The life of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn spanned a period of unprecedented upheaval and transition for the Jewish people. Born in the summer of 1880, he grew up in the small village of Lubavitch, the historic center of Chabad, 300 miles west of Moscow. Under the patronage of his father, it was there that he established the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva, equipping a new cadre of students with the knowledge, vision and conviction to perpetuate traditional Jewish life irrespective of the political and social unrest that would soon sweep across Russia and the world.

He assumed the leadership of Chabad in the chaotic aftermath of Russia's revolution and civil war, rallying and reorganizing his scattered and disorientated chassidim in the face of famine, disease and heightening religious persecution at the hands of the communist regime. Following his 1927 arrest he relocated to Warsaw and built a new educational and institutional infrastructure from scratch, only to see it destroyed at the hands of the Nazis in 1939. Arriving in New York, he immediately set out to build a new network of educational institutions and activists. Despite personal illness and frailty he made intensive efforts both to save Jews from the Nazi onslaught and to imbue a new generation of American Jews with the potent spirit of Chassidism.