Is Lubavitch/Chabad a Cult?

I grew up in an ultra orthodox Lubavitch/chabad setting. I was taught that it was not a cult. I was taught that it did not have the characteristics of a cult. Now I question everything which I was taught and I am certain that it is a cult and that it has many if not all the characteristics of a cult.

When I see someone who has been sucked in to lubavitch and I tell them that they are brainwashed the common response is “No one made me do anything I didn’t want to do, I am making my own choices.” My response is “That’s what they want you to believe.”  In this post I am going to show you how this is done and why Lubavitch is a cult.

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A cult has an unquestioning belief in one leader- whether they are dead or alive. Lubavitchers have an unquestionable belief in the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They believe him to be the messiah. I was brought up singing songs which literally translated as “The Lubavitcher rebbe is messiah”, and chanting “Long live our leader, our teacher, our rebbe, the king messiah forever.” The lubavitcher rebbe passed away 20 years ago, yet the lubavitchers still have unquestioning belief in him being the messiah and some believe that he never died.  Posters like the above one which show a picture of the rebbe with the hebrew words “king messiah” are common in lubavitch vicinities. The lubavitchers still chant the the two sayings above and they communicate with him by placing a note in a book filled with letters written to people whilst the rebbe was alive. The lubavitchers then open the book where their note was placed and accept the letter as being current advice from the rebbe. They then follow this advice unquestionably.

Another characteristic of a cult is drawing in followers. The lubavitchers have an outreach program where they target jews from around the world and try to draw them into their sect. They perform this by dressing nicely and inviting people into their homes. Lubavitcher women are told that they must wear wigs to cover their hair and still look nice and appearance is very important so that when an outsider sees them they will say “wow they have so many children and responsibilities and still look so nice.” The lubavitchers station themselves across the world so that they can suck vulnerable people into their sect.

In school we were always told that we could have questions and that they encourage questions, however looking back I can see how my questions were always answered by the same people- a religious lubavitcher. Many of my questions which could not be answered were shut down and I was told not to ask stupid questions. These questions included who created god, what’s a non-jews purpose in this world, does a non jew have a soul, why do we need to keep laws that rabbis have added on over the years, why do many people who intermarry have happy marriages and many many more.

I could not ask a secular person their opinion or view on life. I was also taught that we know everything better than anyone else so I probably wouldn’t believe what an outsider would tell me. Freethought was also prohibited and we were taught to always ask a Rabbi instead of thinking for ourselves. Followers of chabad are highly dependent on a rabbi to dictate every aspect of their life. This is another characteristic of a cult, thinking that you have elite knowledge and are superior than others who are not in your cult, and not being able to make your own decisions.

Cults dress differently and obviously Chabad followers follow a strict dress code. Cults also dictate to their followers strict guidelines on what they can do, who they can see, who they can socialise with and who they can marry. All these restrictions apply to Chabad.

Cults also break up families. I have seen children thrown out of home for not adhering to strict guidelines. People who intermarry are often not spoken to and followers try to break up these marriages or convert the outsider.

Once someone is drawn in they support the Chabad house(outreach program) with “donations” which is at least 10% of their pay. Many Chabad houses are extremely successful due to these “donations” which members feel obligated to give. This is another characteristic as a cult.

Alcohol is used from a young age to give people a spiritual experience. I remember being taught how it opens the mind and allows people to reach a higher spiritual level. There are common parties called farbrengens, where large amounts of alcohol are drunk and chanting songs called Niggunim are sung till the early hours of the morning. This is a form of mind control and followers are encouraged to participate in these parties in order to connect spiritually.

In conclusion, it is easy to see how chabad/lubavitch is a cult. It exhibits all the characteristics of a cult and it is extremely harmful to its followers. It does not allow free thinking although it gives the impression that it does. It’s followers feel that they have superior knowledge to outsiders, they dress differently, they are told what to do and mind control techniques are used. All in all- it’s a cult. If you are in it get out before its too late. It’s easy to get sucked into and hard to get out of.


18 thoughts on “Is Lubavitch/Chabad a Cult?

  1. Frum more. Much more.

    Chabad Is a good cult. Best cult ever. If I have to join a cult I pick chabad,hands down. U wrote that chabad is extreamly harmful to it’s followers. This is wrong. Many chabadniks live very successful lives with children and grandchildren and help many people. I am sorry u had a bad experience but chabad is a force for good. And if I follow the rebbe unquestioningly that’s ok as he is one of the only people that deserves such loyalty,as he only cared about people and gave himself over to helping his people with no regard for his own welfare. There are some things that chabad people do that is bad like drinking too much grog but the rebbe said not do this something about not doing more than four lec haunts in one sitting. I was also burned by chabad but I recognize the tremendous good they represent and selflessly give and I would never publicly write something negative. The chabad houses around the world is to teach jews Torah and jews aims not to make them chabad that’s not the aim. I understand u.but this is wrong what u are writing. Is being Jewish a cult too? I unquestingly believe that we have laws from g-d that I must follow am I following the cult of jewdaism? Why can’t people give back? If I benefit from something I want to donate. I also want to be a giver

    Liked by 1 person

    1. frumless Post author

      I am a bit confused by your comment. I am glad that you are happy in your life, however you write that you have been burned by chabad, yet you would not publicly write about this as the good outweighs the bad. I do not feel you understand where I am coming from so I would like to explain a little further.
      Firstly in my first blog post I clearly stated that my blog is not for those who are happy in their lives it’s for those who are looking for another way. I am not out to offend, I am allowed to state my opinions and observations. I am not chasing down people in the street to show them my views. This is what chabadniks do. They run after people and harass them. They don’t take no for an answer.
      You ask where the harm is so I am going to give you a few of many examples. Chabad followers harass non religious jews. This is uncomfortable for many people that I am in contact with. I understand that you have great trust in the Rebbe’s teachings, however I can tell you many lives which his views and teachings have destroyed. Firstly his views about parenting and having lots of babies has effected many people who have been brainwashed into having more kids then they can handle. These people struggle financially and emotionally.
      The rebbes views on gay people and how they can be changed with the right therapy, has also affected many lives.
      Convincing young fresh out of school teenagers to go on shlichus without first obtaining a university degree or higher education has lead to many adults being unable to support themselves and their families.
      Not allowing people to make their own choices and depend on a rabbi for every minor detail of their life is not healthy. You can learn more about this in my post about ask a rabbi.
      I agree with you that many people are very happy in the chabad cult and many people are not but are too brainwashed to realise it. I am in contact with many people who are not happy and who do realise this. I am in contact with many people who wish they could break away, yet they are unable to because they fear the response of their family and community.
      No one should be forced to live a life which controls every aspect of their life. Chabad controls the way they dress, think, feel, marry, have sex. If you want to keep gods law thats fine. But Chabad and many other ultra religious sects of judaism, is a distorted view of the torah. and many of the laws and beliefs are ones which have been made by rabbis not god. If you read my other posts you can learn more about this.
      All in all chabad can live their lives but they should also allow others to live how they want to. People should not be in fear of the repercussions of leaving chabad. People should not be harassed to keep things that they don’t want to.
      I wish you the best and I hope you find happiness in your life.


    2. Carlos Treseme

      i have to agree with you that if i were looking to be a cult follower, probably i would choose chabad for many good aspects of their philosophy. on the other hand, while most of their main subject is about judaism, imho, they created a distortion which is totally un-jewish: blindly following a leader like the last rebbe, so it is clearly not jewish for me. they look more like christianism to me. btw, many jew for jesus followers are spin-off of chabad because of the messianic message.

      btw, all those satmars and similars are not that different. judaism had the top leader there ever was, moishele, and still torah is absolutely clear he should not be idealized or idolized, but just instructed to follow his teachings as he received them, and let him rest in peace.

      chabad and all those other “jewish” cults, cultuate a person that they call their leader in a blind way. but even the psalms, which they adore because of the underlying messianic message, in psalm 146:3 it says that “do not rely on nobles,nor on a human being, for he holds no salvation”


  2. Betsy Benjaminson

    One of the worst things about chabad is the requirement that children get no secular education. This cripples them for life and makes them dependent on the chabad community for getting a job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hanna Silver

      I don’t think that’s true. At least not in Melbourne, or Australia, where curriculum is regulated. Kids have to study maths, English, etc. However the point in the post about Chabad teaching not to question is true.


      1. MeToo

        This is an amazing article. I have lived and grew up in a similar setting. Typical Chabad family. I am happily married to my non Jewish wife and have 2 children. Chabad is a cult and this article should go viral. I feel hate and animosity towards those that forced me to grow up in such an environment and now shun me and consider me dead because of my lifestyle. F**K Chabad it’s a bunch of BS!!!


    2. E.F

      I couldn’t agree more with this article. Yes I know there are always two sides to every story – but personally my family has been torn apart by everything you mentioned above. It really is a cult and it is scary to see what it can do to people. I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way.


  3. Hanna Silver

    Wanna hear a funny story? My uncle lives in Jerusalem, is ultra orthodox, has 11 children. One time a few years ago, me and my friend Nat visited him and his family at Succot. He was asking us what religious things we do back home. Nat mentioned she sometimes goes to Chabad-run functions, like shabbat dinners. My uncle replied, “Oh Chabad, they’re a cult!”


  4. mark

    Thank you for the very insightful article. If a religion has to tell you “they are not a cult” then it is pretty much guaranteed they are a cult. Many of the markers of a cult that you pointed out are very much on par with what I saw in Islam and that is why I high tailed it out that mess. True spirituality and communion with God is not based on clothes, food, mechanical prayer, questionable man made teachings and supposed “sayings”. I read where the founder of the Chabad movement stated that if a person questions his words then he is a heretic. That statement alone is a dead give away it’s a cult. As a wise man once said “There is a fine line between salvation and drinking poison in the jungle”. Once you go down the Jim Jones path you end up in a place you wish you weren’t.


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  7. David Apple

    The line between most religions and cults is very blurry. Orthodox Judaism falls towards the cult side: Early childhood socialization, financial and family and social pressure to remain in the religion, distrust (or worse) of outsiders, restrictions on commonsense freedoms, and much more. If it looks like a cults, walks like a cult and quacks like a cult it is a cult.


  8. frumless Post author

    Hi, that does sound very crazy. I’m happy to help in any way I can, however I don’t know much about that particular chabad community. I don’t live anywhere near there. I dont know your friends exact situation, but if she is pregnant and wanting to leave her marriage and live elsewhere she should do this asap before the baby is born. Once the baby is born the father can stop her from moving cities. At least those are the laws where I live. So your friend should move close to her family or wherever she has the most support prior to giving birth. I’m not going to make your comment public as chabad community’s tend to be very close knit and this could make your friends situation worse.
    I wish you both the best. Hope things get better for her


  9. Yehoshua

    Thank you for the well thought out article. As you say it’s a hard cult to break out of. Since it resembles Judaism in many ways. The main problem I think stems from putting the Zohar above everything. And claiming it’s a divine book.when it was actually written in the 13th century. From there, the Rebbe’s are like Demi gods. And everyone try’s to out do each other in fanaticism. Outsiders and converts are treated like dirt. And they have huge egos. Unfortunate they control much of the outreach. Having the most inovative ideas like putting Tefillin. But ultimately they divide communities.
    They also get off on having power over others. And as you say destroying the lives of many. Hashem Yishmorenu.
    My prayers for normalative juidaism and common sense to prevail!



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