Schneerson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel

(1902-94)
   He was the seventh in a line of grand rabbis, or rebbes, of the Lubavitch Hasidic Movement. He was born in Ukraine, studied mathematics and science in Berlin and at the Sorbonne, fled the Nazis in 1941, and immigrated (see ALIYA) to the United States, where he settled in New York. He rebuilt the Hasidic Movement, which had nearly perished in the Holocaust into a worldwide movement with substantial influence. In the 1980s, Rabbi Schneerson directed his followers to become actively engaged in Israeli electoral politics—primarily through support for Agudat Israel—in order to block the formation of governments that might be inclined to relinquish territory in the West Bank and to promote the introduction of legislation designed to strengthen the authority of Jewish law (halacha). He was a major political force in Israel, both in the Knesset and among the electorate, although he never went there. In fact, except to pray at the Queens cemetery where his father-in-law and wife were buried, he had not ventured beyond his Crown Heights stronghold in 37 years. Rabbi Schneerson taught that Jews could hasten the arrival of the Messiah if they practiced the traditions laid out in the Hebrew Bible and interpreted by the rabbis in the Talmud and other classical texts. Some of the rebbe's followers believed that he was the Messiah, the savior promised by the prophets, but Rabbi Schneerson discouraged such talk. His critics charged that his disclaimers were too mild and that he should have put an end to such speculation long ago. His interventions on behalf of Agudat Israel helped influence the results of the 1984 and 1988 Knesset elections in Israel. He died on 12 June 1994 in New York as the result of heart failure.
   See also Political parties; Religion.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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