

    It’s not a result of outside influences. The reason kids are not interested in being full on chassidim is because they do not like the models of chasidim that they see. It is the politics and bad teachers (sometimes ineffective parents) weak community leaders that have led our youth to distance themselves from our community. Instead of blaming the “outside” let’s look within ourselves and have more ahaves Yisrael towards our friends.

    Instead of bashing a whole group of people in articles on the internet, how about you show them how a real chadishe lubavitcher lives and loves his fellow. The old chassidim would lay down their lives for a fellow jew, today we can barely control our anger for another person. It’s no wonder they are not interested in our brand of water-downed chabad. The whole point of chasidus is to love another Jew unconditionally. Not to judge them. Maybe we are Chabad Lite and they are Chabad Organic since they have true love for their fellow Jews.

    Don’t be so quick to judge.

  • CH-er

    I read both articles and you seem to be related in topic but not really saying the same thing – I am someone who also came from a ‘gezhe’ family, as you call it. I would consider myself chabad – lite, as it’s been called. Reason being, my grandfather went on shlichus (at the behest of the Previous Rebbe) at the expense of his family (wife and children). Why would I want to follow a particular lifestyle when it’s acted out as a sacrifice to one’s children?? especially if all the Rebbe’s sichos teach otherwise. I’m not taking sides on this issue but it might behoove you (readers) to actually understand, not only the traditional lifestyle but also the other side of it as well.

  • fed up

    rabbi g dont you get it the author of the op ed was saying that this people are not intrested in improving they want to be so to say cultraly lubavitch this people make it hard for a bochur like me to continue help my generation instead of defending this modern othordox at best so called chasidim

  • fdgd

    just because ur not – dont diss those whose r.
    we r very real people who do have a particular set of challenges – that have every right to be aired.
    imagine u were the presidents daughter and all the benefits and responsibilities that come with it.

  • confused

    what are you trying to point out? I’m not quite sure if you are in agreement. If you are then what’s the point of writing it again?

  • Gezhe my..........

    Get a freekin life Gordon.

    I am sick and tired of living in the “Lubavitch Caste System”

    Here is an approximation of the order:

    1. Gezhe
    2. Shluchim
    3. Rich BaaleBatim (regardless of extract)

    High Middle class:
    3. Choshuve non-Gezhe non-Shluchim
    4. People with “unique” Rebbe relationship (“My mother drank tea with the rebbetzin”, my dad installed the electricity on President St., Rebbe’s doctors etc)

    Dust of the Earth Peasants:

    5. Non Gezhe, Non Shliach, Not rich, FFB Lubavitcher

    Lower Dust of the earth:

    6: “Ben Baal Teshuva FFB”, no yichus, no money, no shlichus.

    Lowest of the Low:

    7. BT, no money, no shlichus and no ability to speak in yiddish when getting drunk and no ability to distinguish between komotz and patach and cholam.

  • To # 2

    to # 2:

    You’re wrong:

    Yichus is just a bunch of zeros… that’s it.

    YOu can’t put a 1 in front of it… it doesn’t work like that.

    If you have “1” and a BT has the same “1”…well guess what… you’re just the same freekin “1”……you don’t suddenly become 1gazillion because your great great grandfather threw up at the maharash’s hakofos. vein kan mekomo veda”l

  • Hakoras Hatov

    Well written article. Excellent analogies!
    Good food for thought!
    Thank you for taking the time and effort to produce such an article.

  • Chasid

    Didnt read the Chabad Lite and not reading this.

    Call a spade a spade.

    If you dont aspire to do everything the Rebbe asked and shaken to the core when you fall short then you are not a Lubavitcher.

    Just like when Begin asked the Rebbe if was a chasid.

    The Rebbe was a shepard of all Jews but that doesnt make YOU a chasid.

    Shave your beard, your wife and you look like goyim in the park with your jeans and fancy shirts. your kids talk about elmo instead of moshiach

    This is ALL FINE.

    You are a Jew, and a holy Jew at that. Shomer Shabbos, Torah, Mitzvos

    but dont drag down the Rebbe into your modern orthodox lifestyle because you still want to be a Chasid of the Rebbe

    its like wearing a pin. You say the Rebbe is Moshiach

    A chasid MAKES his Rebbe moshiach

    Good luck.

  • yochi

    bad moshol from organics……..the whole organic is a financially driven scam. v’day l’mayvin

  • MZ

    very well written. Thank you.

    For those of you who don’t get it, sometimes things look good – but are not good for you. Diet soda tricks your body and you end up eating more so you gain insead of loose weight. Gezhe sounds wonderful, but if you don’t behave, you fall to the depths. Lubavitch lite fools people ino hinking they have he bes of boh worlds. But one day, they will wake up and realize hey have nothing. Their kids will be so assimilated CV”S, that there will be no connection to yiddishkeit except maybe for matzah balls and colored candles on a bush in December.

    Until we realize the value of a Chassidic way of life and understand that no other system or path will offer us the benefits that a Chassidic approach achieves at the end of the road, sadly nothing will change. Because no one is prepared to invest time or exert effort into something that they could get without it. Once we realize that there is only one road that takes us there we will be prepared to do the work, despite the setbacks that we might encounter along the way, because ultimately we will get there b’derech aruchah uketzarah b’ezras Hashem….

  • avraham

    rabbi Gordon
    very well written and to the point
    your words are sincere BUT intellectual
    to be a chosid has to come from the heart and
    if I don’t feel it why should I do it? because is right?
    or because later on I WILL see the benefits?

  • sum guy

    You can take ALL your yichus and shove it! Yichus does not “entitle” anyone to conduct themselves contrary to the shulchan aruch! Wearing a mini-skirt – because you are related to one of the five families that come straight from Sicily, doesn’t count for anything by Hashem.
    Being an OIS VORF isn’t justified because your great-grandfather learned in Lubavitch!

  • ch bt

    to #14 and to those who are jealous of Geza: Yes to all of you out there who wish they were born Geza. You were not and face the fact. The core, base, foundation of Lubavitch is made up of Geza. It is sad that so many people have come in and ruined what was there. Some of my best friends are Geza even though I am a BT.I am jealous of them. Of their background of what they know of their parents and grandparents. Let’s be honest. So are you. Yes, Geza pulled you out of the mud that you were in and brought you to where you are now. Yes there is a cast system, B”H. Please look up to them and copy them and respect them

  • Two Chabads now!

    The fact is that we now have TWO types of Lubavitchers:

    1) The modern “Young Israel” ones, some even trim their beards, half of them are even from Geza..

    2) The good old Fashion Chassidisha Yungelatin – Vee Ess Tarf Tzu Zain…

    Unfortantly – the majority are ftom tyoe #1……

  • shlomo

    Americans!!!lol!!!!organic!!!lol!!!! it one of main consumer fraud today. ones i see in web 2 pictures: one from advertising farm, that produce ORGANIC food (Ireland?)and second same nice farm but with nuclear station, removed by Photoshop i first picture. in many EU country you can put ORGANIC IF you not put certificate, from laboratory. so how you can analise what inside man in surtuc and gartl. m.b it very good, or not. chabad is soviet like organization, it mean that same bolshevik’s way Rebe b”m take from them and put to kdusha. but all people in chabad exactly knew what word they have to say. so how i can knew? before gimel be tamuz we all have possibility to this, but today ?????hoshesh!,hope that last!
    nobody can be Rebe, but if chabad don’t elect(find) some like PRESIDENT, or whatever, it simple disappear. and i don’t want it happen. elef avdalot after lenin die kpss grow up, and were it now?

  • lol

    Attention “gezhe”– “ATTENTION”

    Well that’s all the attention you will get from me.

    No one cares who you are or who your grandparents were. Seriously, I care only what you DO, how it affects you and others.

    The rest of the time, I spend being a parent to my children, and working to support my family…

    So quit the whining, and if you have ann actual point, let us all know…

  • to # 24

    pulled us out of the mud we were in?? a) we pulled ourselves, they had nothing to do with it, us with the help of the rebbe and god, not these so called “top families” with all their issues…

    and how could you even dare suggest we copy them and emulate their ways?? the majority of their children are more screwed up then we and our parents ever were religiously, I would rather have my kids grow up in a morally correct fashion, with good values and standards by emulating the rebbe, then by emulating some gezhe family whos daughters walk around like prostitutes and sons walk around like ……..

  • Me

    What is there not to get? If you don’t get it, read it again. And if you don’t get it then, read comment number 21.

    Ps- The point of the article was not about gezh vz. non-gezh. A true BT is someone who is really working on himself and doesn’t get caught up in gezh vs. non gezhe.

  • Capatalist

    Many people mistake the big Shluchim and Mashpiim for Geza.

    The fact is that many of them are new names in Lubavtich, either they or their parents became Lubavitch. This means that the honor currency is not your last name, rather what you have contributed to the Lubavitcher Society. Contributing can mean by fulfilling the Rebbe’s directives to go on Shlichus, or by giving Tzedaka to the Mosdos, or by going into Chinuch.

    Its a capitalist system, you contribute you get recognition, you dont, you wont. Many BTs are highly involved (Shluchim, Head Shluchim, Teachers, Mohels, Sofrim, Donors) and therefore get the same honor as the so-called“Geze”.

  • To the Organic Sceptics -

    I think you are resistant to the FACTS! The FACTS are that if something is not organic, it is sprayed with toxins. Poisons, if you will. Or the ground is riddled with toxins. Poisons, if you will. Or the animals that you eat are fed sprayed food and/or given extra hormones which are artificial, to make them grow fatter, etc. “On and on it goes, and where it stops nobody knows.” You may not want to acknowledge these facts, but that doesn’t make them go away. Denial doesn’t make them go away. What makes them go away is the providers not indulge in such unhealthy actions. You can always make the choice to incorporate “organic” into your lifestyle or not. But I hope you don’t think that it’s all the same, because that’s simply untrue. We all know that a long time ago these procedures were unknown to food providers, farmers, etc. With the fast paced lifestyles and the perceived need to male things have a longer shelflife or have things “look perfect” by some weird standard, things have changed. I do not like that change. I would rather have a purer food.Give it some thought.

  • Gezhe?

    I think it might be time to rethink that concept. With some of the goings- on behind the scenes that have come to the surface, it is clear that the term has taken on a different feeling for some of us. Unfortunately, there are some deserving of our respect and some who have acted in ways that really lead one to question why the concept of Gezhe should inherently warrant such high regard. So, I think it would depend on the individual person, not the historical feature of that person, no?

  • To Rabbi Gordon

    Would you mind taking a few moments to simplify your comment? Some of it I got, and some of it I found myself confused by. Also, when you say “no one is prepared ….” isn’t that a generalization? Do you think NO ONE is prepared? Also, could you take a few moments to clarify the way in which you intended your article to connect with the one you responded to? Thank you.

  • Response to 35

    Its very simple. I concluded the article with the words b’derech arucha uk’tzara which as you know is taken from the shaar blatt of the tanya which originates in the gemara. The only reason why it s called arucha uketzara is bec. It is the only ath that leads to the ultimate inended dedtination unlike the ketzara v’arucha which s technically shorter in the time it wouldake to etto that same area bt since itsobstructed by thorns it des not sllw one entry into the city.

    Don’t you think if the shorter path led to the city that everyone would take that path? What follows then is the fact that if there was a shorter path to take where one could ecome a devout pious person everyone would take that path and not the one which requires more work.

    Lastly, this article was not meant as a response to chabad lite, rather it was inspired by it and was written from a different sngle. Any further questions please dont hesitate to ask.

  • A Big Thinker

    I think that the article was very rambling and not to the point. If any proof is necessary, just look at the variety of comments.


    The way people wave around this “gezeh” title is so ridiculous! People always seem to miss the point: Baalei Teshuva have yichus too!

    I have a picture of my great-grandfather. He is in a kappota with a tall yalmuka and a full beard, my great-grandmother in a sheital. They were chassidim in poland. Unfortunately they were murdered by the nazis yimoch shemom. My grandmother (their daughter) lost her yiddishkeit after the holocaust. My grandfather too. He was one of fourteen children. He was the only one who survived. How can we blame them for leaving the path after that? — They both came from long lines of yichus– with great rabbis in their families. My mother grew up in a non-frum home and yet her parents only spoke yiddish. She became baal teshuva before I was born. There was only a break of one generation! I was raised frum.

    And so I ask: Why the disparagement of “baalei teshuva” and their children? –I too have yichus! Great yichus! So do all baalei teshuva if they dig into their roots. We all have yichus! People need to stop with this false sense of pride. If your great-grandparent “cleaned the horse-stable in lubavitch” are you greater than a baal teshuva whose great-grandparent was perhaps a tremendous torah scholar/rabbi/chassid etc.? Stop with this ridiculous class-system! Baalei teshuva and their children: please, have a little more dignity in pride in yourselves! Don’t buy into this “inferiority” garbage! The Rebbe always said a Jew’s “yichus” is being a child of the Avos and Imahos! You don’t need anything more. Have some Jewish pride!

  • on the roof of tiferes.....

    to No.14

    “7. BT, no money, no shlichus and no ability to speak in yiddish when getting drunk and no ability to distinguish between komotz and patach and cholam”


  • To #34 +38

    Yes! Yes! And a lot more yesses! Coming off one’s high horse could be hard, when the horse itself might actually deserve more respect. I say “might ”, because some of our folk do deserve the respect they lay claim to; however, some of our folk seem to take advantage of gezeh and proceed to dishonor the title. Some do not even know they are doing this. Sometimes I think it would behoove us to make an attempt to be honest with ourselves and each other, in a kind and supportive way, of course. What’s with the sarcasm and anger I so often detect when people speak about “their own”? ( I admit the horse comment was sarcastic. Sorry, I’m just as unkind sometimes.)

  • Bruchie

    To #14..very funny but not that simple even though sometimes it seems like that.

    Not everyone sits around trying to figure out where they stand in the scheme of things vs going out and getting your own life whether you are FFB or Gezhe or a BT or a son of a BT (which sounds like a great title for a Country Song) and what about families where some are poor BTs and others are on Shlichos and others made it big and give big $$ and everyone sits down at the same table on Pesach and Shabbos and our days are all limited and tick by one moment at a time. To sit trying to figure out where you are in the scheme of the Chabad world takes you away from focusing on where you are going and doing whatever you were meant to do when your neshoma was sent down into your particular family. And BTs show us that no matter who you are and what family you are born into its up to you when it comes to how you live your life.

    Good musing and worth reading, thanks…

    Shliach who is a daughter of BTs, parent of Shluchim, parent of kids never wanting to be Shluchim, grandparent of a lot of kids wearing the label GAP, Gezeh a few generations back also…. been poor, had money, doing okay now..some people think I’m important some don’t… if I sat around all day trying to figure out where I fit and what my label is I would never do any acts of goodness or kindness done let alone get dinner made.

  • Oy.

    Oy vey. As a teacher, I know there is such a thing as “invented spelling”. I have read that kind of spelling, in addition to incorrect grammar, in several of these comments. Why is that?……………Also, who is writing as if they are full of hate and sarcasm? My goodness, why would I ever want to become a Lubavticher if these are the ways they speak/write to/about each other?………..Theory- Perhaps they do this on line, because that is the only place their honest feelings and thoughts come out. In that case, I think the whole model could use an overhaul in the communication area. Is there something unkosher about honest communication? I’m sensing a “disconnect” between what people do on the outside and how they are on the inside. That might be o.k. sometimes, but the hate! The anger! The sarcasm! The intolerance for some to allow others to express their feelings, yes, THEIR feelings! I don’t get it.