I was rushing from the 96 StrGreystoneHotel2eet subway station towards the Young Israel of the Upper West Side on Broadway and 91st to make it to a Friday morning Bris of an alumn baby, when I looked up and saw the sign for the “Greystone Hotel”.

Greystone Hotel! This otherwise ordinary looking Upper West Side building has important Chabad Lubavitch history, dating back to the Spring of 1940. Upon his arrival on these shores in WWII, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, known as the Freidiker (Previous) Rebbe of Chabad, stayed at the Greystone Hotel from the first day of his arrival for several months until mid-summer 1940 when “770” Eastern Parkway was purchased in Brooklyn.

The Rebbe was greeting by dignitaries and throngs of people at the Pier, and later that same evening there was a reception of rabbis, dignitaries and leaders of Jewish communal organizations at the Greystone Hotel. The Rebbe spoke to them of his vision to help Judaism and Chabad Chassidus grow and blossom and thrive on American soil.

Later that evening, two of the Rebbe’s most dedicated supporters who were long established in America came over to him privately and pleaded with him to understand that America is very different from Europe. They feared his ambitious vision would be fraught with disappointing failure given the hostile setting and insurmountable challenges to Jewish religious life in America. They implored him to scale back and to not go ahead with many of his plans to build Jewish schools and organizations to further and strengthen Yiddishkeit and Jewish observance. The Rebbe wept privately to hear such words from close friends. But he was undeterred. Their words were only a catalyst for more determination and vigor. He came out with his rallying cry: “America Iz Nisht Andersh!” America is No Different!

That was born on the Freidiker Rebbe’s first night here in 1940, in this very same Greystone Hotel. Those words “America is No Different!” have become second-nature to Chabad, as they’ve reverberated, penetrated and deeply affected community after community, those words live and thrive to this day.