By COLlive reporter
Bestselling author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin got to witness first-hand how the interest in the Rebbe and his far reach extends across the Atlantic, as he’s written in his new book “Rebbe.”
An audience of 400 people packed the South Hampstead Synagogue in London on Monday, the eve of of the Rebbe’s 20th yartzeit on Gimmel Tammuz, to hear the author.
He told them that while the Rebbe was a spiritual leader to many across the globe, he was “an introverted man who shied away from public attention and praise.”
Seymour Gorman, a business consultant and community activist, chaired the event held in partnership with HarperCollins Publishers, Kuperard Publishing, London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS), The Jewish News and the Saatchi Synagogue.
On their way in, participants purchased copies of the hefty book that titles the Rebbe “the most influential rabbi in modern history” and was praised by critics in major publications.
Telushkin said that the Rebbe’s influence spread to the secular world and his advice was in high demand among both American and Israeli political leaders alike.
“I think one of things which struck people who knew the Rebbe was his extraordinary sincerity,” Telushkin told the Jewish Chronicle after the event.
“Politicians never felt he would exploit them but at the same time thought there was much to learn from his counsel. There aren’t many people who have something to teach you and don’t have any particular selfish interest,” he said.
In a conversation on stage, Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub questioned Telushkin on the paradox of the Rebbe’s regard for the Reform and Conservative movements despite his own strictly halachic outlook.
“He had great openness to Reform and Conservative Jews,” said Rabbi Telushkin, who is a respected religious authority in his native United States. “He obviously thought they had serious misinterpretations of Judaism, but he was open to all Jews. Most of us find it very hard to be fair to people we disagree with. The Rebbe didn’t do this – he always criticized positions, not individuals.”
Telushkin’s book tour in Europe included a stop at the Jewish Museum in Berlin in an event co-organized by the Chabad Jewish Educational Center in Berlin. It was the author’s first time in Germany.
Some 300 people showed up to hear him speak about the book and the Rebbe’s vision. Organizers noted that although the book was published recently and was not translated into German yet, the entire stock was sold out.