Chabad Rebbe's Death Certificate on Auction Block

Certificate, issued Aug. 2, 1995 and mailed by the New York Department of Health to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s niece in Israel, has 19 bids so far and a current high bid of $1,300.

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Praying 10 years after the death of Lubavitcher rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Yad Eliyahu stadium, Tel Aviv, June 21, 2004. Credit: AP

The death certificate of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson — the revered Chabad leader often referred to as “the Rebbe” — is on the auction block.

The official certificate, issued Aug. 2, 1995, and mailed by the New York Department of Health to Schneerson’s niece in Israel, is being auctioned by Virtual Judaica on its website — with 19 bids so far and a current high bid of $1,300. The auction will end on Jan. 19.

Schneerson died on June 12, 1994 at age 92. Because he had no children, his next-of-kin was his niece Dalya Rothman, who lived in Rehovot at the time the death certificate was issued.

According to the listing, the certificate bears “light age staining” and is “creased on folds.” Virtual Judaica lists an estimated price of $1,000-$5,000. The certificate is filled out by hand, in a slanting all-caps writing.

It is not clear whether Schneerson’s niece, or another owner, put the certificate up for auction. Reached on his cell phone Friday, Eli Amsel, who is listed on the Monsey, New York, auction house’s “Contact Us” site, said Virtual Judaica could not disclose who the seller is, but he said the item was “legitimately obtained.”

The item is not the first Rebbe-related document to go to auction, Amsel said, noting that some of his letters also have been sold through Virtual Judaica. He said items connected to Chabad and Schneerson are “very popular” on the site.

Schneerson’s grave, at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, New York, is visited by thousands of people annually. Following his death, some of his adherents claimed he was the messiah. Chabad, which is best known for sending emissaries all over the world to engage Jews of all backgrounds, has operated without a rebbe since Schneerson died.

The “personal particulars” section of the death certificate includes Schneerson’s address (“770 Eastern Parkway,” the Chabad world headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn), birthplace (“Russia”), profession (“clergy”), birthdate (“April 13, 1902”), years of college and post-college education(“5+”) and parents’ names (“Levi Yitzchok Schneerson” and “Chana Yanefsky.”)

It is not clear why the death certificate was issued to Schneerson’s niece more than a year after his death.