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The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson
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The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  21 reviews
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 chan ...more
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published May 19th 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Michael Lewyn
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not having dug through the charges and counter-charges, I can't really comment on the disputes over how accurately the book recounts the details of the Rebbe's early life.

I can say that the story is amazing to the extent it is true (and would be an amazing novel if it wasn't!) The basic outline is as follows: in the 1930s, Menachem Schneerson, despite his Hasidic ancestry and father-in-law, basically lived as a modern Orthodox Jew (although an extremely pious one, at least in some respects). He
Leora Wenger
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish
The book doesn't represent Chabad in the most positive light, so I can understand why Chabadniks had a problem with book.

I most enjoyed the parts about Menachem Mendel Shneerson's life in Europe. If circumstances had been different, he and his wife might have led a quiet life in France, Poland or Russia, with Menachem Mendel working as an engineer. But she was the daughter of Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Shneerson, the 6th Lubavitche rebbe, and Europe was a mess, a tragic place for Jews. One learns about
Jan Peczkis
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Pre-WWII Poland: Jewish Self-Atheization. Jewish Underworld. Nazis Spared Some Jews. Schneerson the Messiah?

This book originated in part, from Martin Marty and his Fundamentalism Project. Because many of the researchers are religious liberals, they may have a negative bias against tradition-minded religionists—hence the many vehemently negative reviews of this book. My review includes broad themes that go beyond this book.


Rabbi Schneerson thought that his dut
Apr 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
I didn’t read the book.
That’s why you should read my review.
Why, you ask? Well, what type of question is that? Obviously if I would’ve read the book I wouldn’t have an “objective” opinion on the book, I might get “persuaded” by its contents and therefore write a hagiography-type review.
Therefore I chose not to read it. And that’s why you should read MY review, the unbiased, purely based on my own objective and “sane” knowledge review.
Let’s cut to the chase: The book is a beautiful one; its pa
Feivish Brief
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Only such an important scholarly yet truly enjoyable book can have so much haters!

As a Hasid i am sick and tired of dogma of cultist biography books.
Finely a true critical yet objective book evenly sourced form pro Chabbad Hasidim and its critics.
A monumental historical study, that gives meaning to a controversial sect and its mystical leader.
As an insider of the Jewish world i encourage you to buy this book and read it thorough, to see what and why Chabad Lubavitch is so unique? What drives the
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
I understand why this is a controversial book, but I think to a person who doesn't understand these things well, they would think that this is a book written with glowing admiration of Schneerson. For those that demand nothing less than a total hagiography, it falls short, of course.

I know Elliot Wolfson thinks this book is incomplete because it does not analyze the relevant Chabad texts. On the contrary, I agree with the authors of this book in almost entirely omitting that aspect. Indeed, Wolf
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a good read! I found it pretty hard to put down. I enjoy much of Heilman's stuff, and he and Friedman have definitely done a good job of matching the historical record with people's recollections to put together an interesting and provocative biography (as opposed to hagiography) on one of the most influential leaders in modern world Jewry. The background is helpful in understanding some of the worldview of Lubavitch, as well as the historical and ongoing success of movement.
Jun 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I was raised Chabad but have moved slightly away from its ideological outlook, partly because of its cult like mentality and unquestioning adherence to the rebbe's every word, movement and gesture. However I do believe, based on the first hand encounters that those older than me have had with the Rebbe that he was an exceptional human being, with intelligence kindness and sincere caring for all creations.

I liked the book because it made the rebbe seem like a person, like a human with struggles
Amos Vos
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
In this book the authors are giving an interpretation of some facts in the life of the Rebbe.
I wouldn't call it a biography. It's more a demystification of the Rebbe.As liking to prove that he was completly human in all aspects. But in a fact what they are proving is that the Rebbe was not a myth and that he was a complete human being. Well there is his greatness: that he was a human being and not an angel.

The authors emphasize a lot on the first 40 years of the Rebbe. He lived as a university
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Even though rich in information, the book fails to explain the particularities of the Chabad Hasidism and the personality of the Rebbe. Too much information does not mean necessarily understanding, after all. Very often I felt that there were many missed connections between facts and the temptation to share various events not too much discussed till now - as, for instance, the time before moving to the US - diminished the academic value of the book, because of the focus on too many 'sensational' ...more
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it
If you live in Brooklyn and regulary encounter black-hatted Lubavitchers, mitzvah tanks, and flags and signs with images of the rebbe, this book will probably interest you. If you're not at all interested in Chabad and how they came to be a global force, then don't pick this one up. The authors explore Schneerson's life, contrasting his focus as a younger man on secular studies with his later life completely enclosed within the Lubavitcher bubble. Their analysis is hampered, however, by a lack o ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
The authors of this fine biography adopt a sympathetic tone with regard to their subject. They provide a clearly written account of his life and in the process of the Lubavitch Hasidim. This makes their social psychological analysis of the messianic movement that he created quite convincing. I'm not going to try to summarize their analysis because I don't want to over simplify their rich presentation. Anyone interested in Hasidiam and the question of what happens when prophecy fails will find th ...more
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I came to this book openminded, filled with curiosity and seeking answers as to how generations of Rebbes have inspired such reverence for a lifestyle that is increasingly difficult to adhere to.

This book didn't actually answer those questions. But, I kept reading, in hopes of finding answers.

There appears to be some question as to the accuracy of details pertaining to his early years, and the detail may be too much for many readers, you can skim over parts that delve to deeply and still have a
Jul 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
I read the book, along with the dialogue between the authors and Chaim Rapoport, a Lubavitcher rabbi in England. While the back-and-forth is illuminating, specifically for highlighting numerous errors in the scholarship, the book still has some merits. Too bad that we will need to wait for a revised second edition until they can be incorporated into the text.
Aug 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Serious and academic study of the life of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe with an interesting theory that he promoted the whole "rebbe=moshiach" movement because by his 80s he was so insulated from the "real life" he had lived before becoming rebbe, and had no close family or friends for emotional support and reality checks, only followers. Readable, but a bit on the dry side.
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: project_2015

Chabad…dangerous, messianic, evangelical, personality cult, a welcoming community, a celebration of being Jewish? In any case, Chabad is influential beyond the count of its adherents. Want to know more? Need to know more? Read this excellent book.
Amir Sagiv
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book that gives both a comprehensive view of the man's life and an inquiry to the nature of the messianic idea that evolved around him. Only thing that it is missing is something deeper about his theology.
Nigel Meinrath
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insight into the Rebbe's life uninfluenced by Chabad mythology.
An interesting perspective and a worthwhile read.
Feb 10, 2012 marked it as to-read
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