I first met the Rebbe in 1951 when he had just become the Rebbe. I was attending Yeshiva University high school, the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy, which was on Bedford Avenue and President Street in Brooklyn. My best friend in school was Tzvi Groner whose uncle, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner, was the Rebbe’s secretary, and Tzvi and I used to walk over to the Chabad Headquarters sometimes to visit Rabbi Groner. We’d bring our sandwiches and spend our lunch-hour with him.
During these visits, the Rebbe would speak with us on occasion. This was before he had become world renowned, when he was a relatively young man. He would ask us about our learning – which section in Talmud we were studying – and he would talk a little bit about philosophy. Although these were very brief meetings, I was enormously impressed with the erudition of this man. I mean, he was so much better educated than my high school teachers. I would look forward to these occasional meetings.
The next time I met the Rebbe was in 1970 when I was clerking for Justice Arthur Goldberg, who was running for governor of New York. Justice Goldberg asked me to arrange an audience with the Rebbe, and I did. I expected to deliver Justice Goldberg to the Rebbe and stay outside but they invited me to participate in the meeting, which lasted about an hour.
The Rebbe was very interested in the role that Justice Goldberg had played at the United Nations, particularly during the 1967 War. It was fortuitous that Justice Goldberg, who was a Jew strongly supportive of Israel, would be the person picked to be at the United Nations at that very important time when Security Council Resolution 242 was being drafted, which essentially set the terms for how peace would be achieved.
The Rebbe and Justice Goldberg discussed the events of that time, but their discussion was not political. Also, there was no effort to get an endorsement. Justice Goldberg simply wanted advice from the Rebbe about New York and about the Jewish community, specifically the Chabad community. He was not particularly familiar with Brooklyn in those days. It was a very, very interesting and thoughtful exchange. I was mostly quiet and learned from both of them. (more…)