Schneerson, Menachem Mendel, 1902–94, American rabbi, b. Nikolayev, Russia (now in Ukraine). The son of a prominent rabbi, he studied at the Univ. of Berlin and the Sorbonne, immigrating to the United States in 1941. In 1951 he became the rebbe (spiritual leader) of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitcher Hasidim, a branch of mystical Orthodox Judaism. Seventh in the line of Lubavitch rebbes, he succeeded his father-in-law and transformed the relatively obscure sect, which was nearly destroyed in the Holocaust, into an affluent and religiously and politically influential group. By the year of his death, the movement had some 200,000 followers, some of whom considered the charismatic rebbe to be the Messiah, and it subsequently split into factions—one believing that he would be resurrected as the Messiah, the other rejecting the idea.
See biography by S. Heilman and M. Friedman (2010).