Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Dies at 89

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Dies at 89

Father of the Jewish Renewal movement and legendary spiritual leader.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, father of the Jewish Renewal movement and a Holocaust survivor, died today at age 89 in Boulder, Colo. The news was announced by his wife, Eve Ilsen, on the online journal she used to chart his health complications.

Better known to his followers as “Reb Zalman,” Schachter-Shalomi is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on Jewish spirituality, chasidism and kabbalah. Born in Poland in 1924, his family fled to Vienna, Belgium, and various other countries before arriving in New York in 1943. In his early twenties, Schachter-Shalomi was ordained by Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Schachter-Shalomi began moving away from the Lubavitch movement in the late 1960s. Embracing a more liberal Judaism, he founded the Jewish Renewal movement in the early ‘70s. Started as a grassroots, anti-establishment movement, the Jewish Renewal movement today has congregations in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe and Brazil.

“The term Jewish Renewal is almost like a trademark for the work we are doing,” Schachter-Shalomi said in an interview with the Jewish Week in 2000. “It means a liberal way of Judaism with an eye to the future, at the same time connected very strongly with the inner sources of Jewish mysticism."

May his memory be a blessing.

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