Book Review: The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

In his new book, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking facts, as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, popularly referred to as the “Rebbe” by his followers and admirers worldwide.

In a span of 92 years the Rebbe traveled from his birthplace, the city of Nikolayev, Ukraine, studied in the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and Paris, where he earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, and finally settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It was there he reluctantly donned the mantel as the Seventh Lubavitcher Rabbi and humbly assumed the title of the Rebbe.

Prior to his “coronation” he had already attained the stature of a spiritual magnet who attracted into his sphere of influence a warren of world leaders, as well as ordinary people who sought his wise counsel and blessings. More than a biography, this book relates historic events bonded with personal insights and coupled with private moments, which bring the reader to yichudusim, private moments of consultation, with the Rebbe.

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My Visit to Amsterdam

Having just learned that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has abdicated her throne to her son Willem-Alexander, my thoughts return to that special place where I spent a few days two weeks ago — Holland.

Where can you munch on a herring sandwich topped with chopped onions and pickles, then polish it off with a Corenwijn chaser, while watching seven million tulip bulbs laboriously pushing their way above ground to greet the springtime sun? Why, in Keukenhof Holland, of course. But where in Holland can you get a plate of gefilte fish garnished with chrane, other than in your bubbie’s kitchen?
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St Patrick’s Day – Israeli Style

Yes, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Israel and that’s no blarney! It’s the day when green beer flows, Irish shanties are sung, and tall tales are spun. I never imagined that in Israel there would be no less than 76 pubs offering Happy Hour Specials to those who wore a bit of green that day. Although I wouldn’t exactly call St. Paddy’s Day a national holiday, there were a surprising number of Israelis who became Irish, if only for a day. At home in Cherry Hill, I never celebrated St. Paddy’s Day, but being in Israel somehow made me feel that it was my duty, as an American, to at least don the green and go to an “Irish” pub.
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No Mention in US Media for Discrimination Against Israeli Athletes

CAMERA has reported The New York Times‘ penchant for covering racism in soccer, especially where Israelis are concerned. In a Jan. 31, 2013 article about protests by Beitar soccer fans against the recruitment of Muslim players, bearing the headline “Some Fear a Soccer Team’s Racist Fans Hold a Mirror Up to Israel,” the “newspaper of record” used the event as an opening to indict all of Israeli society as racist.

In fact, The Times printed a second article in the span of ten days with the same false narrative — that because there are some intolerant Israelis, there is “a broad phenomenon of racism in all of Israeli society.”

Of course, this is an example of how Israel is held to a separate and unequal standard because, as CAMERA noted:
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Are Shabbat and Kashrut Bad For Business?

As a founding member of the National Museum of American Jewish History I was troubled to learn of the museum’s decision regarding the discarding of time honored Shabbat observances. The museum’s administration has decided to sell tickets on Shabbat, keep the café open and rent space for Friday night events. Also the café will no longer be kosher and non-kosher catering will be allowed. As if all those changes were not enough, it was decided to change the annual marketing label “Being Jewish on Christmas” to “Being __ on Christmas”. They deleted the word ‘Jewish’ from their slogan but kept ‘Christmas’.
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Gun Toting Teachers

There has been a lot of talk since the Newton massacre about arming teachers in the classroom. The NRA and Second Amendment advocates are strongly in support of the idea. Unfortunately there has been a lot of misrepresentation by some in the media that in Israel the school children’s classrooms are filled with gun toting teachers. They are not.

I’ve been in Israel dozens of times and accompanied my grandchildren to their elementary schools and high schools and not once did I see a teacher packing heat. There may be rare exceptions as in the case of disputed territories, but that does not negate the rule that teachers do not carry guns in the classroom. However there is an armed security guard at the gate of every school.
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A Kippah Question

There’s something sad about seeing many of our American youth wearing a kippah while visiting Israel.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against them wearing a kippah; I am gratified by it. The reason I think it is so sad is because the vast majority of those same kids will not wear one at home in America other than when sheltered from the outside world. For example, they have no problem wearing their Jewish identity openly when going to synagogue, attending religious school or participating in a Jewish event but wearing one in the general public, well that’s a different story.
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“Who Loves Ya Baby?”

You can be sure that over the ensuing weeks, months and years, leading up to the 2016 Presidential Elections, the GOP political pundits and strategist will be agonizing over the root causes of what went so terribly wrong with their presidential campaign. I can save them a lot of time and effort by citing a tag line from a TV show from the early 1970’s.
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Jewish Political Party Values

Which political party mirrors your understanding of the priorities of Jewish values when it comes to responding to the needs of the poor?

At the outset let me make this perfectly clear I do not vote party; I vote for the individual. So it matters not which party reflects my values only the candidates. I recognize that the candidate running under his or her political party’s banner will most likely hoist and support the party line. But that is not always the case. There are exceptions when there are exceptional people whether they are running for national, state, county, or city office, all the way down to your local committeeman.

Getting back to the question, “How do we as Jews address the needs of poor Jewish families?” There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people reading this article. Searching through the Jewish responsa, which contain the wisdom of our great teachers, reveals that Maimonides says that lifting the burden off the shoulders of the poor is best done through job training. Other sages say it is by providing food and shelter.
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