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June 20, 2003 - Image 84

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-20

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

Cover Story

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP

,

from page 71

The duo maneuvered their way to
the pressroom at the Grammy
Awards, where Cojocaru managed to
ask a question of Barbra Streisand.
He liked Los Angeles so much that
he decided to make it his home.
After that, his life changed.
He began freelancing and wrote a
syndicated column that ran in more
than 100 newspapers. In 1994 he
joined the staff of People as the mag-
azine's West Coast style editor.
Over the years he has appeared on
the most coveted red carpets, includ-
ing the Golden Globes, Academy
Awards and the Cannes Film
Festival. He has developed runway
friendships with the likes of Joan
Rivers and been spoofed on Saturday
Night Live.
"I went into this business to be
noticed and now that I am, I'm con-
tent," he recently told the Los
Angeles Times.
"I get clothes at a discount. I get
my hair blown out whenever I want.
I made my dreams come true."
— Alice Burdick Schweiger

THE REBBE'S ARMY
INSIDE THE WORLD
OF CHABAD-LUBAVITCH

By Sue Fishkoff
(Schocken; 321 pp.; $26)

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6/20
2003

72

ere are lots of
numbers in
Sue Fishkoff's
new book, The
Rebbe's Army: Inside
the World of Chabad-
Lubavitch: 1,300
pieces of gefilte fish
imported for a
Passover seder in
Bangkok; five gallons
of coleslaw for Shabbat dinner on
campus in Binghamton, N.Y.; a $3.5
million new Chabad synagogue in
Boynton Beach, Fla.; a $20 million
Jewish Children's Museum in Crown
Heights, Brooklyn; 3,800 husband-
and-wife teams of emissaries in 45
states and 61 countries — all of
which point to the boldness of
Chabad, the magnitude of its vision
and the large platform the move-
ment has created.
There are lots of stories too, like
that of an emissary's wife who often
wakes up in the morning to find stu-
dents asleep in her living room.
Their home is part of the campus
Chabad house, and their door is
always open.
And there's the young woman who
moves from New Jersey to

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Anchorage, Alaska, who seeks a con-
nection with the local Jewish com-
munity. When she tries contacting
the local Reform rabbi, his secretary
calls her back and sends a brochure
with dues information. Then she
leaves a message for the Chabad
rabbi who returns the call himself
and invites her to dinner with his
family.
Fishkoff looks closely at the
Chabad world and its success in out-
reach, through the lives and work of
its emissaries, known as shlichim.
They are "the rebbe's army; the
rebbe is, of course, the late Rabbi
Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who
died in 1994 at the age of 92. The
shlichim — the "best and brightest"
Lubavitch young couples — are sent,
soon after their marriages, to out-
posts where they might be the only
observant family in town, with the
aim of bringing as many Jews as pos-
sible back to their Jewish roots.
They arrive in their new towns or
cities — where they will spend the
rest of their lives — with limited
funding for their first year and then
must raise their operating funds
themselves; sometimes they arrive
with only the names of a few local
Jews.
But they seem to hit the ground
running, opening nursery schools,
offering classes, hosting holiday cele-
brations and much more.
The Rebbe's Army is, as the author
notes in the prologue, a reporter's
book; it's rich in telling anecdotes
and thumbnail portraits — it's not
meant to be a scholarly study nor an
historical analysis.
Fishkoff's narrative is infused with
the sense of joy radiated by, her sub-
jects, which she is generously open
to.
While offering a sympathetic view,
Fishkoff also explores the conflicts
and controversies in the relationships
between Chabad and the larger
Jewish community.
A significant question that
Fishkoff explores is how they man-
age to raise so much of their institu-
tional funding among non-
Lubavitch Jews.
"Chabad is a challenge to the
American Jewish community,"
Fishkoff says. "American Jews want
to study Torah; they want to have
fun with Judaism rather than some-
thing that is somber and morose;
they want it to be meaningful." She
believes the other denominations can
learn from Chabad.
— Sandee Brawarsky

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