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Jewish tradition is rich in stories, many of which center around the lives and work of the great chasidic rabbis, known as rebbes. As a child, Sterna Citron, who descends from distinguished rabbinic families, was surrounded by these stories. Each night at bedtime, her father, the late Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach, a member of one of the most outstanding rabbinic families of Germany, would tell her stories. Fifty-two of these stories, many of which appear here for the first time in English, are now collected in Why the Baal Shem Tov Laughed: Fifty-two Stories about Our Great Chasidic Rabbis.
Sterna Citron comes from distinguished families on both her paternal and maternal sides. Her late father, Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach, was a scholar, writer, and publisher. The Carlebach family was one of the most outstanding rabbinic families of Germany. Her maternal grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Schneerson, was descended from the founder of Chabad Chasidism, the Baal HaTanya, and from Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. He was the cousin of the present Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Citron is a teacher at Bais Yaakov High School for Girls in Los Angeles, California, as well as the editor of The Jewish Reader, a magazine for children.