OP ED On Barcelona Terrorist Attack

They’re everywhere. Literally everywhere.

They’ve got 4,000 locations spanning big cities, small towns and suburbs throughout the United States, and can be found in over 60 countries around the world.

You can always count on them.

Not Starbucks. Not Home Depot. Not McDonald’s.


They’re the guys who light those giant menorahs in public squares to celebrate the holiday of Hannukah. They’re the women on the streets handing out candles before Shabbat. They’re the ones who run “Chabad Houses” on college campuses from Berkeley to Cambridge. They give weekly Bible classes in the Capitol basement in Washington, D.C. They run a nonsectarian drug treatment center in Los Angeles. They sponsor the world’s biggest Passover Seder in Nepal. They establish synagogues, Hebrew schools, and day-care centers in places that are often indifferent and occasionally hostile to their outreach efforts.

The selfless and dedicated leaders of each of these worldwide centers are known as emissaries. They’re out there, very often on their own, and they’re responsible for building Jewish life and supporting the needs of their communities. They are part of a vision and movement that the late Rebbe of Lubavitch began, and they serve with complete faith, dedication and commitment, often without any funding or fanfare.

They are truly amazing.

While I have had dozens of personal experiences with various Chabad emissaries around the world that have completely blown me away, an interaction today with Rabbi David Libersohn, the Emissary who runs Chabad Barcelona, Spain, compelled me to (a) make an online donation to his Chabad House (http://bit.ly/2v5VdAA); and (b) write this post.

As you all know by now, earlier today, a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians just outside Maccabi, Barcelona’s only Kosher restaurant. The attack took place shortly after 5 pm, and the driver fled the scene. Police confirmed that 13 people were killed in the attack and 100 others were wounded. At the instruction of local Police, Jewish institutions and establishments were immediately closed. 80 patrons remained confined inside the Kosher restaurant and were not being let out.

I immediately sent a message via WhatsApp to a friend of mine who is visiting Barcelona this week to make sure they were OK. As soon as I saw the blue, double check, I was relieved. Then came the response, “Thanks for checking in. We’re a block away and thank God we’re all OK.”

A few minutes later, I got a text from my brother. A friend of his is also on vacation in Barcelona this week. He and his wife had spent months planning the trip and were scheduled to be at Maccabi for dinner tonight. Shortly before they were to depart for the restaurant, they had a medical emergency which landed them in the Hospital. They were obviously devastated to be spending time in the Hospital rather than enjoying their much-anticipated vacation. Then the news came in, and the realization of what could have been hit them.

Traveling abroad, especially as a foreigner keeping Kosher, and even more so for a foreigner who has very strict dietary needs due to a medical condition, is not easy. My brother asked if I knew anyone in Barcelona who might be able to assist in finding these people very specific Kosher foods … which they would never be able to otherwise find due to the time in Barcelona, the chaos, and the fact that all Jewish establishments were shut down following the attack, and will remain closed, on Police orders, for at least another 24 hours.

Though I knew that Rabbi Libersohn was busy with much more important and urgent matters immediately following the attack, I shot him a text to ask for his assistance. He is, after all, a Chabad emissary, and this is what they do all day, every day.

I didn’t expect that he would be able to personally help but thought that he might be able to recommend someone in the community who I could call.

It did not take 2 seconds for him to fire back a reply: “Name, Number, Hospital? Will call them right now.”

Then, another text from the Rabbi 5 minutes later: “I spoke to them. Sending food now. THANK YOU FOR THE MITZVAH!”

I literally cried.

Not only did he immediately drop everything to help people he didn’t know (and likely will never meet), but he thanked ME for giving him the opportunity to help!

Who does that?! What other community operates like this?!

Literally, while writing this post, I received a message from a friend of mine who had reached out to me yesterday for help yesterday regarding a Jewish man, with no known relatives, who suddenly died in Warsaw, Poland. Per Polish law, unless an immediate family member to the deceased were to step up today, the man would not have been granted a Jewish burial. The text read as follows: “Thanks so much for your help yesterday. Needless to say, the local Chabad Rabbi, Rabbi Stembler, just located the daughter “through miraculous ways” and will be able to start preparing for a proper Jewish funeral!”

It has become very clear to me over the past few weeks, that underneath the veneer of political correctness, nobody really likes Jews.

It has also become clear to me, that we, Jews, don’t really like ourselves.

We really need to work on that.

We’re an amazing people. We’re an incredible community.

There’s so much for us to love and be proud of.

Let’s spend more time focusing on the things that make us awesome. Let’s spend less time focusing on whatever “issues” we have in our communities. Let’s focus on the strength and power of our community when we’re united. Let’s not focus on how weak we are when we’re divided. Let’s be more sensitive to those in our communities who might need our help. Let’s be less critical of those in our community who selflessly give of themselves for the betterment of society. Let’s focus a bit less on ourselves. Let’s focus a bit more on the responsibility each of us has to one another. Let’s love more. Let’s hate less. Let’s respect more. Let’s judge less. Let’s pull more pull people up. Let’s put fewer people down. Let’s care more about being who we are. Let’s care less about what the rest of the world thinks of us.

We’re an awesome people and we’re here to stay.

We might as well make the best of it!


Israel Schachter



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