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Dr. Natan Ophir Offenbacher’s Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission and Legacy is a lucid, engaging, and highly informative documentary history of arguably one of the most significant and influential Jews in the postwar era. I have always thought such a study would be impossible to write given the unorganized way material about his life has been collected, the way many people whose life he touched and changed were sometimes less-than-willing to share their stories with a scholar who may distort their “rebbe’s” image, and the extent to which much of his life remained the product of oral transmission. Ophir worked tirelessly not only collecting and organizing data on three continents but gained the trust of hundreds of people who told him their experiences with Reb Shlomo. The result is a documentary history that promises to be the definitive biographical study of Reb Shlomo’s life and career. Ophir captures the itinerant nature of his subject as well as the way he lived in, and through, tumultuous periods in European, American, and Israeli history from the 1930s until the 1990s. It seems that Reb Shlomo was a part of every significant event in Jewish history during those years and Ophir gives his reader the requisite social and historical context to understand the role Reb Shlomo played in those events. While the book is the product of a loving disciple, it is largely not plagued by hagiography and courageously confronts some of the more challenging aspects of his subject’s complicated life. This book will be a joy to read by fellow travelers as well as those who did not know Reb Shlomo during his life or follow his path after his passing.
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