The Chabadification of Judaism: How did this one sect get so big?

Chabad has grown into one of the largest, most visible sects of Judaism. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like there are more Chabad houses than Starbucks in Canadian cities, there’s a reason: With their enormous menorahs and frequent sidewalk stalls, the Chabad movement easily represents the most prominent Jews in the public square. On campus, on the street, in smaller communities and online, their ubiquity is undeniable.

How did they get there? Why is this small Hasidic sect succeeding while other denominations are losing ground—especially when so many Jews who take part aren’t even Orthodox?

We talk to sociologist Samuel Heilman about the roots of this phenomenon and what it means for the future of Canadian Jewry. Plus, Phoebe and Avi discuss tidiness, piles of books and the Jewish angles of Marie Kondo’s recent confession.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.