From Publishers Weekly
This remarkable ethnographic profile goes behind the scenes of Lubavitcher Judaism to explore how the movement's enthusiastic young emissaries, or schlihim, carry the Rebbe's message throughout the world. Armed with pamphlets, Shabbos candles and the dream of making all Jews more observant, these idealistic young married couples set up shop in unlikely locales like Peoria, Ill.; Anchorage, Ala.; or Salt Lake City, Utah. There they will tirelessly teach and fundraise-not just for a year or two, but for the rest of their lives. Fishkoff, a regular contributor to Moment and The Jerusalem Post, draws upon dozens of interviews with these schlihim, their supporters and their detractors. Traversing the country to do her research, she attended Shabbos dinners, mikvah demonstrations, Friday afternoon street proselytizing sessions and even a star-studded Chabad telethon in Los Angeles. (The telethon, Fishkoff rightly points out, is the perfect symbol for the way these Hasids have simultaneously eschewed and engaged with American culture, using technology to further their outreach.) Most interestingly, she includes interviews with Reform and Conservative Jews who, surprisingly enough, are often the chief financial backers of local Chabad initiatives. Though Fishkoff makes an effort to include some individuals' critiques of the movement, this is by no means an expos; one leaves the book sharing her own tender admiration for the energetic dedication of the Rebbe's followers. Fishkoff writes robustly and engagingly, and her portrait of Chabad is not only profoundly respectful, but also poignant and full of joy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Although most people have not heard of the Lubavitcher Hasid, a sect of Orthodox Jewry, many are familiar with the outreach programs the group runs, such as the Chabad Houses on college campuses. Their aim is to make Jews more observant, and their inspiration comes from their now-deceased rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, who some believed to be the long-awaited Messiah. Fishkoff, a newspaper reporter, explains that her book is neither a history of the movement nor an expose. Her focus is on Chabad's outreach programs and what motivates the many emissaries who are trying to bring Jews back to their roots. Eminently readable, rather like a very long New Yorker
piece, this perceptive account explains the movement by introducing those who are a part of it: the L.A. rabbi whose star-studded telethon garners millions of dollars each year; the young rabbi at Harvard whose Chabad House is surprisingly popular; the Hasidic couples who have traveled to such unlikely places as Salt Lake City and Alaska to establish a religious foothold. Mostly positive in her comments, but no apologist, Fishkoff will draw in readers of many religious persuasions. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved