Mr. Levi Yitzchak Freidin A”H
For his son’s high school graduation in 5736, Mr. Levi Yitzchak Freidin surprised him with an airline ticket to New York. Mr. Freidin’s son insisted that his father join him, and so it was that the pair made their way to 770, arriving just in time for Tishrei. Freidin captured his experiences on still film, his work as a photographer for various Lubavitch institutions in Eretz Yisroel standing him in good stead. Though he had initially referred to 770 as “a madhouse,” Freidin so loved his experience that he returned every Tishrei for nearly twenty years thereafter.
Returning to Eretz Yisroel after his first Tishrei, Freidin held an exhibit called “770” at Beit Sokolov, a journalistic center in Tel Aviv. The exhibit was later moved to Yerushalayim and then to Bar Ilan University, providing viewers with images of the Rebbe and the heartbeat of Lubavitcher Chassidim. In later years, Freidin also recorded moving film of his Tishrei experiences, which he edited, narrated, and screened at yeshivos around the country.
Freidin’s photos, taken on 35mm film, encapsulated the full Tishrei experience from the end of Elul until the beginning of Cheshvan. Though the photos taken in his earlier years include many colorful scenes from the streets of Crown Heights, his later photos are far more focused on the Rebbe and the Rebbe’s interactions with Chassidim.
Having come to 770 clean shaven, Freidin eventually grew a beard and, along with it, a very close relationship with the Rebbe. Though he was a bold photographer who did not hesitate to jump into the Rebbe’s path and snap a photo, Freidin never used a flash so as not to disturb the Rebbe. He would sometimes take pictures of the Rebbe as the Rebbe left his house in the morning, at which time the Rebbe would offer him a ride to 770. Sometimes he accepted; at other times he declined. Chassidim would often send messages to the Rebbe through Freidin, such as suggestions that the Rebbe take care of his health.
Freidin’s collection consists of more than 150,000 photos, not including 600 more scenes from the years 5735-5752 that were taken on moving film on a custom-made tripod. Freidin consistently numbered his films in chronological order, making it much easier to date the photos. Taken on 35mm negatives, he used black and white film until 5741, after which he used primarily color film. In order to compensate for the lack of flash on his indoor photos, Freidin used high-ISO film, which is more sensitive to light than the standard 35mm film, its one drawback the graininess present the photos have been restoring and enlarged.
Mr. Freidin passed away on 28 Iyar, 5753. It is thanks to him that we are able to relive Tishrei with the Rebbe in such an all-encompassing way. His photo and video collections have served to inspire thousands of Jews the world over.