Chabad tried to organize a "unity conference" to bring together the various Chabad factions, most prominently the messianists, who believe in publicly promoting the late Chabad Rebbe as "our righteous messiah," and the so-called anti-messianists, whose beliefs are almost identical to the messianists', except that the so-called anti-messianists believe publicly calling the Rebbe the messiah is bad for Chabad outreach and PR. This they hold, hurting the image of Chabad, goes against the Rebbe's wishes. But both camps believe the late Rebbe is the messiah.
Anyway, the "unity gathering" did not work out as planned. Ynet reports:
Rabbi [Yosef Chaim] Ginsberg is one of the more ideological members of Chabad’s messianic faction, and serves as the head of a Chabad yeshiva in Ramat Aviv. With considerable courage he gave a rousing speech reflecting his messianic beliefs. “Are you looking for unity?” he shouted. “Look at our people! There is wonderful unity among them. Everyone agrees that the Rebbe, the King, the Messiah, still lives, and this is how we educate our children. All of our people agree that the only work today is to receive the righteous Messiah.”
This led the anti-messiansts to respond. They trotted out Rabbi Yoel Kahn, widely considered the chief theologian of Chabad. As reported here last month, Kahn told Kfar Chabad Magazine that:
…The right shitah is to say the truth: That now the Rebbe is also alive and affects us here physically. That after Gimmel Tamuz 1994 no change has occurred in the relationship between the Rebbe and chassidim - no change as the Rebbe relates to chassidim and no change as chassidim relate to the Rebbe.
But Kahn also attacked the messiansits, saying:
“Writing ‘shlita’ (may he live a good long life, Amen) in and of itself makes a mockery, but this is not enough for them,” he said angrily of the messianists, “and they also continue with the words, ‘yibadal lechaim tovim,’ (may he be set aside for long life), which makes an even greater mockery.
“All the dastardly deeds of the enlightened and the Yevsektsia (the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist party), who attempted to besmirch the honor of our holy teachers with all kinds of endeavors, are nothing compared to the defamation caused by the messianist."
In other words, the Rebbe is in some sense dead, it is true, but he is also more alive than he was before, and our relationship with him remains unchanged.
The messianists could not let this broadside pass, and so they responded this way:
The response … came about two weeks after the unity conference, when the messianists held their own conference at the Tel Aviv Culture Hall in honor of yud shevat, the date Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became Lubavitcher Rebbe. A red velvet chair was left empty on the stage for the Rebbe, and one of the chassidim poured wine into the cup on the table. To judge according to human eyesight, the chair remained empty until the end of the conference.
Even the biggest messianists were well aware that they could not ignore [Rabbi Kahn’s] fighting words. “In recent days we heard what Rabbi Yoel Cohen [Ynet has mis-transliterated the name, which is spelled in English "Kahn"] said,” Rabbi Ginsberg began, “that, God forbid, our faith has no basis.” “The same Cohen who declared a year before gimmel tamuz (the date of the Rebbe’s death) that anyone who thinks, God forbid, that something will happen to the Rebbe should throw his tallis into the ocean. That anyone who thinks that the Rebbe, the King, the Messiah, can die should get up and leave. This is what I heard with my own ears and this is what others heard.” continued Rabbi Ginsberg, “He is the person who said that it isn’t so certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. But that our Rebbe will live forever—that is true. He screamed this from every possible pulpit.
“Suddenly gimmel tamuz came, and we stupid Jews believe that if the Rebbe says such and such a thing and the whole world is screaming the opposite, we remain true to our belief. We don’t know anything, we are nothing, but if the Rebbe says that he lives forever and will bring about redemption, we should believe that we will be redeemed in our body, truly."
And the saga of our newest Christianity continues.