Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman

views updated


SCHACHTER-SHALOMI, ZALMAN (1924– ), U.S. rabbi and leader of the Jewish Renewal. Schachter-Shalomi was born in Zholkiew, Poland, and educated in Vienna, Austria, at the gymnasium Brit Bilu Agudah and Yeshiva Yesod Ha-Torah. In 1938 he and his family fled to Antwerp, Belgium, to avoid Nazi capture, where he had his first contact with Chabad Hasidim. In April 1940 his family was interned in a labor camp in Vichy, France. In September 1940 they were freed, and he moved to Marseilles, France. In 1947 he received rabbinical ordination from Central Yeshiva Tomchei T'mimim (Chabad) in Brooklyn, New York. In 1962 he and counterculture guru Timothy Leary experimented with LSD at the Vendanta Center in Massachusetts. In 1968 he earned a DHL from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Beginning as a Chabad emissary in 1969, he founded B'nei Or (later the alliance for Jewish Renewal) and was promoted to full professor at the University of Manitoba in Saskatchewan, Canada, where he taught from 1969 to 1975, serving both as professor and Hillel director. He taught at Temple University from 1975 to 1987 and then at the Naropa Institute (later Naropa University) from 1995 to 2004.

Reb Zalman, as he became known, was a disciple of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe and served as one of the first emissaries of the seventh rebbe (Menachem Mendel *Schneersohn) in the late 1940s. Together with his colleague Rabbi Shlomo *Carlebach, Schachter-Shalomi revolutionized American Jewry by translating ḥasidic spirituality into a counter-cultural language.

Dissatisfied with the insular nature of post-war ḥasidic Judaism yet committed to the ḥasidic vision he gleaned from its texts, he left the formal community of Lubavitch yet transformed ḥasidic outreach into a non-Orthodox post-halakhic Jewish pietism that was at once universal, highly ritualistic, and unabashedly heterodox (some would say heretical). Kabbalistic and ḥasidic Judaism served as the groundwork for his new Judaism that advocated absorbing other spiritual disciplines into itself to enhance a contemplative Judaism for a "new age." He formulated what he called a paradigm shift, drawing from the medieval kabbalistic works of Sefer Temunah and Sefer Ha-Peliah (and their Shabbatean and ḥasidic interpreters) that presented a model of changing cosmic eons, reflected in historical epochs each of which required a "new Torah."

[Shaul Magid (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman

Updated About content Print Article