Suzanne Last Stone, professor of law and director of the program in Jewish Law and Interdisciplinary Studies at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, has edited this volume — a part of The Orthodox Forum series — based on papers presented at their 15th conference held in March 2003. It is an easily readable and interesting collection of eight essays exploring the topic of the tensions between rabbinic and lay communal authority from Jewish religio-legal, historical, political, and sociological perspectives. It is fascinating to look at the development over time and across religio-legal perspectives of the role of king, rav, rosh yeshiva, and kahal and to see how confrontation with modernity— and in particular, the American emphasis on autonomy and choice — impacts on the current dynamic, even in the most extremely conservative of Orthodox communities. Essays by Aharon Lichtenstein and Steven Bayme — looking at very different aspects of this broad topic — were of particular interest to this reviewer. And especially noteworthy was Nehemia Polen’s insightful essay “Charismatic Leader, Charismatic Book: Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s Tanya and His Leadership.” It is a “must-read” for anyone who wants to understand not only the origins of Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidism, but also wants to have a keen sense of how the movement has flourished in the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, and continues to do so even after the death of the last Lubavitch Rebbe. Index, list of conference participants, and references.
William Liss-Levinson is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.