Chana Canterman was a 15-year-old schoolgirl from London visiting New York on
Tuesday, October 9, 1990, when she lined up with people around the world to get
a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
rebbe had given a long afternoon talk about how according to Jewish tradition
Tuesdays have increased potential for joy. This wasn’t the only time she’d stood
in that line after a speech. Her parents were followers of the rebbe, and they
often treated their children to visits to Crown Heights, particularly around
holidays. At home in London, she and her nine siblings often awakened Saturday
nights at 2 a.m., dressed in party clothes, and went to hear the rebbe’s
broadcasts at the local Chabad center.
“We felt a closeness to the rebbe.
He was incredibly wise and intuitive, and tuned into what you needed to help you
fulfill your potential. Giving you a dollar from his private bank account was
his way of empowering you by passing along strength from his own prodigious
spiritual resources to help fulfill your potential,” she says.
wrote the Hebrew date on her dollar, recorded the rebbe’s words to her in her
diary, and locked the dollar in a little box with others she’d collected since
she was seven. She donated a different dollar to charity to replace the one the
rebbe had given her.
Canterman was a student when the rebbe passed away
in 1994. She earned graduate degrees in Jewish history, education and social
work, and married Eliyahu Canterman, a Russian-born rabbi. The dollars and diary
came with them when they settled in Jerusalem, where Chana teaches biblical
commentary and does family counseling. Rabbi Canterman is studying to be a
rabbinic judge. They also serve as the Chabad representatives in Jerusalem’s
Komemiyut neighborhood, better known as Talbiyeh. Their apartment is around the
corner from the Prime Minister’s Residence, and so they often walked by the
protest tent for Gilad Schalit.
“At first I was reluctant to go in,” said
Canterman, admitting to a mix of shyness, uneasiness about what to say, and
awareness of the well-known opinion, at least in the past, that the rebbe was
against giving in to terror. One day, their three-year-old daughter Chaya Mushka
pulled her mother into the tent and introduced herself to the
They took to the precocious preschooler, and wondered about her
name. Canterman explained that many Chabad hassidim named their daughters for
the rebbe’s wife, Chaya Mushka, who wasn’t blessed with children. She told them
about the tenets of Chabad, among them acceptance of all Jews with unconditional
love, experiencing joy, and a thirst for a redemption expressed in their slogan
“we want Mashiah [Messiah] now.”
The ice was broken. After that, mother
and daughter often stopped by to visit. Canterman joined the volunteers who
prepared food for the Schalits. She was assigned Tuesdays and made family
favorites for dinner. She and Aviva often schmoozed and swapped
“Oof, where is Gilad already? I want him to come now,” Chaya
Mushka said on one such visit, stamping her foot. Her impatience amused and
moved the Schalits, according to Canterman. They suggested that the little
girl’s impatience mirrored the Chabadniks’ zeal in calling for the immediate
arrival of the Redemption. Said Canterman, “We are sometimes taken to
task for demanding Geula [redemption]. The rebbe taught that every day the
Redemption is delayed, millions suffer. There were Aviva and Noam Schalit
suffering every moment, waiting for their son. Each time I came, I took their
pain more and more to heart.”
Last February, Canterman participated in
the annual convention of Chabad women emissaries in New York. She carried with
her a written plea from Aviva Schalit to the 5,000 women who run Chabad houses
in far-flung cities and backwater outposts around the world to help advance
their son’s release from captivity.
Canterman bought Aviva perfume at the
duty-free shop, but felt foolish giving it to her.
“I knew Aviva wasn’t
going to want perfume. All she wanted was to get her son back. I wanted to give
her something meaningful that would help her through these dark
Canterman decided it was time to part with one of her treasured
dollars from the rebbe. She took one out.
She explained the background to
Aviva and how the dollar was a token of blessing, strength, and a wish for
“I gave it to her in the hope that the blessing that had been
invested in it would pass on to her and cheer her. The rebbe always said that he
gave dollars for us to give away so a third person would be
touched. Aviva immediately had the bill laminated at a nearby
Gilad Schalit was freed on Tuesday, October 18. It was at this
point that Rabbi Canterman wondered what the date was on the dollar bill his
wife had given to Aviva. The following day, Canterman sent a text message to
Aviva asking her what was written on the dollar. On the following Monday, Aviva
phoned. She said that in black ink on the dollar, Chana had written, “Tuesday,
20 Tishrei.” In blue ink, she’d drawn a line through “Tuesday,” adding
“Wednesday” and the Hebrew letter alef, signifying the number one, after the 20.
The usually soft-spoken Canterman screamed.
The 20th of Tishrei was
October 18, the day Gilad Schalit was freed. He returned home on 21
Canterman consulted her diary. The rebbe’s talk had begun on
Tuesday, but the sun had set by the time she received her dollar. The young
Chana Canterman had first dated the dollar on the 20th and then, thinking better
of it, amended it to the 21st. The rebbe’s words on giving the dollar were also
recorded: “blessings and success in all aspects.” The year on the bill, 5751 in
the Hebrew letters tav, shin, nun, alef, is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase
meaning, “This will be a year when I [God] will show them [the Jewish people]
Israeli journalists heard about the dollar from the Schalit
family. Canterman’s phone began ringing with queries. Because of one garbled
version of the story in which Rabbi Canterman and not the rebbe had given out
the dollar, a number of callers requested a blessing (or a dollar) from him.
Canterman was asked if she thought the dollar was a sign of prophecy, a voice
from the grave, or a coincidence.
“We don’t believe in magical arts or
talismans,” says Canterman. “But we don’t believe in coincidence, either. The
rebbe was a righteous person, a tzaddik. He had great spiritual insight, what we
call ruah hakodesh [the holy spirit]. One of the Schalit campaign managers
called me after she heard about the dollar. She said she wasn’t religious, but
that she certainly felt there was a tizmun milema’ala, ‘timing from up above.’
“That about says it all. Timing isn’t in our hands. The Schalits were
released from their pain amidst the horrific agony of others. We continue to
wait impatiently for the true Redemption, a time when all our children will
return home in joy, not pain. Now!” The author is a Jerusalem writer who focuses
on the wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as the Israel Director of
Public Relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The
views in her columns are her own.