By COLlive reporter
A new book, Dear Rebbe: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Corresponds with a Singer, a Writer, a Sculptor and a Holocaust Survivor, examines the Rebbe’s correspondence with four major Jewish figures of the 20th century: sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, singer Jan Peerce, author Chaim Grade, and philanthropist David Chase.
Using hundreds of interviews and documents, author Dovid Zaklikowski creates vivid portraits of these cultural icons through the prism of their relationships with Judaism and the Rebbe. “It is the first attempt of its kind to properly document central figures of Jewish life in the 20th century and their relationship with the Rebbe,” says Yitzchok Cohen, director of development at Hasidic Archives, the book’s publisher.
Dear Rebbe gives readers insight into the challenges of these larger-than-life figures: Hailed by the New York Times as “America’s Tenor,” Peerce, one of the leading opera singers of his time, struggled to keep Shabbos during his frequent tours. Lipchitz, whose works can be found in museums and at landmarks all over the country, argued with the Rebbe about whether sculpture can be considered idolatrous.
Yiddish author Chaim Grade was haunted by his decision to abandon observance and turned to the Rebbe for comfort; and philanthropists David Chase and Ronald Lauder sought the Rebbe’s guidance about rebuilding Jewish life in Poland after the Holocaust. The book includes over one hundred rare photos and documents.
“This book discloses for the first time fascinating correspondence,” writes Jonathan D. Sarna, Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and author of American Judaism: A History, “between each of these men and the Rebbe in Brooklyn, illuminating hitherto unknown aspects of their spiritual lives and of the Rebbe’s influence and reach. A moving and revealing volume.”
“Dear Rebbe, by Dovid Zaklikowski, makes public the private,” writes Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Executive Editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica. “We experience the masterfulness of a very great master.”