THE RABBI OF 84th STREET: The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser

Warren Kozak, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-051101-2

Although Besser is the rabbi of an unobtrusive shtibel (small synagogue) on Manhattan's Upper West Side, it may be more accurate to define him as a hero who has admirers and devotees all over the world. In this down-to-earth and endearing biography, we first meet Besser, the son of a successful Hasidic businessman in Katowice, Poland, in his deeply religious yet modern European home that was a center of activity and a magnet for notables and guests. When he was 16, however, the boisterous life he had known soured as the Nazis came to power and he and his family fled to Palestine to escape the escalating anti-Semitism. Childhood influences, especially his father's close relationship with the Radomsker rebbe, a Hasidic spiritual leader, and his mother's affinity for theater stayed with him and inspired a lifelong love for Hasidism and Torah as well as for classical music and culture. (This has proved a source of solace to him and amazement to others; he can identify any classical piece on the radio in seconds.) But it is not just the rabbi's vast spiritual and secular knowledge that has won him the respect of presidents, business leaders and even assimilated Jewish children; it is a tangible loyalty and commitment to his fellow human beings. At 81, his energy has not waned; he still gives a daily Talmud class at 6:30 a.m. and embarks on international humanitarian trips. Kozak's inspiring and poignant biography of this legendary man is a wonderful concoction of fascinating details and enlightening stories. (July 6)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-06-051102-9
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-06-154132-2
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-06-154127-8
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-06-175065-6
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 224 pages - 978-0-06-154131-5
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