The World Of Chabad-Lite

Chabad is an elite religion. It has long prided itself as the most intellectual of the Hasidim, the group most devoted to Torah study.

Over the past 40 years, Chabad has devoted itself to outreach and it is easy to think of it as a mass movement, but it is not. Chabadniks, those who dress and practice Lubavitch-style Judaism, consider themselves part of an elite, and for the most part, they’re right. Chabad shluchim (outreach rabbis), in particular, tend to be an impressive bunch.

Even though Chabad does massive outreach and provides an accessible path into Judaism for the non-religious, Chabadniks proper are accountable to a rigorous standard of Jewish practice and traditional beliefs that fits in with Charedi Judaism more than Modern Orthodoxy.

The Kabbalah Centre similarly has a dual track. Its stalwarts are Torah-observant and only marry their own while attendees of the Kabbalah Centre are usually non-observant Jews and non-Jews. There’s virtually no marriage between these groups.

Doe Namay writes:

In Lubavitch there is the phenomenon of the so called “Chabad Lite” community. People who grew up as Lubavitchers, consider themselves Lubavitchers, but do nothing to actually be Lubavitch. They don’t dress like the way a Lubavitcher would dress, speak the way one would speak, or act in the basic way a chossid would act. In general, I have no issue with these types of people; many of them are my friends and neighbors and we get along wonderfully. I have one major issue: they consider themselves Lubavitch, and take part in our mosdos.

You may ask: “why can’t they be Lubavitchers if that is what they consider themselves?”

My question to you is, if someone buys a pair of military fatigues from the clothing store, is he a special-ops soldier? If he claims he is, saying: “look, I even have the clothes,” You would laugh at him. One is not considered a special-ops soldier simply by calling himself one, nor by owning of a uniform. There are training procedures that have to be fulfilled, as well as constant vigilance and the strict following of rules.

In Lubavitch we are the same. Just because one wears a sirtuk does not make him a Lubavitcher. The Rebbe set out guidelines of what he wanted his chassidim to look like and what type of lives he wanted them to lead.

For the moment, put aside the issue of the simple chillul shaim Lubavitch that such people make – I am not here to defend the name of Lubavitch. I am writing this to defend the integrity of out communities, of our children and of our future.

What happens in Lubavitch schools that have kids from these so called “Chabad Lite” families? There is much confusion. It creates many, many issues.

I live in Los Angeles. Here, we Baruch Hashem have a flourishing cheder together with a wonderful girls school. Now, what happens when your daughter comes home from school wondering why her friend doesn’t dress the way her teacher taught? Why her friend’s “Mommy” doesn’t cover her hair and wears skirts that are way too short?

Don’t kid yourselves, these questions are being asked! It used to be that when questions like that were asked, a parent was able to answer their child that their friend was part of a different community, more modern, not Chabad, etc. Nowadays, however, that distinction is gone! These are our friends and neighbors! These are our children’s classmates! The way it influences the children is horrible! How is a parent supposed to explain to their child why her friend and classmate doesn’t dress tzniusdik?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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