Chabad orders female emissary not to light Independence Day torch

The rabbis of the Chabad rabbinical court in Israel have ordered Chabad emissary in Kathmandu Chani Lifshitz not to participate in the torch lighting ceremony for Independence Day.

Chabad rabbis sing ‘Ani Ma’amin’ in front of the movement’s world headquarters in Brooklyn (photo credit: MARK KAUZLARICH/REUTERS)
Chabad rabbis sing ‘Ani Ma’amin’ in front of the movement’s world headquarters in Brooklyn
The Chabad Rabbinical Court in Israel has ordered Chani Lifshitz, a Chabad emissary in Kathmandu, Nepal, not to participate in the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony.
“We are hereby informing you that you must cancel your participation in this ceremony,” the rabbis wrote to Lifshitz in a message sent to her last week but disclosed on Thursday.
Participation in such ceremonies as a representative of Chabad must be approved by Agudas Chassidei Chabad in the Holy Land, headed by its rabbinical court, Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaroslavsky, Rabbi Avraham Michael Halperin and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky wrote in their ruling.
“We are certain that you will comply with these instructions, and the continued tracking of this will be passed on to the coordinator for educational issues,” they added, in what might have been a veiled threat regarding the education of Lifshitz’s children.
The Culture and Sports Ministry, which selects torch lighters, approached Lifshitz directly instead of going through Chabad’s institutions, a source within Chabad told The Jerusalem Post
In response to claims that Chabad is not a Zionist movement, the source said the Chabad leadership invites Israeli cabinet ministers to its flagship events and has always embraced the state.
The two governing bodies of Chabad, Agudas Chassidei Chabad and the Chabad Rabbinical Court, were anxious to ensure the cohesiveness of the movement and not allow a situation in which the thousands of Chabad Hassidim or emissaries around the world can make decisions by themselves, the source said.
“They have to preserve the system, especially without the Rebbe,” the source said. “We have to preserve a way of preserving the system of governance.”
The Association of Chabad Hassidim said on its news website it was “committed to working only in accordance with the protocol and arrangements bequeathed by the Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] himself, and any circumvention of these arrangements is likely to harm the wonderful and important work that Chabad emissaries do around the world every day.”
Following the rabbis’ letter, Lifshitz canceled her participation and wrote a post on an internal Chabad forum about the decision.
According to a Chabad news website, she wrote: “I write these words from my heart. This matter does not depend on me. I have been required to cancel my participation in the Independence Day ceremony, and I cannot enter the fire of argument.”
She said she had informed Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and the ministry, which nominates people to participate in the ceremony, and thanked them for recognizing the contribution of the Kathmandu Chabad House to the unity of Israeli society.
“I again thank you. To the State of Israel and everyone for the blessings and well-wishes and most of all for the recognition and thanks that have come from around the world,” she said. “I will perhaps not be able to light the torch, but the greatest honor in the world I have already received -- a life of mission and mutual responsibility. There is no greater gift.”
Regev said she was saddened that Lifshitz was not able to participate in the ceremony, adding: “This was an opportunity to express appreciation for the contribution of Chabad Houses, which provide a place to stay [abroad] for many young people from across Israeli society in all its diversity.”