The product of an exhaustive, years-long, worldwide research project, Early Years tells the riveting story of the early life of the man who, as much as anyone else, set the course of Jewish history in the twentieth century.

Presenting newly-uncovered government documents, private journals, letters and diaries, Early Years is a highly-engaging account which offers an unimpeded view of the formative years of modern Judaism’s most recognized personality.

Hundreds of documents and photographs are beautifully reproduced in full color, illuminating and informing the text.



  • The Rebbe’s first meeting with his future father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch.
  • How the match between the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s middle daughter, came about.
  • The identity of the Rebbe’s childhood teacher who lived in his home and whom he described as “a great Torah scholar.”
  • The details of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin’s wedding in Warsaw, and of the simultaneous celebrations across the globe marking the event.
  • What the Rebbe was busy with in Berlin where he lived with the Rebbetzin, hundreds of miles from his father-in law and the seat of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.


Tablet Magazine

Liel Leibovitz

It’s hard to read this account—included in the new book are beautiful reproductions of letters by some of these former adversaries, praising Reb Levi Yitzchak—without thinking about how the father’s tactics influenced the son. Years later, the Rebbe would become known for sending emissaries all around the world and instructing them to erect Chabad houses, where all Jews would always be welcome for a chat and a meal.

The Jewish Chronicle

Liz Spikol

This is not mere biography. The book is replete with thousands of original documents that anchor the volume’s variegated text, which includes snippets from the Rebbe’s writings, letters from family members, biographies of people he knew, in-depth passages explaining the sourcing, and scholarly background primers to further illuminate the content.

The Jewish Week

Jonathan Mark

For the first time, chasidim and biographers can go back in time. Kehot Publication Society has just released the greatly anticipated (in Chabad circles) compilation “Early Years: The Formative Years of the Rebbe,” edited by Elkanah Shmotkin, director of JEM (Jewish Educational Media) and director of several documentaries about the rebbe, and Boruch Oberlander, the senior Chabad emissary to Hungary and a lecturer at the University of Budapest..

The Jerusalem Post

Danielle Ziri

W hile his teachings have been a subject of study for hundreds of thousands of followers around the world, the story of the early life of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, from birth to his wedding, remained somewhat of a mystery, until now.Over the last 15 years, a wide network of Chabad-Lubavitch researchers tracked down every available piece of paper telling that story, leading them to archives in Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Germany, Israel and Poland.


ידיעות אחרונות

לא מדובר בביוגרפיה טיפוסית, הספר נתמך בעובדות ועדויות שביחד שוזרות את הסיפור של הרבי בין תחנות חייו. "ביוגרפיות ברוב המקרים מציגות תמונה כללית בלי האותיות הקטנות ופרטים רבים", טוען הרבי שמוטקין. "אצלנו ההיפך הוא הנכון. הספר רווי בעובדות. כל אחד יכול ללמוד את הכתבים של הרב, אבל דרך העדויות האלו אתה רואה אותו חי את מה שהוא מלמד, אתה מרגיש קרוב אליו יותר. קריאת הספר והבנה של החיים שלו יוצרים קשר אישי".

Ami Magazine

Shaul Wolf

When I first saw the book, I assumed it was going to be a continuation of the oral histories. Now, oral histories are very nice and all, but they’re obviously very subjective. You’re seeing the Rebbe and Rebbetzin primarily through the eyes of Lubavitcher chasidim, and the perspective you get is as broad or narrow as the eyewitness himself. That’s why I was taken aback when I opened it and saw the wealth of original documents it contains.


Lord Jonathan Sacks

Former Chief Rabbi, United Kingdom

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century, a man whose spiritual influence transformed countless lives as well as Jewish communities throughout the world. Reading the life story of such a person is inspirational in the highest degree, and Boruch Oberlander and Elkanah Shmotkin have done a wonderful job in this unprecedentedly detailed documentary account of the Rebbe’s early years. A fine book about a man who brought faith, love and joy to so many for so long.

Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

Professor of Rabbinic Literature, Yeshiva University

I have now completed reading the entire volume. Early Years is a magnificent work of dedicated research and attractive design. It is both a source book and a coffee table volume. It is overwhelming to view the documents that have survived both the communist regime and the holocaust. It is a work that should be read not only by Lubavitcher devotees but by all who hold the Torah near and dear.

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter

University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, Yeshiva University

this array of primary source documents and pictures are presented in, literally, a breathtaking most aesthetically pleasing way. High quality colored pictures of buildings and original documents of all sorts adorn the volume and provide the reader with primary documents to examine directly.

I highly commend the authors for expending much effort on this volume which will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of one of the most important world Jewish leaders of the twentieth century.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union

The book’s careful and faithful documentation of every stage of the Rebbe’s earliest development enables us to follow his formative experiences on a day to day basis. We see where he lived and visited. We meet the men and women from whom he learned and with whom he interacted. We observe greatness unfold.

Joseph Telushkin

Author, "Rebbe" and "Jewish Literacy"

No one has studied the Rebbe's life more comprehensively and with attention to detail than Rabbis Baruch Oberlander and Elkanah Shmotkin. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was one of the greatest leaders in all of Jewish history, and Early Years provides an indispensable guide to the forces that shaped and formed him. The depth of research that informs this book is quite simply staggering. It is a work both of love and of meticulous scholarship.