“After reaching Europe and courageously participating in its liberation, Rabbi Herschel Schacter assumed, with remarkable devotion and modesty, the sacred responsibility of assisting the survivors of the Holocaust in their gradual transition back to human existence. As one of the survivors who was blessed at that time with Rabbi Schacter’s support and encouragement, I can attest that he should—and will—always be remembered for his outstanding dedication to us. Thereafter, he remained loyal to his mission of lifelong leadership—as the inspiring rabbi of his community, an esteemed leader of Religious Zionism, and the distinguished chief of America’s Jewish leadership at that time, all of which are described in this book. Rabbi Herschel Schacter will be remembered, and his legacy will be cherished, for generations to come.”
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel; Chairman, Yad Vashem Council
“The life of Rabbi Herschel Schacter constitutes a roadmap through American Jewish history during the last seven decades of the 20th century: the Holocaust, Soviet Jewry, Israel, and Orthodoxy in America. There is much about his life that is both fascinating and revealing. Nothing can compare, however, to the day, when he, a 27 year old recently minted rabbi, walked into a barracks at Buchenwald and announced to the inmates, who looked more like cadavers than humans, Yidden, ihr zent frei! Jews, you are free! For that moment alone and all that he accomplished to help bring those survivors back to life, his story would be worthy of a biography. But that was just the beginning of his multitude of accomplishments. A riveting read.”
Deborah E. Lipstadt
Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies and author of Antisemitism Here and Now.
“Herschel Schacter, the American Jewish chaplain who heroically assisted the survivors of Buchenwald in 1945, became the long-time rabbi of the Mosholu Jewish Center in the Bronx, and one of the foremost Modern Orthodox rabbis of his day. This absorbing biography traces Schacter’s life and times: from Brownsville and World War II, through the Soviet Jewry movement, his leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, his approach to Modern Orthodoxy, his embrace of the Republican Party, and his years at Yeshiva University. An invaluable portrait that sheds new light on American Orthodoxy’s post-war resurgence.”
Jonathan D. Sarna
University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University and author of American Judaism: A History.
A FACE-TO-FACE ENCOUNTER with the Holocaust transformed the life of an American rabbi—and, in turn, transformed the American Jewish community in the decades to follow.
Herschel Schacter, a U.S. army chaplain in World War II, was part of the unit that liberated the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald.
After the war, Rabbi Schacter helped spearhead a revival of Orthodox Judaism in America, played a significant role in the Soviet Jewry protest movement, and led efforts to secure American support for Israel. He was the first Orthodox rabbi to reach the pinnacle of communal leadership as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Through the prism of Rabbi Schacter’s remarkable life, The Rabbi of Buchenwald sheds important new light on how American Jewry grappled with the political, social and racial crises of the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond.
When Herschel Schacter passed away in 2013, his obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times, an honor rarely accorded to an American rabbi and a reminder of Schacter's significance in American Jewish life.
Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, based in Washington, D.C., which focuses on America's response to Nazism and the Holocaust. He is the author of more than 20 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. He has taught Jewish history at Ohio State University, Purchase College of the State University of New York, and elsewhere, and is a Fellow of the Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar- Ilan University.
Dr. Medoff has served as associate editor of the scholarly journal American Jewish History, contributed to the Encyclopedia Judaica and many other reference volumes, and served as a consulting historian for numerous historical societies and other institutions. He is also a winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism.