Weekly Story: The Rebbe Put a Stop to the Bullying

by Rabbi Sholom Avtzon

The United Lubavitcher Yeshiva, when it was on Bedford and Dean and then when it moved to Ocean Parkway, always accepted children that were not from Lubavitch families. Some of the students continued in the system, others did not. The following happened in the school year of 1974-5.

There was a family who lived in Crown Heights and attended the Lubavitch Yeshiva on Ocean Parkway. For some reason he was picked on by his classmates as well as by other boys. After a while he informed his mother that he had enough of the bullying and was no longer interested in continuing going to that school.

As any parent would do, she immediately called the Yeshiva, spoke to the teacher, principal and to whomever she was able to contact and pleaded with them that they bring an end to her son’s suffering. Although the other boys were spoken to, admonished and some penalized, the boy told his mother, it is continuing.

The mother than wrote a letter to the Rebbe informing him of the situation, and the Rebbe instructed his chief secretary, Rabbi Mordichai Issac Hodakov to call the school in his name and instruct the administration to address the issue once and for all.

One can understand that after receiving this phone call a meeting took place and protocols were implemented to make sure that the boy and other boys are not targeted by others. Simply put it was let known that there will be a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying.

However, some of the boys were good at what they did and continued doing it covertly. Obviously no one dared to make fun of him, but the seats on the bus were reserved for their friend or no one would sit on the same bus seat with him or he would be chosen on the team but the ball was not being passed to him and similar ways, to make him feel extremely uncomfortable.

The boy felt this wall of silence and it bothered him, so he informed his mother, that while the offensive and perhaps biting remarks have completely ceased, the feeling of hurt continues.

She duly wrote to the Rebbe, apprising him of this situation and the reality, as her son sees it.

That day, there was another phone call from Rabbi Hodakov. He stated, “The Rebbe would like to know, if the situation can be addressed immediately and completely, or if he has to stop whatever he is doing and come to the Yeshiva to address it personally?”

Hearing these words the administration replied it will take care of it immediately. The principal went to the class and gave over the message he had just received and asked the boys, what is he supposed to reply to the Rebbe, as the Rebbe is waiting for their answer. One can understand that the problem was resolved.

However, a few weeks later, the Rebbe received another letter from the mother of this boy. She thanked the Rebbe for giving her son peace and happiness as more than a few boys make sure to talk, learn and play with him, while they are in school and out of it as well. However, now she has another concern; her son’s Bar Mitzvah is on Shabbos the 9th of Kislev and the Rebbe always farbrengs on that day, as it is both the birthday and yahrzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe (the second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi DovBer, and in fact one year the Rebbe recited three maamorim on that day), so she is concerned that all of her son’s classmates as well as her neighbors and friends that she invited are going to skip the Bar mitzvah in order to be present and hear the Rebbe’s farbrengen.

Obviously none of them are missing the Bar Mitzvah with the intention to hurt her son, but never-the-less, he will be hurt, if almost no-one shows up.

So on that Tes Kislev Shabbos, to everyone’s surprise there was no farbrengen. Only later was it knwn that the reason was in order that the invited guests and classmates participate in the boy’s Bar Mitzvah and he feels happy.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech in the United Lubavitch Yeshiva, and asks all the readers to please help the Yeshiva by participating in their annual auction at www.ulyauction.com  He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com.


  • Picaboo Shimon

    This incident happened in 1973.many of the students who bullied their classmate probably went on to become teachers later on.
    When i was a kid in the 1980s perhaps some of my teachers were these guys that bullied their classmates.

  • Avrahom

    Hi, please give the names of the people that the Rebbe relayed the info to. Otherwise, it is just a rumor story.

  • Ch'er

    I remember when this happened. It’s 100% a true story. Many were upset on this family for giving the Rebbe Agmus-Nefesh. But they did what was needed.

    The school the principal etc took retaliation on them too. Made things hard for them.

    Very disturbing memories. How truly sad it was that it needed to come to this. Nebech the son didn’t stay around in Lubavitche.

  • The way to deal with bullying

    Unfortunately there’s currently an opinion that the bullied child should go along with the bullies and agree to whatever negative things they say about him. Clearly we see that this is not the Rebbe’s approach and children who bully can be shown that their behavior is unacceptable, which not only brings an end to the victim’s suffering but is real chinuch for the bullies. Teachers should share this story with their classes to convey what the Rebbe feels about bullying and how he expects his chassidim to behave.

  • Why???

    Why she could not push the bar mitzva celebration by a day??
    instead of it thousands of chassidim missed the rebbes Farbrengen!

  • Crown Heightser

    Good thing she did not plan a bar mitzva on Yud Tes Kislev or on a Shabbos Mevorchim…

    The “fly in the ointment” (what doesn’t make sense in this story) is that if someone notifies the mazkirus/Rebbe of a simcha/public event planned on a NON-farbrengen scheduled date, the Rebbe would take that into consideration and wouldn’t USUALLY (there have been MANY exceptions) to make a surprise farbreng to disrupt that event,

    BUT TES KISLEV is a scheduled farbrengen day!!!

    So why in the world would she plan a bar mitzva (and then be upset if the crowd is at the farbrengen)????!!!!

    Something doesn’t make sense here!!!!

  • 8822c

    teachers have bullied the children too, it is known. how is that dealt with?
    no names mentioned but they know who they are

  • Daniel Kaye

    To my knowledge the story is even more amazing! To my memory the story was already told by Rabbi Butman sheyichye however it seems for reasons of “political correctness” the full details are being withheld, and that is that the boy was BLACK!

    The children, wrongly, picked on him because he was not only not from a Lubavitch home, he actually looked different, and kids who are not educated act like kids, wrongly, picking on those who are different and stand out! (Think of an only white kid in a black Harlem public school…think of “Black lives matter”…)

    Even the christians in those years frowned upon “mixed race marriages” and here comes an extreme ultra orthodox REBBE who not only doesn’t preach to the mom about a kid “born in sin” rather DEMANDS from the staff, his followers and his followers kids that this kid not only not be hurt or bullied G-D forbid, but not even covertly sidelined or hurt! He must be treated 100% as a brother and like everybody else! “Neshomois have no colours”! And not only not just paying “lip service” to treating everyone equal, he personally showed a living example by cancelling a Farbrengen with a maamer chassidus for ALL HIS CHASSIDIM abi not to cause any pain or discomfort, even imaginary pain, to this kid who may think the reason my friends didn’t come or stay longer is because I’m black!

    Such total love to EVERYONE and such a role model!!!!

    As one of his nurses once told me, besides the Rebbe being a Tzaddik and a holy man he was first and foremost a GENTLEMAN!!! A real MENTSCH!

    Something to consider during these days of counting the Omer! Ad mosai? We want Moshiach now!

  • Yehiel

    I would like to know more details. What exactly did the bullying involve and what motivated the boys? Sometimes the teachers need to learn just like the kids. Is there something that the boy is doing that attracts trouble? Why is he an easy target? Are the bullies doing this out in the open and the teacher doesn’t see it?

    Sometimes it’s the kids who need to be taught how to properly stand up for themselves. Take this example; a kid gets on the school bus and every time he tries to sit down, a kid says “I’m saving that seat for my friend.” Finally, the kid says “I don’t know what to do anymore” and just sits in that seat. The other kid says “you can’t sit here,” and the other kid ignores him. So the first kid resorts to force and shoves the boy off the seat. That is the point where punishment is in order. Bus seats are communal, and if you allow the kids to dictate how they’re used, the bullying will happen.