The Rabbi of 84th Street: The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser

Warren Kozak. It’s a brief read, but it’s not light. Besser, a Hasidic rabbi born in Poland who escaped before the Nazi onslaught to Palestine and later moved to New York, is a mover and shaker. Not only are his early life circumstances not light, but the book is written so sympathetically that I only gradually realized that I’m probably on the opposite side of most political questions from Besser–and that he holds his positions with the totally commited, unintentional arrogance of the very old and pious. In addition, the last few chapters descend into a sentimental, flabby account of miracle stories (told by Besser, not about him).