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Beyond Hagiography with Footnotes: Writing Biographies of the Chabad Rebbe in the Post-Schneerson Era

  • Wojciech Tworek (a1)


This article discusses the biographies of Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the Rebbe) within the broader context of Chabad historiographic lore, in particular the quasi-historical writings of Yosef Yiẓḥak Schneersohn from the 1930s and 1940s. Described by Ada Rapoport-Albert as “hagiography with footnotes,” these seemingly scholarly and modern texts constituted an alternative narrative to that of academic Jewish history. From this vantage point, I consider how biographies published by academics and by hasidic authors have mutually influenced each other, particularly in their scope, form, and method. To that end, I examine the controversy that surrounded the 2010 publication of the first academic biography of Schneerson, Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman's The Rebbe, and analyze the strategies undertaken by subsequent authors that have allowed them to present the Rebbe's life in a form that was no longer “hagiography with footnotes” (which would have alienated a secular readership) but as seemingly impartial biographies (without alienating the hasidic readership).


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I presented an early version of this article at the Third Annual Oxford Summer Institute in Modern and Contemporary Judaism. I would like to thank the participants of this workshop, as well as all the anonymous readers for their constructive criticism.



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1. Miller, Chaim, Turning Judaism Outward: A Biography of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (Brooklyn, NY: Kol Menachem, 2014); Telushkin, Joseph, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History (New York: Harper Wave, 2014); Steinsaltz, Adin, My Rebbe (New Milford, CT: Maggid, 2014). A year earlier, a popular biography intended for a Hebrew-speaking readership was also published: Harari, Yeḥi'el, Sodo shel ha-Rabi (Tel Aviv: Yediʿot Sefarim, 2013).

2. Heilman, Samuel and Friedman, Menachem, The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

3. See Rapoport-Albert, Ada, “Hagiography with Footnotes: Edifying Tales and the Writing of History in Hasidism,” History and Theory 27, no. 4 (December 1988): 119–59; republished in Rapoport-Albert, , Hasidic Studies: Essays in History and Gender (Liverpool, England: Littman, 2018), 199268. On interwar Hasidism, see Wodziński, Marcin, “War and Religion; or, How the First World War Changed Hasidism,” Jewish Quarterly Review 106, no. 3 (2016): 283312; Wodziński, , Hasidism: Key Questions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 243–78.

4. See, for example, Glitzenstein, Avraham Ḥanokh, Sefer ha-toledot (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1960–74), based on the stories transmitted by Schneersohn. Despite the general reservation towards Schneersohn's works, references to them, overt and covert, occur throughout academic studies of Chabad. See, for example, Foxbrunner's, Roman A. Ḥabad: The Hasidism of R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), which to a great extent supports the presentation of Shneur Zalman's personality on quasi-historical traditions stemming from Schneersohn's teachings.

5. See Biale, David et al. , Hasidism: A New History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017), 779–80.

6. See Finkelman, Yoel, Strictly Kosher Reading: Popular Literature and the Condition of Contemporary Orthodoxy (Boston, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2011), in particular 43–71.

7. For the practice of asking the late Rebbe's advice by sticking a piece of paper with a question to a published volume of his letters, see Bilu, Yoram, ʾItanu yoter mi-tamid: Hankhaḥat ha-Rabi be-Ḥabad ha-meshiḥit (Raʿanana, Israel: Ha-ʾuniversitah Ha-petuḥah, 2016), 71105.

8. Karlinsky, Naḥum, “Reshit ha-historyografyah ha-ḥasidit ha-’ortodoksit,” Zion 63, no. 2 (1998): 189212. On Chabad-related works of Frumkin (Rodkinson), see Meir, Jonatan, Literary Hasidism: The Life and Works of Michael Levi Rodkinson (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2016), 82112. Bet rabi’s first edition was soon followed by a Yiddish translation (Beys rebe [Warsaw: Tsentral, 1904]). It remains popular even today; a new, reset Hebrew edition was recently published in Israel, see Heilman, Ḥayim Meir, Bet rabi: Korot ḥayehem u-mivḥar mikhtavehem …., mahadurah ḥadashah u-me'irat ‘enayim (Jerusalem: Torat Ḥabad Li-vene Ha-yeshivot, 2013). In addition, the Yiddish edition was republished by the Chabad flagship press Kehot in 1952 and 1960.

9. On the shortcomings of Bet rabi as a historical source, see Loewenthal, Naftali, Communicating the Infinite (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 232 n. 39.

10. Karlinsky, “Reshit ha-historyografyah,” 10–11.  For a broader discussion of the Orthodox criticism of critical historiography, see Shapiro, Marc B., Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (Oxford: Littman, 2015), in particular 933. Shapiro also touches on the censorship within Chabad as he discusses altering images of the young Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which partisan publishers found unbecoming of their Rebbe; see 138–39, based on Deutsch, Shaul Shimon, Larger than Life: The Life and Times of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (New York: Chasidic Historical Publications, 1995–97), 2:204–5.

11. See Rapoport-Albert, “Hagiography with Footnotes,” 119–59.

12. Ibid., 129–39; Hillman, David Zvi, ed., ’Iggerot Ba‘al ha-Tanya u-vene doro (Jerusalem: n.p., 1953), 240–72; Yeshurun 23 (2010): 501–72.

13. Schneersohn, Yosef Yiẓḥak, Lyubavitsher Rebn’s zikhroynes (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1947). See also Rapoport-Albert, “Hagiography with Footnotes,” 154–55.

14. See Ha-mikhtav shel ha-ʾadon ha-rusi le-mar Shaẓ ʾodot ha-temunah shel k.k. Admor ha-Zaken n.‘e,” and “Ha-teʿudah,” Ha-tamim 8 (1937), 1217 [764–69], discussed in Katz, Maya Balakirsky, The Visual Culture of Chabad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 4546, and in Tworek, Wojciech, “Between Hagiography and Historiography: Chabad, Scholars of Hasidism, and the Case of the Portrait of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady,” East European Jewish Affairs 47, no. 1 (2017): 327.

15. See Rapoport-Albert, “Hagiography with Footnotes,” 145–53.

16. Preserved student lists of the central Chabad yeshivas in Warsaw and Otwock provide a picture of the composition of the student body. For example, according to the list for 1925/6, only 13 out of 98 students (13%) came from Chabad families. For the student lists, see Levin, Shalom Dovber, Toledot Ḥabad be-Polin, Latvyah ve-Litaʾ ba-shanim 550706 (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 2011), 103–7.

17. Schneerson, Menachem Mendel, ed., Ha-yom yom…: Luaḥ ʾor zaru‘a le-ḥaside Ḥabad (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 1942).

18. It is beyond the scope of this article to present a thorough study of the past seventy years of Chabad publications, from the emergence of Yosef Yiẓḥak's “hagiography with footnotes” until the appearance of the recent biographical output. For the time being, consider the Kehot anniversary publication: Volf, Zusha, Hoẓa'at sefarim Kehot: Pe‘iluto shel ha-Rabi mi-Lyubavitsh be-hoẓa'at ha-sefarim ha-ḥabadit Kehot ve-gishato le-‘olam ha-sefer ha-Yehudi (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 2013).

19. This may explain why Kehot did not publish the recent biographies of the Rebbe authored by followers or sympathizers of Chabad. In their attempt to appeal to a general, critical reader, their authors may have sought a different sense of authority than the Kehot stamp could provide and may have wanted to distance themselves from the ostentatiously insider, hasidic corpus of texts.

20. For a broader discussion of scripturalism in the Jewish Orthodoxy of the twentieth century, see Stolow, Jeremy, Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics and the ArtScroll Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 5160, and Soloveitchik, Haym, “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy,” Tradition 28 (1994): 64130.

21. Some Hasidim, however, continue believing that the Rebbe remains present in the material world, also after “the event of 3 Tammuz,” a euphemism for his passing. See Bilu, ʾItanu yoter mi-tamid.

22. Branover, Herman (Yirmiyahu) and Naveh, Avraham, Be-ʻen ha-lev: ʻAl ha-Rabi mi-Lubaviẓ’ (Ramat Gan: U-faraẓta, 1989); Branover, , Naviʾ mi-kirbekha: Ha-byografyah shel ha-Rabi mi-Lubaviẓ’ (Kfar Chabad: La-ḥish Hafaẓat Maʿayanot, 2006); Branover, , The Ultimate Jew: A Biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Jerusalem: Shamir, 2003; new edition, New York: n.p., 2015). It is still not the most outlandish publication concerning the Rebbe's life. In 2015, a Dutch author under the name of Issachar Levi Schneerson self-published a book titled Rabbi Kameleon: The Hidden Son of the Rebbe of Chabad. This book of trashy fiction, disguised as autobiography, tells a story of the Rebbe's casual encounter with a Dutch teenager that led to the birth of the author. Sadly, the book's prose is just as bad as the book's preposterous premise.

23. Laufer, Mordekhai Menashe, Yeme melekh: Perakim be-masekhet ḥayav u-fe‘alav shel nasiʾ dorenu, hod k.k. ’Admor Rabi Menaḥem Mendel shlita Schneerson mi-Lyubaviẓ’ (Kfar Chabad: ʾOẓar Ha-ḥasidim, 1989–91). A new edition is currently in progress, see Oberlander, Boruch and Shmotkin, Elkanah, Early Years: The Formative Years of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, as Told by Documents and Archival Data (New York: Kehot, 2016), 94 n. 6.

24. Mendelsohn, Aharon Zev, The Rebbe: A Biography (New York: Mendelsohn Press, 1995).

25. See Binyamin L. Jolkovsky, “Battle over the Rebbe Is One for the Books,” New York Post, March 3, 1996, reprinted in Deutsch, Larger than Life, 2:2.

26. Deutsch, Larger than Life, 2:3.

27. Berger, David, The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference (London: Littman, 2001). The book was met with fierce criticism by a number of authors, including London-based Chabad rabbi Chaim Rapoport, who responded with a book-length rebuttal, The Messiah Problem: Berger, the Angel and the Scandal of Reckless Indiscrimination (Ilford, England: Ilford Synagogue, 2002). Rabbi Rapoport will return later, in the discussion of the reception of Heilman and Friedman's The Rebbe.

28. Deutsch, Larger than Life, 2:viii.

29. Chaim Miller, in his Turning Judaism Outward, indeed refers to a document published in Larger than Life (446 n. 43) and includes it in the bibliography (422), yet even he describes Shimon Deutch [sic] as a “detractor” of the Rebbe (444 n. 8). In a similar vein, Oberlander and Shmotkin in Early Years (21 n. 1), a book published by Kehot, shrug it off, saying that “his [Deutsch's] primary thesis has been laid to rest” and they support this statement with a reference to an unpublished work by a Yori Yanover.

30. See Heilman, Samuel C., “On Writing about the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe and His Hasidim,” AJS Review 35 (2011): 393400.

31. See Heilman and Friedman, The Rebbe, 116–22.

32. Ibid., 197–278.

33. See Heilman, “On Writing,” where he dismisses outright the speculative teachings as “subject to editing and ‘special understandings’ by Lubavitchers, who printed and controlled access to the originals” (394). He apparently includes in his dismissal the unedited talks of the Rebbe, as well as audio and video recordings.

34. See Rapoport, Chaim, The Afterlife of Scholarship: A Critical Review of ‘The Rebbe’ by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman ([United States]: Oporto Press, 2011), 65–66 n. 175.

35. See, for example, Tomer Persico, “Dyokan ha-mashiaḥ ke-ʾish ẓaʿir,”; Nehemia Polen, review of The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, by Heilman, Samuel C. and Friedman, Menachem M.,” Modern Judaism 34, no. 1 (2014): 123–34; Socher, Abraham, “The Chabad Paradox,” The Jewish Review of Books (Fall 2010).

36. Chaim Rapoport, “The Afterlife of Scholarship: A Critical Exploration of Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman's Presentation of the Rebbe's Life,” published at (accessed January 16, 2018). The file itself is no longer available online. PDF is in possession of the author. See also Rapoport, Afterlife of Scholarship.

37. Heilman and Friedman's “Response to Chaim Rapoport's Review” and Rapoport's untitled response were published at (accessed January 16, 2018). Unfortunately, the files are no longer available online. Some criticism has been incorporated into the paperback edition, errata ( [accessed January 16, 2018]), and the Hebrew translation Ha-rabi mi-Lubaviẓ’: Menaḥem Mendel Schneerson be-ḥayav u-va-ḥayim she-ʾaḥare ḥayav (Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 2011).

38. See Heilman, “On Writing.”

39. See Rapoport's response to Heilman and Friedman, This was not included in the book version of Rapoport's review.

40. See in particular Rapoport, “Afterlife of Scholarship,” and Rapoport, Afterlife, 14–22.

41. Steinsaltz, My Rebbe, xiii.

42. See ibid., 200–210.

43. The most commonly discussed divisions within the Chabad community are those between meshiḥistn and non-meshiḥistn (those who believe that the Rebbe was and those who believe he was not the messiah), between Hasidim from birth and the newly religious, and between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. Needless to say, the lines of division often blur across and within local communities and families. There is no study devoted to the composition of the Chabad community. For some discussion of various factions, see Bilu, ʾItanu yoter mi-tamid, in particular 58–65, and Elior, Rachel, “The Lubavitch Resurgence: The Historical and Mystical Background, 1939–1996,” in Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco, ed. Schaefer, Peter and Cohen, Mark (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 383408, see esp. 394–400.

44. Besides the biography of the Rebbe, other books offered by the publisher include bilingual editions of Jewish classical sources, from the Hebrew Pentateuch to Maimonides, to Shneur Zalman's Tanya, with running commentary based on the Rebbe's teachings. See

45. See Harari, Sodo, 24.

46. Ibid., 22.

47. Ibid., 23.

48. Ibid.

49. See Telushkin, Rebbe, xiv–xv.

50. See ibid., 455–515.

51. See, for example, Susan Handelman, “The Lubavitcher Rebbe Died 20 Years Ago Today. Who Was He?,” Tablet, July 1, 2014,

52. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, iii–iv. Wolfson's blurb can also be found in Rapoport's Afterlife.

53. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 444 n. 8. Miller reiterates an argument raised by Rapoport (see his article “Afterlife,” Heilman and Friedman's response, and the book Afterlife, 65–70). Readers interested in the gender aspect of Chabad historiography may find it interesting that some biographies explain the feud in the Chabad royal family by referring to overt sexist stereotyping. In Telushkin's Rebbe, the controversy between Shemaryahu (and later Barry) Gourary and Menachem Mendel Schneerson is explained not as much as a result of competing ambitions of two potential successors of Yosef Yiẓḥak Schneersohn, but as essentially stirred by Chana, Shemaryahu Gourary's wife. Chana hoped for Shemaryahu to become the Rebbe (18). Yosef Yiẓḥak might have been afraid of hurting her feelings, which is why he never announced Menachem Mendel as his successor (24); finally, it was she who was afraid of marginalization had she not become the rebbetzin (527 n. 21). Needless to say, all these opinions are post-factum explanations of the fact that the main party in the controversy, Shemaryahu Gourary, indeed accepted his brother-in-law as the Rebbe over time. It is nevertheless interesting that they seem to suggest that the leadership crisis in Chabad was at least partially caused by Chana's stereotypically feminine emotional instability. See also Steinsaltz, My Rebbe, 65, who, while stressing Shemaryahu's aspirations to become the Rebbe, suggests that Chana's vanity played a role in the family feud. Chana's alleged resentment for being robbed of “all the honor and status that [being the Chabad rebbetzin] entailed” caused considerable bad blood between the Schneersons and the Gourarys. See his My Rebbe, 77–78.

54. See Harari, Sodo, 292–93 n. 34.

55. Ibid.: “The problem with the critical-interpretative approach is that it fails to grasp the secret of the power of the Rebbe, and it depicts those who follow him as people who subject themselves to manipulation.” See also pp. 21–24.

56. Telushkin mentions The Rebbe only once (529 n. 25) and only as a factor that prompted the publication of Rapoport's “Afterlife.”

57. See Telushkin, Rebbe, 460–61, 465; Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 83–121; Harari, Sodo, 92–97, 129–31. This is only noteworthy because, in earlier hagiographic accounts, the Rebbe was at times ascribed extraordinary academic achievements; see, for example, a brochure, Yeḥi ha-melekh ha-mashiaḥ, published by a Chabad messianic institution in Israel, in which we read that the Rebbe “in his enormous wisdom learned in no time and with no effort various wisdoms, acquired comprehensive knowledge, and had outstanding grades. The Rebbe shlita [may he live for many good years] even learned dozens of foreign languages, and achieved a good knowledge of the majority of the prevalent European languages. The Rebbe shlita the King Messiah holds academic degrees in various diverse subjects: physics, mathematics, medicine, engineering, and others. In each of these subjects the Rebbe acquired the doctoral degree,” [Menaḥem Mendel Feldman], Yeḥi ha-melekh ha-mashiaḥ (Bnei Berak: n.p., 2006), 48–49.  See also

58. See Telushkin, Rebbe, 332–33, referring to Shneur Zalman of Liady, Likute ’amarim: Tanya (Vilnius: Romm, 1900), 12b. This argument is also used in Rapoport's critique of Heilman and Friedman; see his “Afterlife,” 53–56, and Heilman and Friedman's response.

59. Telushkin, Rebbe, 333.

60. See ibid., 338. Telushkin admits that the recollection of the Rebbe studying with Heidegger should be treated with caution. See 571 n. 11.

61. See ibid., 338–39, and Greenberg, Gershon, “Menaḥem Mendel Schneersohn's Response to the Holocaust,” Modern Judaism 34, no. 1 (2014): 97.

62. See Harari, Sodo, 91–133.

63. Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 61.

64. Ibid., 59.

65. Ibid., 64. Miller himself admits that this claim is anachronistic, but refers to Menachem Mendel's early comments on Tanya, which acknowledge Maimonides's permission to study secular wisdom if it serves to facilitate an observant lifestyle. See Turning Judaism Outward, 445 n. 20 and Schneerson, , Reshimot ‘al ha-Tanya (Brooklyn: n.p., 2014), 73, available online at

66. See M. Avot 12:4.

67. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 64. Harari, Sodo, 76–77, resorts to similar arguments in his attempt to explain why Levi Yiẓḥak Schneerson, Menachem Mendel's father, cared to provide him with secular education. See also Steinsaltz, My Rebbe, 42–44, who presents it as a master plan of Yosef Yiẓḥak, who wanted to prepare Menachem Mendel for his future public role in Chabad.

68. See, for example, Green, Arthur, Tormented Master: A Life of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979), 307–8, for Rabbi Naḥman's explanation of why he read philosophical works despite prohibiting his Hasidim from doing so.

69. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 60.

70. See Heilman and Friedman, The Rebbe, 119 and 125, who state that Menachem Mendel saw engineering as his “dream.” This was met with fierce opposition from Rapoport; see his “Afterlife,” 9–10.

71. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 83–108.

72. See Heilman and Friedman, The Rebbe, 114–15, and Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 458 n. 38. Heilman and Friedman's claim turned into a somewhat bemusing exchange between them and Chaim Rapaport on determining the distance from the Schneersons’ apartment to nearby synagogues using Google Maps. See Rapoport, Afterlife, 40–47, and n. 128.

73. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 109–21.

74. Ibid., 109 and 120.

75. See, for example, the story about Menachem Mendel's two-hour talk in “Club du Faubourg” defending the belief that the world was 5,000 years old, which was “met with a round of applause” (Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 117). This story was recorded by Chabad Hasidim many years after it allegedly happened and was included in the collection of Jewish Educational Media (JEM). Even the authors of the book Early Years, which evolved from the JEM archives, admit they have not been able to confirm this event; see Oberlander and Shmotkin, Early Years, x.

76. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 114.

77. Heilman and Friedman, The Rebbe, 116.

78. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 444 n. 8.

79. Ibid., 458 n. 28, referring to the still unpublished Early Years by Oberlander and Shmotkin.

80. See Harari, Sodo, 315 nn. 48–54. He does, however, refer to Friedman and Heilman's findings when discussing the Schneersons’ relocations to subsequent apartments in Paris; see his Sodo, 315 n. 59.

81. For claims that some practices and beliefs of Chabad are heterodox or even idolatrous, see Berger, The Rebbe, the Messiah.

82. This issue was raised in an article by David Berger, who perhaps unsurprisingly focused his attention on the representation of Chabad messianism in Miller's, Telushkin's, and Steinsaltz's books. See Berger, “Did the Rebbe Identify Himself as the Messiah—and What Do His Hasidim Believe Today?,” Tablet, July 21, 2014,

83. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 398–407.

84. Ibid., 399, quoting the Rebbe's undated response published in Teshurah Avẓon-Simpson, 3 Shevat 5765 (2005), 12,

85. See Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 406–7.

86. In the mid-1980s, the Rebbe introduced the practice of a “daily page” study cycle of the whole Mishneh Torah as an obligation for all Chabad Hasidim.

87. Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 404, based on Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, hilkhot melakhim u-milḥamot, 11–12.

88. Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 404; emphasis in the original.

89. Ibid. The issue of normativity of beliefs in Judaism is a complex one. Post-Maimonidean Judaism has seen a whole gamut of messianic ideas and movements that did not conform to the narrow understanding presented by Mishneh Torah, and yet their orthodoxy has not been questioned. The literature on the messianic concepts in Judaism is immense; see, for example, Idel, Moshe, Messianic Mystics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998). On the codification and construction of “normative” Judaism, see, for example, Halbertal, Moshe, People of the Book: Canon, Meaning, and Authority (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

90. Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 415.

91. Ibid., 411–16. For the description of Chabad Hasidim as the Rebbe's spiritual children, see ibid., 373, 410.

92. See Harari, Sodo, 259.

93. Ibid., 260.

94. Ibid., 260–62.

95. The Rebbe passed away on the third of Tammuz 5754; for “third Tammuz” as the euphemism used by Chabad Hasidim to avoid direct references to the Rebbe's death, see, for example, Heilman and Friedman, The Rebbe, 12; Bilu, ʾItanu yoter mi-tamid, 71.

96. See Harari, Sodo, 266.

97. Telushkin, Rebbe, 414.

98. Ibid., 414–19.

99. Ibid., 419–23.

100. Both Telushkin and Miller present several instances in which the Rebbe vehemently protested being called the messiah as part of their argument of the marginality of the belief in Chabad that the Rebbe was the messiah. See Telushkin, Rebbe, 423–26; Miller, Turning Judaism Outward, 404–7.

101. See Berger, “Did the Rebbe Identify Himself as the Messiah?”

102. Telushkin, Rebbe, 434–35.

103. See Gotlieb, Yaʿakov, Sekhaltanut bi-levush ha-ḥasidi: Demuto shel ha-Rambam be-ḥasidut Ḥabad (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2009); Wolfson, Elliot R., Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menaḥem Mendel Schneerson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), in particular 265–300.

104. Telushkin, Rebbe, 439–57.

105. Ibid., 444, where he refers to Friedman's Ḥabad as Messianic Fundamentalism,” in Accounting for Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character of Movements, ed. Marty, Martin E. and Applesby, R. Scott (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 354.

106. However, scholars working on Chabad are generally restricted from accessing archival materials held in the Agudas Chasidei Chabad library. See, for example, Heilman, “On Writing,” 394; Balakirsky Katz, “Visual Culture,” 9–10.

107. Thus, for example, Heilman and Friedman use Faitel Levin's book Heaven on Earth: Reflections on the Theology of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot, 2002), as one of their guides to the Rebbe's doctrine. See The Rebbe, 48, 311–12.

108. For example, Heilman, “On Writing,” 394 n. 3, mentions the publication of letters of Yosef Yiẓḥak Schneersohn. Chaim Rapaport also published many documents in his book version of Afterlife, a direct response to The Rebbe.

109. Compare to the strategies of coalescence and filtering, described by Finkelman in his discussion of the coping strategies of haredi literature with the general culture; see Finkelman, Strictly Kosher Reading, 43–71.

110. See Finkelman, Strictly Kosher Reading.

111. See, for example, Ruderman, Shneur Zalman, Ḥad be-daraʾ: Toledot u-firke ḥayim shel k.k. Maran ʾAdmor mi-Lyubaviẓ’ z.ẓ.k.l. (Jerusalem: Torat Ḥabad Li-vene Ha-yeshivot, 2015), or Branover, Ultimate Jew.

112. See Magid, Shaul, “‘America Is No Different,’ ‘America Is Different’—Is There an American Jewish Fundamentalism? Part I: American Habad,” in Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History, ed. Wood, Simon A. and Watt, David Harrington (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014), 7091, esp. 83; see also Aviezer Ravitzky, “The Contemporary Lubavitch Hasidic Movement: Between Conservatism and Messianism,” in Marty and Appelsby, Accounting for Fundamentalism, 311.

113. See Shneur Zalman, Likute ‘amarim: Tanya, 75b–76a.

114. See Oberlander and Shmotkin, Early Years, 472 n. 1.

115. Including Glenn Dynner, author of, among others, Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish-Jewish Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Dynner is particularly interesting as his matter-of-fact exposition of rather down-to-earth tactics employed by ẓaddikim in the spread of Hasidism in nineteenth-century Poland went against the harmonious and more affirmative version of history present in hasidic hagiography.

116. See Shaul Magid, “‘America Is No Different.’” See also earlier accounts of Chabad as an exemplification of Jewish, although not specifically American, fundamentalism, e.g., Ravitzky, “Contemporary Lubavitch Hasidic Movement,” and Friedman, “Habad as Messianic Fundamentalism.”

117. See Magid, “‘America Is No Different,’” 77. Magid refers to brand-building strategies described by Balakirsky Katz in Visual Culture, 144–73.

118. See Worthen, Molly, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), in particular 48–55 and 241–65 on selective participation of Evangelicalism in academia; 99–147 on outreach and missionarism; 183–86 for the discussion of Evangelical responses to feminism; and 213–19 on the use of history in propagating a religious world view.

I presented an early version of this article at the Third Annual Oxford Summer Institute in Modern and Contemporary Judaism. I would like to thank the participants of this workshop, as well as all the anonymous readers for their constructive criticism.


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