Ger (Hasidic dynasty)
Ger, or Gur (or Gerrer when used as an adjective) is a hasidic dynasty originating from Ger, the Yiddish name of Góra Kalwaria, a small town in Poland. Prior to the holocaust Ger was the largest and most important hasidic group in Poland and possibly the largest hasidism in the world. It is now based in Jerusalem. The rabbis who lead them have the family name of Alter. The founder of this group was Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Alter (1798-1866), known as the Chidushei HoRim after his scholarly works by that title. The Gerrer rebbes have a very sizable following.
After the death of the Kotsker Rebbe in 5619 (1859) the vast majority of his chasidim chose Rabbi Yitschok Myer Alter, the Kotsker Rebbe's brother-in-law and his closest disciple, as their new rebbe (leader). At the time Rabbi Alter lived in Warsaw and led the main Kotsker shtibl there (on ul. Zelazna). Shortly after acceding to the leadership of the chasidim he was appointed as the Town Rabbi (ABD) of Ger. He moved to Ger, thus becoming the founding rebbe of the Gerrer dynasty. During his seven years of leadership, the chasidus flourished, causing it to be known as the 'seven years of plenty'.
When the Chidushei HoRim died, the chasidim wanted his eighteen-year old grandson, Rabbi Yehuda Arye Leyb Alter, to become their rebbe. He refused to accept this position, and most of the chasidim adopted the elderly chosid Rabbi Chanokh-Heynekh Szattan-Lewin, formerly rov of Prushnits, and now retired to Aleksander, as their leader. Following the death of the Rebbe Reb Heynekh in 1870, the young Rabbi Yehuda Arye Leib (the 'Sfas Emes') acceded to the request of the chasidim to become the next rebbe. Despite his youth, he was rapidly accepted amongst the rebbes of Poland as one of their leaders.
The movement continued to flourish under the leadership of the 'Sfas Emes' and then under his eldest son, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai. In 1926, in a bold departure for Polish chasidim, Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai established a yeshiva in Jerusalem, naming it for his father, the Sfas Emes. The first rosh yeshiva was Rabbi Nechemya Alter, a brother of the rebbe. The yeshiva is now, eighty years later, the flagship of the Gerrer yeshivas. A branch was set up in Tel Aviv, later to become the Chidushei Horim yeshiva.
Distribution of Gerrer Hasidim
Almost all Gerrer chasidim (about 200,000) in Europe perished during the Holocaust, but the Imrei Emes managed to escape and quickly set about rebuilding the movement in Palestine. Under its post-war leaders it began to flourish again. Nowadays, on major occasions, such as Shavuot, 12,000 chasidim may gather in the main Gerrer beis medrash.
There are large communities of Gerrer chasidim in Ashdod, Bnei Brak (a mid-size city in Israel), Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, New York, London and Antwerp. They have set up several satellite communities in parts of Israel: in Arad in the Negev desert, and Hazor in the Galilee, as well as growing communities in Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat. In Israel they dominate the Agudat Israel religious movement and political party. They have a well-developed educational network of talmud Torahs, yeshivas, and kolels as well as Beis Yaakov schools for girls.
This is a list of Gerer yeshivas.
- Mesivta Beis Yisroel (Borough Park)
- Yagdil Torah (Borough Park)
- Yeshiva Gevoha (Borough Park)
- Lev Simcha (London)
- Beis Yisroel (Ashdod)
- Pnei Menachem (Beit Shemesh)
- Meor Yisroel (Bnei Brak)
- Beir Re-em (Bnei Brak)
- Imrei Emes (Bnei Brak)
- Tiferes Moshe Betsalel (Bnei Brak)
- Sifsei Tsadik (Hatsor)
- Sfath Emeth (Jerusalem)
- Ner Yisroel (Jerusalem)
- Tiferes Moshe Betsalel (Jerusalem)
- Neizer Yisroel (Rishon LeZion)
- Yeshiva for gifted students (Rishon LeZion)
- Chidushei hoRim (Tel Aviv)
Identifying features of Ger
They are distinguished by their dark hasidic garb, and by their pants tucked into their socks called hoyzn-zokn (not to be confused with the breeches, called halber-hoyzn, worn by some other hasidic groups). They wear a round felt hat, and a high, almost-pointed kapel. On Shabbat and Jewish holidays the married men wear the high circular shtraml (fur hat) of the Polish chasidim, sometimes called a spodik (not to be confused with the much flatter shtreimel a fur hat worn by most hasidic groups).
Ger follows the way of the Kotzker in stressing serving God in a sharp and objective way rather than being mystical and spiritually oriented as in other hasidic sects, and in putting a lot of emphasis on studying the Talmud. One custom they have is to have a break – usually one hour long – during both the Friday evening and Shabbos morning services. This time is devoted to Torah study.
During the Beis Yisroel's leadership the Ichud Mosdos Gur (Union of Gerrer Institutions) was established as the responsible body for funding all the educational institutions within the orbit of Ger in Israel. The Ichud is currently responsible for funding about 100 such institutions.
Ger and Lubavitch
Gerrer and Lubavitcher chasidim have traditionally been closely allied both in Israel and the United States with the leadership of both groups demonstrating respect and affinity for the beliefs of the otherTemplate:Verify source. Also, both groups put less emphasis on anti-zionism than most Chasidic dynasties (cf. the Satmarer).
Emphasis on purity and holiness
The Beis Yisroel zt"l (5th Gerrer Rebbe) put a great emphasis on purity and holiness, and will always be remembered as the rebbe who rebuilt Ger after the terrible destruction of World War II. He left a great impression on people, from all walks of life, who came in contact with him and was highly respected in all chareidi circles. His idea was to elevate every person to somehow become one level higher than his present state. There are countless stories from individuals (chasidim and non-chasidim) who met the Rebbe, which relate how he had a tremendous spiritual impact on them and how this strong impression will never leave them. What makes this even more impressive is that many of these encounters with the Rebbe were for a very short period of time.
Gerrer dynastic leadership
- Note: The alternate name for each rebbe (given in italics) is the name by which the rebbe is known. It is traditionally given by the following rebbe on his accession. It is used to refer to the rebbe himself and also provide the title for his collected writings when they are published posthumously. Whilst alive, the common name of the rebbe is not used, and the rebbe is simply referred to as 'the rebbe shlita'.
- Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798 - March 10 1866), also known as the Chidushei HaRim. Notable student of the Kotzker Rebbe and a prominent contemporary decisor of Jewish Law. Assumed leadership of the chasidim in 1859.
- Grand Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander. Rebbe from 1866 to 1870. Often referred to as the Rebbe, Reb Heynekh.
- Grand Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847 - 1905), also known as the Sfas Emes. Born in Warsaw, Poland. Died in Góra Kalwaria. Wrote talmudic works and Maharal style Torah commentaries which are known within and outside Chasidic streams. Gerrer Rebbe from 1870 to 1905.
- Grand Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (December 25 1866 - June 3 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes. Gerrer rebbe from 1905 to 1948.
- Grand Rabbi Yisrael Alter (October 12 1895 - February 20 1977), also known as the Beis Yisroel, son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1948 to 1977.
- Grand Rabbi Simchah Bunim Alter (April 6 1898 - August 6 1992), also known as the Lev Simcha son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1977 to 1992.
- Grand Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter (June 9 1926 - March 7 1996), also known as the Pnei Menachem, son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1992 to 1996.
- Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter (born 1939), son of Rabbi Simcha Bunim. Gerrer Rebbe 1996 - present