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December 08, 1989 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

fact that Rabbi Schneerson has opposed
the notion of giving up the territories oc-
cupied by Israel since 1967. Rabbi
Schneerson bases his position on securi-
ty, according to supporters, and he has
argued that once a part of ancient Israel
is under Jewish domination, it cannot be
relinquished.
Lubavitch walks a fine line when it
comes to Israel. It does not attach reli-
gious significance to the State, as do the
religious Zionists, nor is it anti-Zionist
like its rival Chasidic sect, the Satmar.
Lubavitch regards Israel as a place wor-
thy of support because there are Jews
there and because it is the holy land of
the Jewish people. Since 1948, when Kfar
Chabad was established in the new state
of Israel, messianism within the move-
ment has grown and there has been a
greater focus on Israel as a place of in-
gathering.

Family Feud

While Lubavitch has many outside crit-
ics, probably its greatest detractor comes
from within Rabbi Schneerson's own fam-
ily, his nephew, Barry Gourary, the only
other surviving male of the Lubavitch
family dynasty. However, Gourary, 67, a
physicist who lives in New Jersey, has no
chance of succeeding his uncle.
Gourary has not spoken to Rabbi
Schneerson in years, except indirectly in
Federal court. Gourary's mother is
Hannah Gourary, a daughter of the pre-
vious Lubavitcher Rebbe and a sister-in-law
of Rabbi Schneerson.
In a recent case, Lubavitch, acting on
behalf of the Rebbe, contested Gourary's
claim that he, as a grandson of the previ-
ous Rebbe, was a part owner of a library
of more than 40,000 books and manu-
scripts. The 67-year-old Gourary secretly
removed 400 of the volumes and began
selling them to rare book dealers in Eu-
rope before being enjoined by the courts.
After a three week trial, Judge Charles
P. Sifton said that the "conclusion is in-
escapable" that the books belong to the
Lubavitch movement and not to the fami-
ly members. He ordered Gourary to repay
Lubavitch for the books taken.
Gourary believes that his uncle has dis-
torted the teachings of the long line of
Lubavitch rabbis and has taken the or-
ganization on a dangerous course
"outside of the mainstream of Judaism."
In the lawsuit over the books, Gourary
brought in expert witnesses to shore up
his claims. Among them was Rabbi Ar-
thur Green, president of the Reconstruc-
tionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote,
Pa.
In an interview, Rabbi Green, a non-
Chasidic student of Chasidic thought,
said that he believed there was a connec-
tion between the Lubavitch fervor for the
Messiah and the group's advocacy in Is-

rael for the Who Is A Jew legislation. He
said that the reasoning of Lubavitch
went something like this: "The Jewish
people have to be pure and whole in order
for the redemption to come. Who Is A
Jew was a way for the Lubavitch to
hasten the time when the Rebbe will re-
veal himself as the Messiah."
Rabbi Green's theory on the connection
between messianism and Who Is A Jew
was dismissed by Professor Heilman.
"It's lyrical and poetic, but it's wrong,"
he said.
"Political decisions" like pursuing the
Who Is A Jew amendment, Professor
Heilman added, "are made for realistic
and practical reasons."
Lubavitch wanted Who Is A Jew pas-
sed, he said, because it wants to be able to
clearly define who is "Halachically Jew-
ish" and who is not, as it pursues its
agenda of sharing traditional Judaism
with other Jews. "Can you imagine what
would happen to their outreach if they
asked people 'Are you Jewish?' and you
couldn't believe their answer," Professor
Heilman said.

No Successor

Schach, an antagonist of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe, who has urged that Rabbi Stein-
saltz's Talmudic works be banned be-
cause of what he calls "heresy."
Professor Heilman said that "the
smart money" in Israel is betting not on
Rabbi Steinsaltz, but that there will be no
immediate successor to Rabbi Schneer-
son and that the group will follow the
pattern of the Bratzlav Chasidim The
Bratzlav are disciples of Rab Nachman of
Bratzlav, who died in the early 19th cen-
tury, leaving no heir. His followers, some-
times known as "the Dead Chasidim,"
chose no successor and believe that he
communicates with them from the grave.
They study Ms books, especially the mys-
tical volume Likutei Maharan.
"With Rav Nachman it was the Likutei
Maharan," said Professor Heilman, "but
with Rabbi Schneerson they'll have the
videos and the tapes. They'll replay them
again and again, analyzing and discus-
sing them."
In time, a successor may be groomed to
become the eighth Lubavitcher Rebbe.
But the job will not be an easy one. "If
there is a successor," Professor Heilman
said, "he will be dealing with something
larger than life." CI

"There is
something
fundamentally
wrong with the
notion that I
give to
Lubavitch so
that I can save
Jews because I
can't myself,"
says Dr. Steve
Bayme of The
American
Jewish
Committee.

The looming question for Lubavitch is
what will happen after Rabbi Schneer-
son's reign. Since Lubavitch officials ref-
use to comment on the future, many oth-
ers have jumped into the silence.
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, a Reform
leader and critic of Lubavitch's advocacy
of Who Is A Jew, is also an admirer of the
"good works" that Lubavitch does for
drug addicts, the homeless and for Rus-
sian Jews, both inside and outside of the
Soviet Union
"When the Rebbe dies — and we must
remember we are all mortal — I worry
there are going to be a lot of disillusioned
people," said Rabbi Schindler, the head of
the Union of American Hebrew Con-
gregations.
Some recent speculation about a suc-
cessor has centered on Rabbi Adin Stein-
saltz, the formidable Israeli scholar who
has spent the last two decades
translating the Talmud into modern
Hebrew and English. (The first volumes
of his English edition will soon be pub-
lished by Random House.) Rabbi Stein-
saltz, raised by socialist, non-religious
parents, is married to a Lubavitch wom-
an who is a relative of the Schneersons
and is himself a graduate of Lubavitch
yeshivas.
Rabbi Steinsaltz has dismissed the idea
that he would be chosen as the Rebbe.
Some, however, trace his recent troubles
with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel as a
consequence of his affiliation with Luba-
vitch and a possible future leadership role
with the organization. Rabbi Steinsaltz
Every Sunday morning the Rebbe hands out dollar
has been attacked by Rabbi Eliezer
bills to be used for tzedakah.

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