Vital Signs

Affirmative Action and the Lubavitcher Rebbe

As if it wasn't bad enough that the 92-year-old Menachem Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, died without an heir, or that he sorely disappointed a considerable faction of his most zealous disciples by refusing to cheat death and thus show himself as the Messiah, what followed the traditional seven days of mourning turned out to be far worse. For it seems that the painful, complicated process of choosing a successor will run into a thicket of governmental interference. The following transcript of a phone conversation between Ms. Leah Lichtenstein of the city's Fair Hiring Practices Office and a member of the Lubavitcher's inner council suggests this is only the first shot in a war of red tape and regulations that will unfold in the next few months.

Ms. Lichtenstein: Rabbi Rosenberg, this is Ms. Leah Lichtenstein calling from the mayor's office. First, let me extend my sincere condolences. Rebbe Schneerson was indeed a remarkable individual.

Rabbi Rosenberg: Yes . . . yes, he was. We are all in great shock.

Ms. Lichtenstein: Nonetheless, the Lubavitcher Movement must forge on, and that's why I'm calling. Because, you see, the position of Lubavitcher Rebbe falls within the guidelines of the Fair Hiring Practices Office.

Rabbi Rosenberg: Fair? We have always been a fair people, even a just people. Is that what you...

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