Unearthing Precious Moments

Many people looking for photos and videos of their moments with the Rebbe are turning to JEM’s Rabbi Zalmy Ceitlin. The results are often surprising.

At a nondescript desk in the corner of JEM’s office, Rabbi Zalmy Ceitlin sits staring at a video of the Rebbe pouring kos shel brachah. With a phenomenal memory for faces, names and events, and having combed through thousands of hours of footage, he is the address people are turning to for a memento of their encounter with the Rebbe 

“A snapshot or video of their moment means a lot to people,” explains Rabbi Ceitlin, “but they are often difficult to find. People don’t remember exactly what date and what time they went past the Rebbe. Often, there are no easily accessible, tagged photos to look through. And to search the videos is difficult, time-consuming, and usually unrewarding.”

Rabbi Ceitlin specializes in creating compilations for people who had multiple encounters with the Rebbe. Over the years, having sat and watched thousands of hours of video, tagging and cross-referencing, he has created his own database. By now, he has over 25,000 tags, and has helped close to 750 people find their moment. His knack for recognizing faces has him sometimes recognize people faster than they themselves do. 

 “I didn’t have any pictures or videos of myself by the Rebbe,” Chezky Rosenfeld reported. “I contacted Rabbi Ceitlin, and shortly afterwards, I had a DVD with 3 videos and 2 beautiful still shots.”

Rabbi Ceitlin’s methods are sometimes unconventional, but his successes speak for themselves. He can locate dates by looking at the Rebbe’s hat, at the clock, or at the table cover, among other clues.

When Avraham Cohen contacted Rabbi Ceitlin about locating a photo of him with the Rebbe, Abraham had no clue what date it was. Unperturbed, Rabbi Ceitlin asked if he knew of anyone else who was by the Rebbe that day. Avraham remembered that a certain prominent rabbi was there that day. With that nugget of information, Rabbi Ceitlin set to work, and sure enough, he located the picture. Avraham was astounded.

“You just have to know how to look,” says Rabbi Ceitlin with a smile. “And the sight of people dancing in my office when I show them what I unearthed is truly a sight to see.”

To contact Rabbi Ceitlin, email zceitlin@jemedia.org, message +1 347-452-4745, or stop by the JEM office.