Incidentally, Rabbi Steinsaltz is my brother-in-law’s uncle. When the interview started, Rabbi Steinsaltz, whom I had never spoken with before, quipped, “Since you are family, you will be biased – either for me or against me.”
What’s your background?
It’s rather eclectic. Growing up, I attended Yekkish, Litvish, Lubavitch, and Modern Orthodox schools. How’s that for variety?
I currently live in Washington Heights and belong to KAJ, which of course is a historic German-Orthodox community. I also am enrolled in Yeshiva University’s Ph.D. program for Jewish History. Don’t ask me, though, what I plan to write my dissertation on because I don’t know yet. I hope it will have something to do with the realm of ideas, though, because social history is not my thing.
Your parents also possessed interesting backgrounds.
Yes, my mother was born to a Sephardi family in Bulgaria, graduated Hebrew University in Israel, and later moved to New York where she worked as a producer for PBS and NBC. While at NBC, she decided to take a trip around the world and wound up encountering Chabad in Brazil which inspired her to become frum. She’s still very active in various Jewish causes and is a popular lecturer.
My father, a”h, grew up in Chicago in an Orthodox Ashkenazi family and as a boy would receive individual volumes of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Chumash as birthday presents. My father actually wrote a work on the etymological comments in Rav Hirsch’s Chumash which he completed shortly before he died. In late 1977, after graduating Northwestern University and serving as a U.S. army doctor for a couple of years, my father came to Crown Heights to serve as the physician of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who had suffered a heart attack.
That’s where he met my mother. The rest, as they say, is history.
What are your future plans?
For now I plan on continuing doing what I’m doing. I already have at least two interviews for the next volume of Movers and Shakers under my belt – political commentator Charles Krauthammer and former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. We’ll see what other famous personalities cross my path in the future.
Editor’s note: Elliot Resnick’s book is available on BrennBooks.com and Amazon.com; in select bookstores; and through The Jewish Press.