It's a movement that has brought the Hanukkah Menorah to Independence Mall, a Hasidic rock band to South Street and eight Lubavitcher centers to Philadelphia.
When the great rabbi was buried four years ago, some of his dark-clad followers believed he would soon return as the Moshiach - the messiah.
And around the Brooklyn headquarters where he taught Jewish law and philosophy for more than 40 years, some of the Hasidim still look for his return.
``Even though he has passed away, people still believe that he is the main guy and that he is going to come back and give us the redemption,'' said Mark Z., dishing out salads in a deli on Kingston Avenue, where the men wear black, wide-brimmed hats and the businesses display pictures of the bearded rebbe.
In Israel, the rebbe would be welcome any day at an exact replica of his red brick house in Brooklyn, built near Tel Aviv by followers during his lifetime.
Though Schneerson never visited Israel, his supporters swayed at least one parliamentary election, ultimately determining the next government. A string of Israeli leaders visited him in the United States - and some, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have visited his grave.
In New York, in Philadelphia, in Israel, the Lubavitchers reach out to challenge Jews to reconnect with basics of their faith.
But this Moshiach thing is like a little porcupine quill among teachers and followers.
Is the rebbe the messiah?
``That we don't know until the messiah comes,'' said Refson, keeper of the gravesite and the house where Lubavitchers pen messages for Rabbi Schneerson.
``These are areas that are beyond our orbit of thought,'' said Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, head of the World Council of Lubavitch and founder of the Lubavitcher Center in Philadelphia. ``These are questions of faith, and one should not engage in the orbit that is beyond him.''
So while some expect the rebbe to lead Jews into the messianic age, a rabbinic court recently declared that ``the preoccupation with identifying the rebbe as Moshiach is clearly contrary to the rebbe's wishes.''
Messiah or not, the influence of Rabbi Schneerson remains profound.
``We consider him the transmitter of the ideas and the teachings in our generation, and there has not been an interruption in that,'' said Shemtov. ``He continues to be a source of inspiration and encouragement and guidance.''
Born in Russia and educated in France, the rebbe was a magnetic speaker far into old age. Frail from two strokes when he died at 92, he left a legacy of written teachings - and videos of many of his talks.
Holding firmly to tradition - with the men recognizable by full beards and wide-brimmed hats - the Lubavitchers move easily through the modern world, putting technology from pagers to the Internet to work for them.
In the house next to Montefiore Cemetery, the phone rings often. Refson accepts fax and phone messages to deliver to the rebbe's grave. Those who leave prayers, he said, are ``asking the Rebbe to speak on their behalf to God.''
No one even talks about a replacement for the rebbe, who - unlike his six predecessors - left no heir. The dynasty began in the early 1770s in the Russian city of Lubavitch - named, much like Philadelphia, as the ``city of love.''
From the beginning, the 18th-century Lubavitchers worked to assist Jews who settled in Israel - and today, Israel ``remains a very central point and connection,'' Shemtov said.
Fleeing the Holocaust, the movement relocated to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn around 1940. Schneerson became chief rabbi a decade later, following the death of his predecessor and father-in-law.
The Crown Heights area, now predominantly black, was racked by riots in 1991 after a car in Schneerson's entourage struck and killed a neighborhood child.
Worldwide, the Lubavitcher group now probably numbers more than 200,000.
Shemtov said he had no good estimate of the size of the Philadelphia area Lubavitcher community, because there's no real membership system. Though the core group of observant Lubavitchers is small, they draw thousands to activities ranging from children's matzoh-baking for Passover to university and other adult study groups.
From his center in Brooklyn, Rabbi Schneerson was a force inspiring followers to drop everything and go spread the faith.
That was what happened 36 years ago when he told Shemtov, then a young man in New York, that he needed a representative in Philadelphia.
``He gave me pretty much general assignments that there is a very great need for spiritual inspiration and education, et cetera, and to go out and do the best we can in the Philadelphia area,'' said Shemtov, now 60. He and his wife reared six children in the Northeast, where he runs the Lubavitcher Center on Castor Avenue near Napfle Street.
Since then, Lubavitchers have expanded to eight centers in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties. They run a camp in the Northeast for underprivileged kids.
Then there's the Baal Shem Tov band, with a rabbi blasting out electronic guitar.
``It's a Hasidic rock band,'' says Rabbi Menachem Schmidt of Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania. ``It's all traditional Jewish music, just interpreted in a more contemporary fashion.''
But at heart, the Lubavitcher movement is about teaching - and reaching out to other Jews around the world.
That includes Israel, where the Lubavitchers set up a settlement shortly after the country's 1948 founding, called Kfar Chabad.
The rebbe's influence in Israel was so great that his endorsement swung five parliamentary seats to a right-wing party, Agudat Israel, in 1988. Two years later, two of those rabbis blocked Labor Party Leader Shimon Peres' bid to form a new government, paving way for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Scheerson opposed giving up occupied Arab land.
Like other Jews, Lubavitchers hold a special place for Israel.
``Our hearts are there. Our minds are there. It's a place where people are constantly,'' said Schmidt. ``It's a place that is foremost in their minds.''