Publisher’s Weekly

The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-691-13888-6

Eminent Jewish scholars Heilman, of City University of New York, and Friedman, of Bar Ilan University in Israel, have teamed up to produce an outstanding biography of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe. Their well-grounded contribution carefully avoids hagiography, but their restraint leads them to avoid critiquing some of the more outlandish claims made by the rebbe and his adherents. The issue of whether the rebbe is the Messiah, as contended by some of his disciples, is also treated with respect. More significant is the thorough analysis offered by Heilman and Friedman of the rebbe’s great organizational success in sending emissaries throughout the world to persuade Jews to become pious. In addition, the history and influence of the Lubavitcher movement is carefully and candidly traced, including a complete account of Schneerson’s experiences before and after he became the rebbe. The disputes that followed his death are methodically depicted. This well-written presentation, based on exhaustive scholarship, will stand as the definitive statement about the life and times of a highly influential religious leader. (June, 2010)

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