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The Messiah of Brooklyn

Understanding Lubavitch Hasidism Past and Present

By M. Avrum Ehrlich

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The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidism Past and Present is the fascinating story of the incredible expansion of the Habad - Lubavitch school of hasidic Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Schneerson was the last in a dynasty of hasidic leaders who came to New York after the Holocaust. From a small band of refugees, he built a large, powerful international community of rabbis, emissaries and fervent disciples who committed their lives to his teachings and armed with his instructions lay the foundations of Habad's messianic agenda. Primarily focused on outreach among Jews as the necessary condition for the "redemption," Habad earned a reputation as the closest movement that Judaism has to evangelical Christianity. It succeeded in becoming the most influential religious group in the last fifty years of modern Judaism, affecting many layers of the Jewish experience ranging from the personal and spiritual influence of its philosophy on secular Jews, to the effect Habad rabbis have on thousands of communities they established around the world, to the movement's impact on Israeli politics.
The author discusses the personality of Rabbi Schneerson, how he rose to eminence and how the messianic expectation around his personality developed. Many Lubavitch Hasidim viewed Rabbi Schneerson as the messiah and because of this, his death brought about a crisis of faith and leadership within the movement which the author analyzes. The change in the movement, the factions and splinter groups developing variant theologies to explain the death of their messiah are subjects explored by Ehrlich together with the socio-religious undercurrents composing the movement's identity. Some of his views may be controversial.
About the Author
Dr Ehrlich is a philosopher of religion, Jewish social and political thought and theology. He received rabbinic ordination in a Hasidic yeshiva in Israel, studied theology at the Centre for Jewish Christian Relations in Cambridge and was a scholar at the Department of Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University. He is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge.

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