Sixteen years to the day after the death of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the debate over his life continues.
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Heilman, a sociologist at Queens College, and Menachem Friedman, a professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, offer a view into his world in their new biography, "The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson" (Princeton University Press). But they have provoked a growing chorus of complaints from people inside and outside Chabad with their characterization of the rebbe.
Controversy is perhaps inevitable. “Any attempt to humanize the rebbe is going to provoke this reaction.” said Elliot R. Wolfson, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University and the author of “Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision.”
What some early readers have found most disturbing is the authors’ description of the rebbe as a not especially pious young Hasid. They argue that Rabbi Schneerson’s initial dream was to be an engineer and that he mostly absented himself from Lubavitcher affairs before World War II, living in Berlin and Paris outside of a religious Hasidic community.
Full story here.