NR Digital

Redemption Road

by Abby Wisse Schachter
Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, by Joseph Telushkin (Harper Wave, 640 pp., $29.99)

A Jew may say to you, “Why can’t you leave me alone? Why can’t you just go and do your thing and let me do mine? What does it bother you if I drill this little hole in my little boat?” You must answer him: “There is only one boat, and we are all in it together.”
 – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

The statement above is typical of the attitude and driving mission of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Schneerson spoke often about the oneness of the Jewish people as well as the unity of all humanity. As Joseph Telushkin explains in his impressive and expansive new biography, Schneerson “saw America as perhaps the first society in which there was a hope of carrying out Judaism’s universal mission: not to make the whole world Jewish but to bring the world, starting with the United States, to a full awareness of One God.” And Schneerson wasn’t satisfied with keeping the mission within the boundaries of the United States, either.

His movement, Chabad Lubavitch, is a branch of Orthodox Judaism founded in 1775 in Russia. Chabad is an acronym for hochma (wisdom), bina (understanding), and da’at (knowledge); Lubavitch is the town where the movement was based for more than a century. With the emigration of the sixth Rebbe in 1940, the center of the movement moved from Russia to America. Menachem Schneerson was born on April 18, 1902, in southern Ukraine and, like his father-in-law (the sixth Rebbe), he fled Europe and the Holocaust for the United States.

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