A new book by Dovid Zaklikowski, Dear Rebbe: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Corresponds with a Singer, a Writer, a Sculptor and a Holocaust Survivor, examines the Rebbe’s relationships with four important figures of the 20th century: sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, singer Jan Peerce, writer Chaim Grade, and philanthropist David Chase. Watching these icons interact with the Rebbe gives readers insight, not only into their personal spiritual lives, but into the Rebbe’s indefatigable quest to promote Jewish observance in America and around the world.
After more than a decade of intense research, Zaklikowski has produced a rich history of the Rebbe’s efforts to encourage the men to increase their Jewish involvement without alienating them. “You will learn how the Rebbe, sitting in his modest Crown Heights office, had the strength to make radical, life-altering suggestions to powerful cultural and social icons,” Zaklikowski says.
“Dear Rebbe by Dovid Zaklikowski makes public the private,” writes Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Executive Editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica. “The Rebbe’s relationship with four extraordinary men of accomplishment, who, being men of the world, masters of their fields, presumed that they did not need a rebbe and learned over time – and perhaps much to their surprise–that they needed the Rebbe.”
The Rebbe’s private correspondence, many published for the first time in Dear Rebbe, with these most public of men, reveals his strategy to bring Jews closer to Judaism, he writes. “Rather than making them guilty for what they did not [do], he cajoled them by offering ways most appropriate to them to become better Jews. [The book] also reveals how broad his knowledge, art and music, literature and business; how wide his reading from secular and religious literature; how keen his understanding of contemporary events at home and abroad; and how diverse his reach.”
Dr. Vera Schwarcz, Emerita Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University, writes that Dear Rebbe draws the reader into the intimate, complex conversations that these men carried on over many years “with a Jewish leader who enriched their work by his broad-minded engagement with the details of human creativity and purpose.
“This work will open new vistas upon the potential for transformative action embedded in each and every one of us,” she writes. “Without any trace of didacticism or adulation, Zaklikowski manages to bring to life the vibrant impact that the Rebbe had upon those near and far.”
“In Dear Rebbe,” Berenbaum concludes, “we experience the masterfulness of a very great master.”