Samuel Heilman

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Samuel C. Heilman
Born (1946-05-26) May 26, 1946 (age 70)
Karlsruhe, West Germany
Occupation Sociologist/Social Anthropologist, professor, writer

Samuel C. Heilman is a professor of Sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York who focuses on social ethnography of contemporary Jewish Orthodox movements.

Early life[edit]

Heilman was born in May, 1946, to Henry and Lucia Heilman, both Polish survivors of the Holocaust who were saved by Oskar Schindler. After World War II, the family moved to West Germany with the encouragement of the American occupation forces, who wanted a Jewish presence there.[1]

Heilman is married to Ellin Marcia Heilman, a psychologist in private practice.


Heilman holds the Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York.[2][3]

Heilman was chairman of the Jewish studies department at Queens College for seven years.[4] In 1996, Heilman criticized the appointment of Thomas Bird, a Yiddish expert who is Roman Catholic, as head of the Jewish Studies department at Queens College.[5] Several Jewish leaders reportedly contected the school also protesting the move.[4] Leon Wieseltier, literary editor for The New Republic, criticized Heilman for "behaving like a tribalist."[6] Bird resigned after two weeks, saying he felt he was subject to "primitive religious bigotry."[5] Queens College President Allen Sessoms also criticized Heilman, though he subsequently appointed Benny Kraut, an Orthodox Jew, as head of the program.[4]

In 2003, Heilman won the Marshall Sklare Memorial Award for his lifetime of scholarship from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry.


Heilman is the author of a number of articles and reviews as well a number of books, including Synagogue Life; The People of the Book; The Gate Behind the Wall; A Walker in Jerusalem; Cosmopolitans and Parochials: Modern Orthodox Jews in America (co-authored with Steven M. Cohen); Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry; Portrait of American Jews: The Last Half of the 20th Century; When a Jew Dies: The Ethnography of a Bereaved Son; Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy.

In 2010, Heilman authored a book about Menachem Mendel Schneerson with Menachem Friedman called The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson. It was a winner of the 2010 National Jewish Book Award.[7] Allan Nadler, writing in The Forward, called it "lively and provocative" and pointed to its "rich" chapters."[8] In Moment, former poet laureate Robert Pinsky praised the book, as did Jewish Ideas Daily, and Tablet magazine,[9] the Jewish Post and Opinion. The book was also reviewed in the feature story New York Times.[10]

Shmuley Boteach, who identified as a student and hassid of Schneerson, criticized the book's narrative based on his personal experiences, but concluded that the book had "merit" and provided a "humanizing portrait."[11] David Klinghoffer called the book "riveting" but said the book had some omissions.[12]

Heilman is also editor of the Death, Bereavement, and Mourning, and is a frequent contributor to a number of magazines and newspapers. For a time, he was a regular columnist for The Jewish Week, and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Jewry.[13]


  1. ^ Brown, Betsy (February 15, 1987). "Westchester Bookcase". The New York Times. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c William Honan, the New York Times (February 27, 1998). "Trying to End Furor, College Picks Jewish Studies Director". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b Belluck, Pam (1996-07-16). "Gentile Professor, Citing Bias, Quits As School's Head Of JewishStudies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  6. ^ Eric J. Greenberg, New York Jewish Week (August 16, 1996). "Debate rages over non-Jewish head of Jewish studies". 
  7. ^ "2010 National Jewish Book Award Announcement". Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  8. ^ Allen Nadler, The Forward (June 2, 2010). "The Life (and Death and Life) Of the Rebbe". 
  9. ^ "American Messiah - Tablet Magazine – Jewish News and Politics, Jewish Arts and Culture, Jewish Life and Religion". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  10. ^ Cohen, Patricia (2010-06-14). "'The Rebbe' by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  11. ^ Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post (May 18, 2010). "Leading to believe". 
  12. ^ Klinghoffer, David. "The rebbe: The life and afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson". Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Contemporary Jewry". July 18, 2010. 

External links[edit]