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The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  429 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
“Excuse me, are you Jewish?” With these words, the relentlessly cheerful, ideologically driven emissaries of Chabad-Lubavitch approach perfect strangers on street corners throughout the world in their ongoing efforts to persuade their fellow Jews to live religiously observant lives. In The Rebbe’s Army, award-winning journalist Sue Fishkoff gives us the first behind-the-sc ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Schocken (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 22, 2007 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
If you are Jewish, you know Chabad (and even if you are not, you may still know Chabad). This group of Hasidim from Brooklyn has overtaken the world with their black hats, bushy beards and long coats, putting Judaism on the map in places where it was happily underground, seeking to spread the words of Torah following the vision of the late Rebbe Schneerson.

Chabad has a special image that makes it incredibly fascinating and frightening at the same time. Their brand of Judaism is so in-your-face
Michelle Jones
Jul 30, 2010 Michelle Jones rated it liked it
I think just about every Jew has an opinion on and a fascination with Chabad, on some level. My opinion is of course skewed by the fact that Chabad rejects both my flavor of Judaism (Conservative) and my very status as a Jew (only Orthodox conversions count in their eyes). Even so I recognize that Chabad does very good work in many arenas and this book highlighted that good work even more.

This was a really good book. Well written, well researched and it neither endlessly praised nor condemned Ch
Dec 29, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. It was pitch-perfect for me since I was looking for neither an indictment of the Chabad folks nor a sales pitch. Written by a journalist with an insider's eye and skeptic's critical distance, the book's argument is that, basically, the Chabad movement embodies both some of the best (in their outreach, welcoming of strangers, willingness to meet people where they are and do the work that needs to be done) and some of the worst (gender segregation, a dismissal of secular educa ...more
Karin F.
Jan 28, 2008 Karin F. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jews and those who love (or are curious about) em
A fascinating, comprehensive, and unbiased examination of Chabad-Lubavich. Fishkoff travels the world meeting shlichim (Chabad emmissaries) who literally bring Judaism to the Jews, wherever they might be. She deftly tackles Chabad's political influence, their duel shtetl-wordly existence, funding sources, admirers, detractors, and of course the Rebbe as Moshiach issue. Perhaps more importantly, our intrepid author illuminates just who these people are and why they are spending their Friday after ...more
Jonathan Meola
Jan 15, 2013 Jonathan Meola rated it really liked it
Interesting look at the growth of modern Chabad... gives the reader some insight as to how the movement was inspired by their Rebbe to go out and engage with Jews all across the globe. The shlichim (emissaries) who take on this challenge basically go into a community with not much more than a year's salary (if that) and have to hit the ground running.

Some rabbis have met with much success, such as Bal Harbour/Surfside FL's Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, who founded what is now known as "The Shul of Bal
Dec 28, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it
When I picked this up, I was expecting a critical view of Chabad and its shluchim. I was pleasantly surprised that Fishkoff openly admits her own very non-Chabad background, but still provides a balanced, thoughtful look at the group. Of course, some things she writes can't be said for all Chabadniks (you will certainly meet Chabadniks who read popular fiction, or believe in evolution), even though it is portrayed that way for some aspects of their daily life. Regardless of your opinion on Chaba ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Laurel rated it really liked it
Well written and deeply interesting to me. I thought a lot, reading this, about community and faith and my own life. But it felt-- I don't know-- a little too generous. Seemed to skim over a lot of the ways in which a contemporary non-orthodox reader might be critical. Seemed to avoid engaging with questions. I kept finding myself wanting to join Chabad, and then pulling back and going, "Ummm, now, wait. We haven't talked about how one might be, say, GAY in that world. Or what if I wanted to wri ...more
Nov 26, 2007 Reb rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cynics and idealists
amazing catalogue of the outreach work that Chabad folks have been able to do, based pretty much on not doing anything else. very frustrating to see that this is, for many in America, the face of organized Jewry; very inspiring to see how many people respond to a radical message of love and generosity and care.

go read the book, but in some ways I think it boils down to this, for me: if we are to transform the world into a place of true service and compassion, we really must be willing not to be
Sep 06, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
A very interesting look into the phenomena of young Lubavitch families whonfoem the nucleus worldwide of Chabad Houses.
Nick Escobar
Nov 14, 2015 Nick Escobar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-ficton
The world of Chabad is fascinating to anyone who learns of the movement be they Jewish or not. My introduction to Chabad came upon meeting my now friend, Rabbi Dovid while in college. Though not Jewish myself, the Rabbi was always there to talk with me and work with me as I covered religious topics for the student newspaper. It was he who gave me this book as a thank you and acknowledgement of our time together and it served as another expression of his boundless generosity. Anyone who has met a ...more
Chad Johns
Jan 26, 2016 Chad Johns rated it really liked it
Great read, well written and thoughtful perspective of someone on the outside looking in
May 21, 2014 Barbara rated it liked it
I found the book very interesting as I am interested in all things Jewish and curious about Chabad. Well written and very informative I learned lots.
Steven Williams
Apr 21, 2014 Steven Williams rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at hasidism.
Apr 24, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Worth reading
Joel Kleehammer
Feb 27, 2015 Joel Kleehammer rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish
This was a truly good book. Sue Fishkoff got it right where others have not. This book does not focus on the entirety of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, rather just on the emissaries the movement sends out, the shlichim. You probably have an opinion of them (in addition to the movement and the Rebbe). My life has been forever changed - improved - because of the shlichim, and I am grateful for that. I was glad to see this well-written work that does justice to these wonderful people.
Jan 31, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
From a journalistic point of view it is filled with information, history and opinions of knowledgeable people who live the chabadnik lifestyle. The work that each one of the shlichim does for their community and for Judaism is commendable beyond words and I truly admire and respect the young couples dedicating their life so fully. It's not a lifestyle for everyone, (it's not my lifestyle) but I gladly perform mitzvot and try to be a better person than I was yesterday.
Aug 03, 2011 Glittervomit rated it really liked it
Very interesting overview of the Chabad movement. Although it does get a bit long in describing the lives of the shlichim, it certainly draws a beautiful picture of the work they do. My own favorite chapter was the last, where the true lost Jews were sought out of drug problems. The mental image of a Jew banging on the door to demand another Jew call his mother was one of the more moving stories, and it only gets better.
Josh Franklin
Apr 03, 2013 Josh Franklin rated it it was amazing
Sue Fishkoff does an incredible job of exploring all the aspects of the Chabad community. She brilliantly weaves in stories of various chabadnicks and other Jews together to create a compelling and informative portrait of group. In capturing the many facets of Chabad, she appears objective in her descriptions. I enjoyed the book and Fishkoff's writing style.
Jan 01, 2014 Ari rated it really liked it
The book is sympathetic to Chabad, but written by an outsider. I came away very impressed by the influence that the Lubavicher rebbe had, both on his movement and on the wider current of American judaism. The author is prepared to discuss the bad as well as the good -- there is a chapter about the messianic streak in Chabad, with some analysis of how central it is.
Jun 16, 2012 Becky rated it really liked it
An incredibly interesting book and well worth reading. The author is very sympathetic to her subjects -- a bit too sympathetic for me at times. It is an interesting look at a Jewish sect that borders on a cult (some would say more than borders). Nevertheless, this group does some very interesting work in proselytizing its own anywhere it can find them.
Jan 03, 2010 B. rated it it was amazing
I was familiar with Chabad only on a superficial level -- there is a large Lubavitcher community in the city where I live -- and was interested to learn more. What I really liked about this book was that it was nonfiction that read like good fiction -- the people were fascinating and the stories were interesting and well told.
May 20, 2007 Miryam-Chavah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: students of Judaism
Shelves: jewish-studies
a feel-good book about some of the background behind the Chabad-Lubavitcher "movement" of recent decades...

is not a critical piece, and just generally supplies the reader with what Chabadniks think and believe of themselves, their outreach work and of the Rebbe (shlita).
Jul 07, 2011 Elana rated it it was amazing
Sue Fishkoff is such a great journalist - I wish that she would write a follow-up to this book that follows Chabad during the past 10 years (this book wraps up in the early 2000s). Fascinating, detailed account of the history and contemporary life of Chabad Lubavich.
May 09, 2007 Tracy rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about the Lubavitchers - I have a Lubavitch community in my neighborhood and it has been really interesting to learn about. Now I can truly understand the "Good Card" I get everytime I go to the grocery store
May 01, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
A fascinating look into an equally fascinating movement. I learned so much about the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and have come away with a respect for the teaching and, more so, compassion they provide people around the world.
Sep 23, 2015 Alice rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, relatively holistic look at a movement with many facets. I would love to see this republished with a new preface that discusses how things have changed since it was written.
Dena S.
Jun 26, 2012 Dena S. rated it liked it
Shelves: judaica
I'll admit I had a difficult time with this book. The Rebbe's "army" speaks of him as if he's still alive, still watching them, still guiding them and I find that bizarre.
Jun 28, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
Great book. Interesting and appealing. I am not jewish but I learned a lot. Written in 2002 so a follow-up of the next decade would be wonderful.
Jim Talbott
I loved this book... It's a great story and very important for Jews in other movements to gain insight into Chabad's success.
Sep 19, 2008 Sue rated it it was amazing
Interesting read about the shliachs that work around the world to bring jews back into the fold.
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