(March 20, 2020 / JNS) The headquarters of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement closed on Tuesday night after the neighborhood’s rabbinic leadership ordered all synagogues shut to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The building at 770 Eastern Parkway has never closed in its history in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The house, in Gothic-revival style, was built in 1920 and originally used as a medical office. In 1940, the building was purchased by Agudas Chasidei Chabad for the Chabad movement and as a home for the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, when he arrived in the United States in 1940. The movement was led by his predecessor and son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1951 to 1994.
During the 1940s, the building, which soon became known as “770,” became the international hub and central location for Chabad activities, including daily worship.
In a statement, Chabad leadership said: “During these trying days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries serving in 108 countries and thousands of communities around the world are doing their utmost to provide calm and support while following protocol to protect their own safety and the safety of their communities.”
It added that “emissaries are adapting as per local guidelines, and are working to the best of their abilities to help those in need, especially the most vulnerable. With the forthcoming Passover holiday, they will attempt—within these curtailed circumstances—to ensure that people will not go without matzah, and without a Passover seder.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Beth Din of Crown Heights, the neighborhood’s Orthodox rabbinic council, released a public notice requiring synagogues and men’s mikvahs, or Jewish ritual baths, to close. They then released a statement saying that house or outdoor minyanim should also stop, and that “it is our opinion that individuals should daven [‘pray’] alone in their homes at this time.”
The Beth Din also forbade “face-to-face” celebration gatherings with the exception of a brit milah or Jewish wedding chuppah ceremony, which must now be consulted about on a case-by-case basis.
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