A parade of 70 recreational vehicles dubbed “Mitzvah Tanks” lined Eastern Parkway this morning, in preparation to roll into Manhattan and the five boroughs to both share Jewish teaching and do “mitzvahs” (or good deeds) they believe will make the world a better place.
Led by members of the NYPD Highway unit, hundreds of Chassidic Yeshiva students from a dozen countries, set out in the Mitzvah Tanks from the Chabad-Lubavitch global headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights to bring outreach to the city.
The students set out with a mission to engage passersby they encounter with a chance to do a mitzvah — a positive act — or share a Jewish teaching.
Leaders say the mission is to promote the late Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson’s vision and teachings to “make all people agents for good in making the world a better place.” He died in 1994 – his burial site in Queens is a center of huge Jewish pilgrimages throughout the year.
The parade marks 70 years since the Rebbe, considered the most influential rabbi in modern history, became the “Rebbe.” Tens of thousands have flown in from around the world to participate in this significant milestone, with several days of events marking the date.
The Rebbe engineered a global revival of Jewish life in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He also impacted the broader society, well beyond the Jewish community, in many ways that are sometimes lesser-known. A national day–Education and Sharing Day U.S.A.–is enacted annually, honoring the Rebbe’s advocacy, for — among other things — the establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Education. Shirley Chisolm, the first black female member of Congress, credited the Rebbe for the inspiration to expand the WIC and food stamps program after being relegated to the farming committee despite representing a Brooklyn district.
The 70 year anniversary has special poignancy as it comes while New York battles a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. When confronted with rising anti-Semitism, the Rebbe’s message was one of increasing light.
“The Rebbe taught us that a little bit of light pushes away much darkness,” said Yisroel Lazar, a yeshiva student in New York. “The best response to hatred is an outpouring of positivity and light.”