From the 1950s until his death in 1994, Menachem Mendel Schneerson--revered by his followers worldwide simply as the Rebbe--built the Lubavitcher movement from a relatively small sect within Hasidic Judaism into the powerful force in Jewish life that it is today. Swept away by his expectation that the Messiah was coming, he came to believe that he could deny death and change history.
Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman paint an unforgettable portrait of Schneerson, showing how he reinvented himself from an aspiring French-trained electrical engineer into a charismatic leader who believed that he and his Lubavitcher Hasidic emissaries could transform the world. They reveal how his messianic convictions ripened and how he attempted to bring the ancient idea of a day of redemption onto the modern world's agenda. Heilman and Friedman also trace what happened after the Rebbe's death, by which time many of his followers had come to think of him as the Messiah himself.
The Rebbe tracks Schneerson's remarkable life from his birth in Russia, to his student days in Berlin and Paris, to his rise to global renown in New York, where he developed and preached his powerful spiritual message from the group's gothic mansion in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This compelling book demonstrates how Schneerson's embrace of traditionalism and American-style modernity made him uniquely suited to his messianic mission.
"How do you write a biography of the Messiah? That is the question that Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman, two leading Jewish social scientists, have had to tackle in their groundbreaking study of Menachem Mendel Schneerson."--Times Literary Supplement
"[A]n outstanding biography of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe. . . . 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."--Publishers Weekly
"[A]n important biography. . . . This is as full and reliable an account of the life of this towering spiritual leader as we are likely to get."--Saul Rosenberg, New York Sun
"Lively and provocative. . . . [An] eye-opening account of the Rebbe's 'life and afterlife.' . . . [T]he best analytical study of the two major themes that it addresses: A critical and often boldly psychological biography of Schneerson is prefaced and supplemented by two chapters devoted to a sociological analysis of the beliefs and behaviors of his Hasidim, especially after the death of the man they were--and most still are--convinced was the Messiah."--Allan Nadler, Forward
"This fascinating book by two outstanding scholars of contemporary Jewry is a must-read for those interested in the Lubavitch movement, whether insiders or outsiders. . . . Overall, it examines a mystery that compels the reader's interest."--Jewish Book World
"The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman fills a considerable void in the biography of one of the towering religious figures of the 20th century. . . . I am grateful to the authors for a profoundly human biography that will hopefully spur a whole new literature on the rebbe as man rather than angel and as person rather than saint."--Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, New York Jewish Week
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations xi
The Rebbes of ChaBaD? xiii
Chapter 1: Farbrengen: The Gathering of the Emissaries 1
Chapter 2: Death and Resurrection 29
Chapter 3: Coming of Age in a Time of Transition 65
Chapter 4: E ntering the Court of Lubavitch 90
Chapter 5: From Survival to Uforatzto 130
Chapter 6: On a Mission from the Rebbe in Life 163
Chapter 7: From Resurrection to Death: We Want Moshiach Now 197
Chapter 8: On a Mission from the Rebbe in His Afterlife 248
Glossary of Hasidic and Lubavitcher Terms 279
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Samuel Heilman: