Steven Weiss reports in the Forward:
Conference Weighs Rebbe's Legacy
By Steven I. Weiss
November 11, 2005
The late Lubavitcher Rebbe was the subject of a groundbreaking three-day conference at New York University this week, a generally laudatory program that could set the tone for how the charismatic leader and his movement will be presented in future academic settings.
"What we are really going to do [with this conference is] set off a mode of research," said the event's organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, a Judaic studies professor at New York University. The conference, he added, was "in certain ways a communal research project."
Several of the sessions featured basic introductions to the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement's basic rituals and slogans, including its trademark declaration: "We Want Moshiach [Messiah] Now." Many presenters also offered detailed explications of Schneerson's thought. These were based on a review of his extensive writings, which are relatively unfamiliar to Jews outside of Lubavitch circles.
And there's this article from the Baltimore Jewish Times:
Lubavitcher Rebbe Meets The Academy
Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Special to the Jewish Times
NOVEMBER 16, 2005
"Reaching for the Infinite: The Lubavitcher Rebbe - Life, Teachings and Impact" was more apt a title for the conference which took place this week at New York University than even its organizers may have realized.
Trying to convey the impact of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in two dozen or so 20-minute long academic presentations, which were delivered at the conference held Sunday through Tuesday at NYU's student center on Washington Square, was a little like reaching for the infinite with arms only inches long.
This was the first-ever academic conference devoted to the life and work of Rabbi Schneerson, who led the Chabad movement from 1951 until his death in 2004, and helped it grow into the largest Jewish outreach network in the world. Held under NYU's auspices, the meeting was funded by Chabad supporters George and Pamela Rohr, and Craig and Deborah Cogut, and attended by up to 150 people at a time, ranging from Lubavitch chasidim to Reform rabbinical students.
The conference's organizer, Lawrence Schiffman, said in an interview that he hoped "to create an intellectual discourse that didn't exist before" on the rebbe. Schiffman, a Dead Sea Scrolls expert and chairman of NYU's department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, explained that "the rebbe is a major phenomenon in modern Jewish life."
Apparently there was a fair bit of discussion of the messianic themes and claims surrounding the Rebbe.