An imprint of light to offset the darkness: Shluchim Rabbi Yossi Schanowitz and Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz responded to the Highland Park shooting by printing a Tanya at the very same spot where it occurred.
Highland Park, Illinois has always conjured up scenes of manicured lawns, happy kids and families enjoying time at the park. Tragically, July 4 changed the association of Highland Park to a picture of tragedy and carnage.
By now we are all too familiar with the grisly details of the horrific shooting and of the many wonderful tributes, as each spark of light ebbs away at the overwhelming sadness. Chabad of Illinois knew they had to make an even more permanent impact on this densely Jewish neighborhood.
Rabbi and Mrs. Yossi Schanowitz have served this community for more than 40 years, having built a stunning Chabad Center, which houses a crowded shul, a beautiful mikvah, Hebrew school and activities. Their Chabad Center, situated along the parade route, was a safe haven during the shooting as dozens huddled inside until it was safe to leave.
Needing to change the narrative of the town of Highland Park, Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz, Executive Director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, saw an opportunity to employ the Rebbe’s campaign to print a Tanya in every possible community. The Rebbe had emphasized that printing a Tanya in a community changes the character of that locale, transforming it into a holy space. A few decades ago the Schanowitzes had printed a Tanya in the Village of Highland Park; now there was an opportunity to print one right along the parade route in downtown Highland Park.
So off he went to secure the printing press, along with master Tanya printer, HaTomim Zelik Newman from New York. Technology sure has improved since the late 70’s and that part was easy, except when the printer overheats! Then you need a resident to allow you to print. A friend of Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel from Chabad of University of Illinois made his office space available, and they were in business.
The van arrived and Rabbi Moscowitz had a brainstorm. Rather than use the office, Rabbi Moscowitz figured, with all the memorials, roses, teddy bears and assorted other gifts laid out on the makeshift memorials, it seemed the perfect space to print the Tanya! Where to get power supply? Easy! Rabbi Yosef explained to the media personnel that all of their heavy equipment was really brought there for something holier, to elevate the space!
Immediately a crew member cleared out space on one of the onsite media trucks for them to mount their Tanya printers, computers and all to plug into their generators and print this holy book.
Printing and jamming and powering and persuading the police that we just need another 10 minutes, and the Tanyas were printed.
The printing site created an opportunity to give chizuk to many bystanders to make a l’chaim, wrap tefillin and strengthen each other.
Of the many people standing by in silence, Mr. Joel Linton walked over, still shaken, and explained how he was supposed to be right there with his daughter, but Boruch Hashem made last minute plans to attend a different parade, narrowly missing the bullets. “I will never forget this Tanya printing,” he concluded, fighting back tears.
Thus, they resolved that what will remain in their memories of this past week will not be the monster’s evil acts, rather the printing of the holy Tanya on the streets of Highland Park.
“We know our duty to a community in crisis- to counter darkness with light, to imprint holiness, and change the tempo of a community now synonymous with suffering, into one of optimism and joy,” explained Rabbi Moscowitz. “The Tanya is the essence of Chabad’s constant mission to evoke G-d’s light and demonstrate greater light out of the darkness. That’s who we are, what we do and what the Tanya printing means to Highland Park and the entire state of Illinois. We are Tanya strong!!!”