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The Zaddik: The Battle for a Boy's Soul
     

The Zaddik: The Battle for a Boy's Soul

by Elaine Grudin Denholtz
 

A thirteen-year-old Brooklyn boy is kidnapped and hidden for years in Europe and Canada. Incredibly, the abductors are a Hasidic rabbi and his zealous followers backed by top-dollar lawyers. Against these forces the boy's immigrant Israeli mother stands alone, ignored by an indifferent district attorney who, rumor has it, needs the Hasidic vote for his upcoming

Overview

A thirteen-year-old Brooklyn boy is kidnapped and hidden for years in Europe and Canada. Incredibly, the abductors are a Hasidic rabbi and his zealous followers backed by top-dollar lawyers. Against these forces the boy's immigrant Israeli mother stands alone, ignored by an indifferent district attorney who, rumor has it, needs the Hasidic vote for his upcoming reelection. What are the motives of this sinister Hasidic underground? To her urgent queries the mother receives only a bizarre, cryptic response: The rabbi has detected in the boy "a special light" that has predestined the child to become a Zaddik, a man so righteous he will be privy to the will of God and be an inspirational leader to the Jewish people. But to fulfill this destiny the boy must be sequestered, removed from all outside influence including his mother's, to receive the special training that only this ultra-orthodox Hasidic community can provide.

If this book were not based on actual events, the plot of Elaine Grudin Denholtz's gripping suspense story might seem preposterous. But her tale is all the more shocking because it is true. With a gift for realistic dialogue and sharply drawn characters, Denholtz creates a dramatic portrait of religious fanatics who arrogantly defy the law.

Reported on Israeli television as well as in newspapers from the New York Times and Newsday to Israel's Maariv and Yediot Ahronot, the facts of this story have dramatic tension that keeps the reader both fascinated and horrified: false passports, hideouts in France, the boy's father wired by the New York police, a bloody knife fight outside a yeshiva, the brainwashed son testifying against his mother, two courageous lawyers who battle the system for four years pro bono, and a riveting jury trial.

The Zaddik is more than a tale of kidnapping and the battle for a boy's soul. It invites us to ask ourselves, Where does religious devotion end and evil begin?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1992, 13-year-old Shai Fhima was living with his Israeli mother, Hana, in Ramsey, N.J. Under pressure from more religious relatives, Hana, a Reform Jew, agreed to send her son to a Brooklyn yeshiva run by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, the leader of a Hasidic sect, to study for his bar mitzvah. Helbrans and his wife told Hana that her son had a special "light" and would become a zaddik, an inspirational leader, and urged her to let them raise him. When she refused, Shai disappeared and Hana did not see him for two years. For several years in total, the boy was hidden away by the rabbi and his followers in Israel, France and the U.S. Denholtz, a journalist (Balancing Work and Love), competently details the labyrinthine, headline-making legal maneuvers that ensued. Hana and her Israeli ex-husband were supported by two attorneys who worked pro bono for four years, as kidnapping charges were brought against Rabbi Helbrans. According to the author, who clearly sympathizes with Hana, there is no doubt that Shai was brainwashed during his time with Helbrans. He gave hostile courtroom testimony in support of Helbrans that broke his mother's heart, and accused her of physical abuse. The case was complicated by the fact that the Brooklyn D.A. did not want to alienate Hasidic voters. Although Denholtz strives for clarity and bases her account on research and interviews with principals (though Helbrans refused to meet with her), the complexity of the story is sometimes overwhelming. Rabbi Helbrans was convicted of kidnapping and served time in jail. Shai eventually reconciled with his parents. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573929202
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
09/28/2001
Pages:
377
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Grudin Denholtz is an award-winning journalist, playwright, screenwriter, and the author of Having It Both Ways: A Report on Married Women with Lovers and Balancing Work and Love: Jewish Women Facing the Family/Career Challenge, among other books. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and The New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame, she teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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