Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Rebbe "I Have A lot of Enjoyment From your Pictures"

“The Rebbe once noted photographer Levi Yitzchak Freidan's enthusiasm by joking, "If only the bachurim (yeshiva students) were so into learning as you are into your pictures!”

-Rabbi Klein

Levi Yitzchak Fraidin stands out as one of the best Chassidic photographers of his generation. Mr. Fraidin’s pictures of the Rebbe rank among the finest in their category.I would like to present an interview [published in Maariv, 1976] with a renowned journalist, upon his returning from his first trip of photographing the Rebbe. also included is interesting pictures of the Rebbe (part 23 in the series)

When did the idea to exhibit these pictures of the Rebbe arise?

I had the idea to take pictures of the Rebbe, at his headquarters, about three months ago.

Since I moved to Israel eighteen years ago, I became connected to many of the Rebbe's followers here. On one occasion, the Rebbe instructed a well-known Chassid, Rabbi Pinches Althoiz, to help me out with my (photography) work.

During the last couple of years, my close friends have asked me, “What's with you, Levi Yitzchak? Why have you still not been to the Rebbe?” Throughout this time, I did have the inner desire and will to go to the Rebbe. This year, my older son, Yisroel Aryeh, graduated from Bar Ilan University, where he studied history. Upon his graduation he told me, "Abba (Daddy), come! We must travel to the Rebbe."

I told my son that when a Chassid travels to the Rebbe, it is not simply another trip. I sat down and wrote to Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe’s secretary, that I wanted to come with my son to the Rebbe for the Yomim Tovim. I mentioned that I wanted to take pictures of the Rebbe, and of the general scene surrounding the Rebbe. A couple of days later, Rabbi Chodakov told Rabbi Wolf in Israel, to let me know that my request was granted.

When was the first meeting that you had with the Rebbe?

The day after I arrived in New York, the Rebbe went out to pray in the small shul right near his office, where he was normally called up to the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays. There was unbearable pushing inside the small shul. I was barely able to enter the shul, when I suddenly found myself a couple of feet away from the Rebbe. I immediately began photographing the Rebbe.

Did you talk with the Rebbe?

With the Rebbe, there is no small talk. Only when the Rebbe turns to you and asks you something, you answer him.

That same night, there was a farbrengen in the large shul downstairs. There were about 4,500 people in the shul. The Rebbe sat elevated in the center of the room, with Rabbi Chodakov on his right and the Rebbe's brother-in-law, Rabbi Gourary, on his left. Generally, the Rebbe delivers his talks, and, in between talks, the Chassidim sing Chassidic melodies. People hold cups in the air, waiting for the Rebbe to nod his head in their direction and say l'chaim.

That night, the Rebbe pointed a finger in my direction and instructed me to say l'chaim. The Chassidim instantly gave me a cup of wine, and I said l'chaim. Then the Rebbe raised two fingers, indicating that I should say a second l'chaim. I did.

I began to walk towards the Rebbe's place. When I got there, the Rebbe asked, “You are Fraidin?"

"Yes,” I replied.

The Rebbe then continued, "You should know that I have a lot of enjoyment from your pictures."

Good Shabbos.


Copyright © Menachem Kirschenbaum 2007

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