THE REBBE'S ARMY: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch
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 exposé; 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. (Apr. 15)
Forecast:This book is expected to garner significant attention in the Jewish-American press, so Schocken plans to promote it with national print advertising in the Jewish Week, the Forward and Moment. The book will also be promoted at the Monterey, Calif.–based author's own lecture appearances.