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Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson: 20 Years Later, 3 Biographies Commemorate a Leader, Bring Closure

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Photo: jrtelegraph.
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Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Photo:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

On Tuesday, July 1, synagogues across Crown Heights, the city and the world will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement-- considered one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th Century.

From 1951 until his passing in 1994, Lubavitcher Rebbe, or simply "the Rebbe" established from his home base in Crown Heights Brooklyn a worldwide network of educational, social, humanitarian and religious institutions with over 4,000 centers touching tens of millions of lives.

In both celebration of his life and commemoration of his death, three books have been recently published to look back on his legacy, recount the details of his accomplishments and gild the significance of his messages:

Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History by Joseph Telushkin (in hardcover and for Kindle)

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Brief Description:  An incisive work of history and a compendium of Rabbi Schneerson's teachings and the definitive guide to understanding one of the most vital, intriguing figures of the last centuries: From his modest headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Rebbe advised some of the world's greatest leaders and shaped matters of state and society.

Statesmen and artists as diverse as Ronald Reagan, Robert F. Kennedy, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Elie Wiesel, and Bob Dylan span the spectrum of those who sought his counsel. Rebbe explores Schneerson's overarching philosophies against the backdrop of treacherous history, revealing his clandestine operations to rescue and sustain Jews in the Soviet Union, and his critical role in the expansion of the food stamp program throughout the United States. More broadly, it examines how he became in effect an ambassador for Jews globally, and how he came to be viewed by many as not only a spiritual archetype but a savior.

Turning Judaism Outwards: A Biography of the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson by Chaim Miller (in paperback)

"Only truly great biographers have been able to accomplish what he has with this book. He provides the reader with exhaustive and well-documented details of the Rebbe's personal background, but does not lose sight if the Rebbe's public leadership role nor of his significant place in the history of the Jewish people," wrote Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Orthodox Union; Editor-in-Chief, Koren-Steinsaltz Talmud

"I am awed by his work, and am now even more awed than ever before by the Rebbe's personality and prodigious accomplishments. This book will be avidly read from cover to cover, and then retained near the reader's desk for further consultation and inspiration."

My Rebbe  by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz (in hardcover)

In My Rebbe, celebrated author and thinker Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz shares his firsthand account of this extraordinary individual who shaped the landscape of twentieth-century religious life. Written with the admiration of a close disciple and the nuanced perceptiveness of a scholar, this biography-memoir inspires us to think about our own missions and aspirations for a better world.

"Rabbi Steinsaltz writes this book as an insider, with an insider's knowledge of the details-- about the Rebbe, about Lubavitch, and about all the major players in the Lubavitch world. His information is never mere hearsay," wrote Arthur Kurzweil for Huffington Post.

"Rabbi Steinsaltz seems always eager to examine and challenge  the most basic assumptions without hesitation. Many things distinguish My Rebbe from other books published about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, not the least of which is simply that most of Rabbi Steinsaltz's career has been devoted, as an insider, to caring about those of us eager for clarity. Rabbi Steinsaltz has earned the right to speak as an authority"

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a Crown Heights Jewish community leader said that the biographies help to revive the memory and inspiration of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, but they also represent the sad reality that the Rebbe has become part of history:

"I was privileged to meet the Rebbe. However, people under twenty never had that opportunity," said Behrman. "Even those who originally had trouble coming to terms with his passing seem to be embracing these books. Twenty years after the Rebbe passed away a circle has closed with the writing of these biographies."