Satmar (Hasidic dynasty)

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Satmar (or Satmar Hasidism or Satmarer Hasidism) (חסידות סאטמאר) is a movement of Haredi Jews who initially adhered to the late Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), Satmar Rebbe in the town of Szatmárnémeti (now Satu Mare, Romania), at that time in the Kingdom of Hungary. Members of his congregation are mainly referred to as Satmarer Hasidim.

The largest part of the community lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City; followed by Kiryas Joel, New York; Boro Park, Brooklyn; and Monsey, New York, and in other Haredi centers in North America, Europe, Israel and Argentina. The late Satmar Rebbe was for a long time the presiding rabbi of Jerusalem's Edah HaChareidis (a Haredi community in Jerusalem), though he didn't live permanently in Jerusalem.

Satmar in a broad sense is one of the largest Hasidic movements in existence today, but formal demographic comparisons with other Hasidim are not available. It is believed, however, to number about 120,000 adherents. This does not include a number of smaller and related anti-Zionist Hungarian Hasidic groups who align themselves with Satmar. [1]

Contents

Name

The original Hungarian name of the town was Szatmár. The name appeared at first in a document written in 1213 in the form "Zotmar". Originally it was derived from a personal name. The Romanian name was first Sǎtmar, differing only in orthography from the Hungarian one but in 1925 was officially changed to Satu Mare. That version means "large village," with the Romanian Satu ("village") deriving from the Latin fossatum, while Mare means "large" in Romanian.

There is a folk etymology, repeated both among members of Satmar itself, as well in outside literature about the group, that Satu Mare actually meant "Saint Mary." Some Hasidim - even Satmar Hasidim - called the town "Sakmer" so as not to use its allegedly "pagan" name. This folk story is however slowly disappearing, and the vast majority of people now use the name "Satmar".

Outline of Satmar Rebbe's Hasidic lineage

Family and successors

There were also several Teitelbaum in-laws who had small followings.

Rabbi Yoel and his first wife, Chava (née Horowitz) Teitelbaum (d. 1936), had three daughters; Chaya Ruza (d. 1953), Esther (d. 1921), and Rachel (d. 1931), all of whom died from natural causes during his lifetime. At the time of his death he had no living descendants. His surviving son-in-law and nephew, Rabbi Lipa Meir/Teitelbaum, (d. 1966), was first known as the Semihayer Ruv. He later moved to Israel, remarried and became the Rebbe of Sassov. He had three sons and a daughter from that second marriage: the current rebbes of Sassov, one who has a community in Israel called Kiryat Yismach Moshe, and one in Monsey, as well as a son and daughter in Jerusalem.

In addition, the Muzhayer Rebbe of Brooklyn, NY, another nephew of Rabbi Yoel, was also a candidate to replace Rabbi Yoel as Satmar Rebbe. Ultimately, however, Rabbi Moshe became his recognized successor.

(see also: Bnei Yoel, a group of Satmar Hasidim who did not accept Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum as his uncle's successor and instead remained loyal to Rabbi Yoel's wife, the Rebbetzin Alta Feige Teitelbaum (1913 - 2001)), they were expelled and shunned by Rabbi Moshe. After the break of the 2000 Succession Feud they became the first and strongest supporters of Rabbi Zalman)

Satmar history

Roots

The dynasty traces its roots to Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1759-1841), Rabbi of Sátoraljaújhely in Hungary. Himself an adherent of the Polish Hasidic leader Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lublin (the Chozeh of Lublin), Rabbi Teitelbaum was instrumental in bringing Hasidic Judaism to Hungary. He authored the works Heishiv Moshe ("Moses Responded") and Yismach Moshe ("Moses Shall Rejoice"), and is commonly called by the title of the latter work. His descendants became leaders of the communities of Máramarossziget (now Sighetu Marmaţiei) (called "Siget" in Yiddish) and Szatmárnémeti (now Satu Mare) (called "Satmar" in Yiddish). He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Eleazar Nissan Teitelbaum of Drobitsch, who was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum of Sighet, author of Yetev Lev.

Rabbi Chananyah Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum, author of Kedushas Yom Tov, was rebbe in the town of Máramarossziget. He was the son of the author of Yetev Lev. He had two sons: Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum and Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum. The elder son, Chaim Tzvi, author of Atzei Chaim, succeeded his father as Rebbe of Máramarossziget. The younger, Joel, was rabbi in Ilosva (now Irshava, Ukraine) and later in Nagykároly (now Carei, Romania) (called "Kruly" in Yiddish), eventually moving to Szatmárnémeti where he became rabbi and formed the chasidic community of Satmar. He authored responsa and Jewish novellae under the title Divrei Yoel ("The Words of Joel") and polemics (mainly against both secular and religious Zionism) in VaYoel Moshe ("And Moses Swore") and Al HaGeula Ve'Al HaTemura ("About the Redemption and the Exchange"). Many of his sermons were printed under the title Chiddushei Torah: MaHaR"Y T"B.

The World War II period

Many Satmar Hasidim were murdered and dispersed during World War II and the Holocaust, though the group's destruction was less complete than many other Hasidic sects. Though widespread shootings and deportations had already killed 70,000 Jews under Ferenc Szálasi's Arrow Cross regime, which took over power from Miklós Horthy's and allied with Nazi Germany. The first deportations of Jews and death marches to the extermination camps in Poland did not begin until the spring of 1944, when 440,000 Jews were rounded up by the Hungarian Arrow Cross activists and German SS Troops.

In 1944, Rabbi Teitelbaum became one of a small group of people whose release from Hungary was ironically negotiated with Adolf Eichmann by the Zionist leader Rudolf Kastner, who had been authorized to negotiate the escape of a small number of prominent rabbis along with a larger group of young Zionists due to be released. Rabbi Teitelbaum became a passenger on the Kastner train bound for Switzerland, which was re-routed to Bergen-Belsen. The 21st of Kislev, when Rabbi Teitelbaum was saved from the Nazis, is celebrated as a joyful holiday among Satmar Hasidim. After the war, Rabbi Teitelbaum spent time in the Displaced Persons camp of Feldafing, the first camp exclusively for Jewish ex-prisoners, where he offered support and encouragement to the many orphaned young people who survived the Holocaust.

After World War II

After leaving the camps, Rabbi Teitelbaum emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine, where he founded a network of yeshivas in a number of cities. However he soon came into financial difficulties and subsequently left for New York City to raise money for his growing institutions. After living in New York for a year, his American followers convinced him to stay, largely due to political changes occurring in the Holy Land concerning the founding of the state of Israel. In 1953 after the death of Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis, Rabbi Teitelbaum became the fourth Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem's anti-Zionist Edah HaChareidis community; however, he remained in New York, giving input and guidance to his followers and colleagues in Jerusalem through personal communications and his advisers. Following the establishment of the state of Israel he did visit once in 1959.

In New York, Rabbi Teitelbaum established the foundations of a community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the early 1950s, under the name Congregation Yetev Lev, after his grandfather. Rabbi Teitelbaum's efforts to rebuild the movement also resulted in the acquisition of land in upstate New York during the 1970s, which was named Kiryas Joel. Other Satmar communities sprang up in London, Manchester, Buenos Aires, Antwerp, Bnei Brak, and Jerusalem, where they continue to have a very strong presence in the Edah HaChareidis.

Rabbi Teitelbaum was not survived by any children: his three daughters died in his lifetime, and he never had sons. He was succeeded by his nephew, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, author of Berach Moshe, the late Rebbe of Satmar, who had been the Chief Rabbi of Senta (Serbian: Сента or Senta, Hungarian: Zenta) before World War II. After the war, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum returned to his father's town of Sighet, where he set up Jewish religious institutions. After being warned of Communist opposition to religion in Romania, Rabbi Teitelbaum fled to America, founding the Sighet Synagogue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.
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Grand Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, the previous Satmar Rebbe
In 1966, Rabbi Moshe moved to a new synagogue in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, and was known as the Sigheter Rebbe of Boro Park until 1980. After his uncle's passing, many Satmar Hassidim asked him to be the new Satmar Rebbe. He told them to wait one year before coronating him, and he was appointed as the new Satmar Rebbe in 1980, on the first anniversary of his uncle's death.

Since his coronation, Rabbi Moshe was opposed by some dissidents in Satmar, (called "kegeners" or "misnagdim" - opponents), including the Bnei Yoel, a group of Satmar Hasidim that did not accept Rebbe Moshe and instead remained loyal to Rebbe Yoel's Wife, the Rebbetzin Alta Feige Teitelbaum. [1], [2].

Shortly after Moshe's sons began fighting over future leadership of Satmar, the vast majority of Bnei Yoel became the main backers of Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum's camp, seeing an opportunity to return to the community and to some extend the leadership. Rabbi Zalman welcomed them with open arms since most of R' Moshe loyalists were backing his rival brother Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. [3], [4].

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum served as the Grand Rabbi of Satmar for almost 27 years until he died on April 24, 2006. He was buried next to his late uncle in the Kiryas Joel cemetery, though a small group of Bnei Yoel members protested the burial of Rabbi Moshe in the same mausoleum as Rabbi Joel, and insist that a wall should be erected to separate the two Rabbis.

Satmar today

For a detailed account on the dispute about the succession the last Rebbe see Satmar (Hasidic dynasty)#Satmar succession feud

After the passing of Rabbi Moshe; three of his sons and one of his sons-in-law were declared the leaders by their congregations. Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum became the Satmar Rebbe in Kiryas Joel, Monroe, N.Y. and for his followers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn N.Y., Rabbi Lipa Teitelbaum became the Rav and owner of the small Zenta-Beirach Moshe Shul in Williamsburg. He still does administrative work in United Talmudical Academy the Williamsburg Satmar School System, his job is one of the most complicated jobs in the community. Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum also became Satmar Rebbe in Williamsburg and Head in the giant Satmar Boys High School in Queens, New York. (a.k.a Queens Yeshiva), and Rabbi Chaim Shia Halberstam became Satmar Rebbe in Monsey, N.Y..

Satmar and politics

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center: Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, right: Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum

The Satmar Hasidic movement has become known for its social isolation from all forms of secular culture and for its opposition to all forms of religious, secular, and political Zionism. Reb Yoel told pious Satmar Hasidim not to approach the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, feeling it would show support for the secular government that claimed to have liberated it. This is true of other so called "holy places" that Satmar hasidim do not visit, partly in protest of the secular Zionist government, which they view as an abomination. (Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum visited the Wall before the founding of the State and fainted from its holiness), but his adherents still do not visit it. Satmar Hasidim also refuse to take any benefits from the Israeli government, and often view negatively other Haredi groups that do so. Their institutions in the Holy Land are funded from private donations solicited abroad.

Some of Satmar's more conservative and isolationist tendencies have resulted in long-standing feuds and enmities with other Haredi groups and Hasidic sects, particularly Ger, Chabad-Lubavitch and Belz, in part because of the different groups' positions towards Zionism, the State of Israel, and what involvement and relationships with the Israeli government are appropriate. Some of these disputes can be originally traced to specific conflicts between small groups of individuals in New York and Israel in the 1970s and 1980s that later developed into larger ones between the respective communities.

Satmar opposition to Zionism

The Satmar's vehement position against Zionism was refined and officially formulated by Joel Teitelbaum, though it did not originate with him. Before World War II all Hasidic rabbis, as well as almost all other prominent Orthodox leaders (including Rabbi Joel's father, Rabbi Chananyah Yom Tov Lipa), believed that God had promised to return the Jewish people to the Land of Israel by means of the actions of the Jewish Messiah who would be sent by God, and that any activity on behalf of the Jews themselves to create or instigate this redemption would be punished. Instead of accepting benefits from the State of Israel, Rabbi Joel instead encouraged his followers to form self-sufficient communities in the Holy Land. He recorded a wide scope of his views on Zionism in his scholarly work Vayoel Moshe, published in 1958 and in a second book "Al Hageulah V'al Hatamurah" published in 1967 in the wake of the Six Day War. Shortly before his passing he set up the Keren Hatzalah fund to help those Jews who refrain from taking monetary support from the Israeli Government.

Although it was certainly not the only reason for his opinion, one of the core citations from classical Judaic sources cited by Teitelbaum for his opposition to modern Zionism was that of the Three Oaths. This important teaching is from the Talmud in tractate Ketubot 111a, which discusses a passage from the Song of Songs in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) in which God made the Israelites promise "to wait for Him before arousing his love":

"King Solomon in Song of Songs thrice adjured the 'daughters of Jerusalem' not to arouse or bestir the love until it is ready.' The Talmud explains that we are bound by three strong oaths not to ascend to the Holy Land as a group using force, not to rebel against the governments of countries in which we live, and not by our sins, to prolong the coming of moshiach; as is written in Tractate Kesubos 111a ." [5]</blockquote>

A variant interpretation of the three oaths has the third oath being that God would not allow the non-Jewish world to "excessively" persecute the Jews. Rabbi Teitelbaum expressly held that the oaths were not dependent upon one another. [6] In VaYoel Moshe Teitelbaum explicitly declared that, from the time of the very inception of the Zionist movement in the 1890s, the Zionists violated the three oaths, and thereby caused the Holocaust, as well as all wars, terrorism, and violence in modern Israel, and most anti-Semitism around the world since that time, as a result: "...it has been these Zionist groups that have attracted the Jewish people and have violated the Oath against establishing a Jewish entity before the arrival of the Messiah. It is because of the Zionists that six million Jews were killed."[7]

In keeping with the three oaths, Satmar Hasidim were strongly opposed to the creation of modern Israel through violence and antagonism against gentile nations such as Britain and the Ottoman Empire. In the years following the Holocaust, Rabbi Teitelbaum undertook to maintain and strengthen this position, as did many other Torah Jews and communities. Rabbi Teitelbaum declared that the State of Israel was a violation of Jewish teachings. This was both because of the Zionists' violation of the traditional belief that Jews must wait for the Messiah to re-create Israel, and also because its founders included many personalities who were both hostile to Orthodox Judaism, or simply indifferent to it. Rabbi Teitelbaum believed the creation of the State of Israel, against the oaths described in Ketubot, constituted a form of impatience. In keeping with the Talmud's warnings that impatience for God's love and redemption can lead to grave danger, the Satmar Hasidim have often interpreted the constant wars and terrorism in Israel as fulfilment of that prophecy.

Rabbi Teitelbaum saw his opposition to Zionism as a way of protecting Jewish lives and preventing bloodshed. Most Haredi rabbis may agree with this idea; however, the general view of Agudath Israel is that, despite this, for all practical purposes, efforts can be made to prevent Israel from becoming even more anti-religious through participating in the Israeli government, seen by the Agudah as a form of "damage-control". Rabbi Teitelbaum however, felt that any participation in the Israeli government, even voting in elections, was a grave sin, because it contributed to the spiritual and physical destruction of innocent people. He felt that by voting one had a hand in these sins. Thus, he was officially opposed to the views of Agudath Israel, and the Satmar movement continues to refuse membership in the Agudath Israel organization or party. The Satmar view is that only the Jewish Messiah can bring about a new Jewish government in the Holy Land, and even if a government declaring itself religious would be formed before the Messiah, it would be illegitimate due to its improper arrogation of power, and it would still pose a danger to Jewish life.

While the Satmar Hasidim are opposed to the existence of a state of Israel, many of them live in and visit Israel (as Rabbi Teitelbaum did, many times). They see opposition to Zionism as an expression of love of the Holy Land, protecting it from the defilement of bloodshed and war (and not only from secularism, as many assume).

Satmar and Neturei Karta

The Satmar Hasidim's opposition to Zionism has at times led to comparisons and confusion with the small and controversial Haredi activist group Neturei Karta. While there are ideological similarities between the two groups, they have significantly different historical backgrounds. Satmar's views, as formulated and espoused by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, were essentially continuations of earlier dynastic teachings about Judaism and the modern world, and are presently maintained by later generations of the Teitelbaum family; keeping the movement's ideology in line with the dynastic hierarchy. By contrast, Neturei Karta, formally created in 1935, was the result of several small and partially ad-hoc coalitions between various groups of marginalized anti-Zionist, mostly non-Hasidic, Haredi Jews living in what was then Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[2]

While Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum originally supported Neturei Karta's activities in the 1940s and 50s, as led by the late Rabbi Amram Blau, this alliance seems to have cooled or been annulled.Template:Fact Although certain Neturei Karta members or Satmar Hasidim may claim dual membership, Satmar and Neturei Karta are not affiliated with one another. In December 2006, Satmar Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, issued a statement strongly condemning seven Neturei Karta followers who went to Teheran, Iran to participate in the Holocaust discussion conference organized by the Iranian government. [3]

Satmar institutions

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The Late Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Satmar dancing at a wedding

Charitable institutions

The Satmar Hassidic movement is famous for its many charitable organizations, which were founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum and his wife, Rebbetzin Alte Feiga Teitelbaum. The Satmar Bikur Cholim ("visiting the sick"), founded in 1957 by Alte Feiga, the Satmar Rebbetzin, is highly respected for helping Jewish people, regardless of affiliation, when they are ill in a hospital, taking care of their needs, such as kosher food and other accommodations, both religious and general, as well as the needs of their families who visit them. Rav Tuv is a charitable organization to help Jewish refugees from over the world, originally founded by Teitelbaum in the 1950s to help Jews in the Soviet Union. Today, the organization mostly helps Jews from Iran and Yemen, however many Russian and South American Jews are also helped. Keren Hatzolah is a charitable fund to support yeshivas and the poor in the Holy Land, founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum shortly before his passing.

Educational institutions

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum founded a network of large educational institutions, both yeshivas and girl's schools, and if the Satmar schools in New York were a public school system, it would be the fourth-largest system in New York state, after those of New York City, Buffalo and Rochester.[4] In most places the girl's schools are called Beth Rachel and the yeshivas Torah VeYirah.

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The Logo of the CRC, founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar

Rabbinical organizations

In 1953, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum founded a major rabbinical association known as the התאחדות הרבנים דארה"ב וקאנאדא - Hisachdus HaRabanim D'ARHA"B V'Canada or the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada (CRC), working hand in hand with the עדה החרדית Edah HaChareidis, Jerusalem's (E. Israel) Orthodox Jewish Congress. Among their many works are various rabbinical services, including kashruth supervision considered to be one of the better kosher supervisions in the Jewish world.

The function of the Congress is to discuss new issues concerning the spirituality or kashrus of the Haredi Jewish community. Usually this is discussed with rabbis of different sects and neighborhoods. They discuss issues regarding Zionism, how to deal with issues regarding the State of Israel's actions and laws that are targeted against the Jewish religion. At these meetings rabbis of the Satmar sect are mostly present, they have a rabbinical court that deals with civil, monetary, marital issues.

Newspapers

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum also gave permission and later encouraged his followers to publish a Charedi Jewish weekly newspaper in Yiddish called Der YidTemplate:Fact. The goals in its publication were 1) to have a newspaper in accordance with proper Jewish values, that would publish only news not considered inappropriate for Orthodox Jews. 2) To give the Satmar Community the opportunity to read and understand their Rebbe's views. However, the slogan of the Newspaper states (translated from Yiddish), "Der Yid-The Organ of Independent Orthodox Jewish Identity".

The readership of the newspaper grew to 50,000 copies per weekTemplate:Fact.

In 1989 competition arose when a former employee of Der Yid began publishing his own newspaper titled The News Report. The publisher, Mr. Albert (Abraham) Friedman, has set out to publish a newspaper with similar values of the Satmar Rebbe, with an emphasis on giving greater in-depth analysis and more accuracy in news reporting.

Today there are several weekly and monthly publications that share the Satmar Rebbe's objectives. Der Blatt, established in 2000, is run by Grand Rabbi Aaron's followers. Both are privately owned. Recently, many Satmars took the stand that Der Yid and Der Blatt are not following in the values that the grand Satmar Rabbi had establishedTemplate:Fact.

Satmar philosophy and teachings

Hasidic literature of importance to Satmar

In addition to those books revered by all Hasidim, the main Hasidic books revered by the Satmar sect are Yismach Moshe, Yetev Lev, Rav Tuv, Kedushas Yom Tov, Divrei Yoel, Chiddushei Torah Maharit"b, Berach Moshe and then the main books Vayoel Moshe, Al HaGeula V'Al HaTemura. The latter two books were written as the main resource of information on how to deal with Zionism and the State of Israel. Rabbi Joel was careful not to be particular about which books his Hasidim should study because he did not want to exclude any Hasidic teachings, for he felt that all Hasidic books should be studied, often encouraging his students to study Beer Mayim Chaim, Kedushas Levi, Bnei Yisoschor, Noam Elimelech, Tanya, Likutei Moharan and other works, never specifying one over the other. Rabbi Joel taught that many of the foundations of Hasidism can be found in the medieval Jewish work Chovos Halevavos, by Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pakudah (11th century, Spain), which preceded Hasidism by many centuries. In addition to Hasidic teachings, the teachings of the Chasam Sofer are also greatly revered in Satmar.

The way of the Baal Shem Tov

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum taught, based on the teachings of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz, that even though the enthusiasm that the Baal Shem Tov brought to Jewish life is still felt in the Jewish Community but the teachings and the way of the Baal Shem Tov had been slowly become forgotton. When asked to explain this, he responded:

The Skverer said, "Nobody follows the right way except me." The Vizhnitzer says, "Nobody follows the right way except me." And the Gerer the same. And I say, nobody has the right way including me. I don't have the right way either.[5]

The following story took place during the Jewish festival of Sukkos:

One time, a rabbi, a descendant of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, may his memory protect us, joined our Rebbe's Tish at a meal during the intermediate days of the festival of Sukkos. Amidst their conversation, our Rebbe asked this Rabbi "Honored guest, I have heard that you are a descendant of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, perhaps you could tell me something about the way of the Baal Shem Tov?" (It is well known that when the holy book "VaYoel Moshe" was published, in which our Rebbe writes that the path of the Baal Shem Tov has been forgotten, many well known people, who claim themselves under the flag of the "Way of the Baal Shem Tov", yet they do not truly know nor understand what this is, raged against him, and cast arrows of anger over this statement), and this Rabbi answered our Rebbe that he does not know. Our Rebbe said that the way of the Baal Shem Tov is not dependent upon one's minhagim (customs), but is rather a way of serving the Blessed Creator. However, we do know one of the customs of the Baal Shem Tov, may his merit protect us, that he enacted the recitation of the Psalm "Give thanks" (Psalm 107) before the afternoon prayers on the eve of the Sabbath. [One time our Rebbe told one Rabbi that he desired to write a special work to explain the concept of the "Way of the Baal Shem Tov", unfortunately we were not worthy of this book's light.][6]

Satmar succession feud

Two of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum's sons were considered potential successors to lead the Satmar dynasty: the eldest son, Aaron Teitelbaum, and the third son, Zalman Leib Teitelbaum. The brothers and their followers have been jostling for power since 1999. Rabbi Moshe died April 24, 2006. Both sides have already been appointed as the new Grand Rebbe by their followers. There is talk of Rabbi Chaim Joshua Halberstam also being appointed by a small group of his own followers as Satmar-Bobov Rebbe of Monsey.[7][8][9] Rabbi Lipa Teitelbaum, the second son of the previous Rebbe, has been coronated as the Zenta Rebbe by the followers of Rabbi Zalman Leib.[10] However, neither of the two latter groups claim to be the full successor of Rabbi Moshe, but rather to be new Grand Rabbis in the merit of their relationship to Rabbi Moshe.

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Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe in Kiryas Joel
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Rabbi Lipa Teitelbaum, Zenta Rebbe
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Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe in Williamsburg
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Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua Halberstam, Satmar Rebbe of Monsey

Background to the present conflict

There are conflicting reports about how the disagreement first started. Rabbi Zalman's supporters say that Rabbi Aaron's leadership-style in Kiryas Joel, described as "totalitarian", made him a significant number of enemies. Although the role of the late Rabbi Moshe's personal assistant and gabbai, Rabbi Moses Friedman, is very clear in initiating the conflict. [8].

Rabbi Aaron's supporters, on the other hand, deny that Rabbi Aaron’s leadership style is at all different from his brother's or father's. They also claim that Rabbi Friedman has become increasingly powerful due to the rebbe's illnesses and saw Rabbi Aaron as a threat. Rabbi Aaron's followers believe that Rabbi Friedman supported Rabbi Zalman in order to embarrass Aaron and threaten his support in Williamsburg, and is largely motivated by his own self-interest.

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Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum on the Jewish festival of Hannukkah in front of the menorah

Both sides agree that Rabbi Friedman has been instrumental in elevating Rabbi Zalman as Rabbi Aaron's rival to inherit the dynasty. With Rabbi Friedman's help, Rabbi Zalman, who had previously been of relatively minor standing, began rising through the ranks, and was eventually appointed rabbi of the Satmar congregation in Williamsburg in 1999, seen by many as an indicator that he could potentially be chosen as his father's successor, not Rabbi Aaron.

It has to be said that this feud is by no means a geographical split; but rather a pure ideological disagreement. Throughout the developments of the feud there has been no proof or reason to believe that any side has more supporters in Williamsburg (the so called Zalman stronghold) or in Kiryas Joel (the so called Aaron stronghold). No supporter from either side supports his rabbi because of the location he/she lives. In fact, both sides have institutions and supporters in both locations; and it is unclear as to who has more support where.

The main argument points of the Aarons is that the Satmar congregation was unconventionally and maliciously split into 2 congregations for the sole purpose to systematically oust the then leaders of the Williamsburg congregation who supported Rabbi Aaron, by doing that, the Aarons ague, Zalman garnered a lot of outside support of people which their only agenda was to break the so called 'Satmar Monopoly' or the 'Aaron Dictatorship' , while the majority of the Congragation members and leaders were suddenly left out cold in Williamsburg. Furthermore, the Aarons argue, that all of the Zalman supporters in Williamsburg have no standing or right of claiming any leadership in Williamsburg since they are new-comers who joined the Zalman camp for the sake of 'split' . On the other hand the main argument point of the Zalmans is that the split, even though it’s uncomfortable, was still vital and worth while, because Aaron is such a bad and evil person that it had to be established an alternative to him, and letting him lead the entire congregation would be devastating and unacceptable.

There is also a big disagreement as to what the real wish of the late Rabbe R’ Moshe was. Though, both sides agree that up to the eruption of the split, at about the age 85, Moshe unequivocally wanted that the congregation should remain one and under the sole leadership of Aaron. The Zalmans argue that Moshe simply changed his mind and decided to split up the community. But the Aarons argue that it’s absurd and irrational to believe that Moshe would suddenly change so drastically his mind while throughout his life up to the age of 85 he didn’t show the least inclination that he wants to do anything close to splitting up the community.

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Rabbi Moshe Friedman (the tall gray bearded person behind R' Moshe Titelbaum, in the white coat) the head caretaker and advisor of the late Rabbi Moshe, who the Aarons claim, is the one who plotted and orchestrated the split in Satmar, to score points against his arch-nemesis Rabbi Aaron, by taking advantage of Moshe's waning mental health, the Zalmans vehemently deny it, claiming the Rabbe him self split up the community at the latter stages of his life with a full conscious state of mind.

In any event, it seems that the support for Zalman is not motivated by love towards Zalman but mainly by hatred towards Aaron, and their strong believe that there must be an alternative Rabbi to Aaron. Most of Zalman supporters do not necessarily revere Zalman or feel that he is the most qualified person to succeed the Grand Rebbe post, rather their long hatred and revenge or jealousy toward Aaron motivates them to support Zalman. The core supporters of Zalman are the same group who also fought the leadership of Rabbi Moshe, which is called 'Bnei Yoel'.

In contrast to Zalman supporters, Aaron supporters are true believers in his character, holiness and his qualifications, they all revere him and study his speeches and guidance. The core supporters of Aaron are the same who have always been loyal to his father Rabbi Moshe.

Ironically, Zalman supporters who have historically been against Rabbi Moshe are now lecturing the Aaron supporters for not obeying Rabbi Moshe’s wish and accusing them of rebelling against their own Rabbi/Father.

Death of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum

Following the previous rebbe's death in April 2006, both groups of followers announced that their favorite was (or would be) named Moshe's successor in his will. Initially Aaron's supporters claimed that they had a verbal will, dated from 1996, in which the rebbe is purported to have passed the leadership to Aaron. This was first announced by Rabbi Hertzke Zweibel, Rosh Kollel of Satmar Kollel on Keap Street in Williamsburg, who claimed that the rebbe had conferred the will upon him as a witness. Rabbi Zweibel read this will at a large public gathering of Rabbi Aaron's supporters in Williamsburg. Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Horowitz Rabbi of the Satmar Congregation in Manchester, England also claimed that the rabbi conferred a similar will to him on a separate occasion in 1997. However, a public reading of a later, printed will, signed by the rebbe and dated 2002, and signed by two witnesses stated that Rabbi Moshe had chosen Rabbi Zalman to succeed him. Rabbi Aaron's supporters responded by claiming that the Rebbe might have been suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's disease when he signed it. Furthermore, the 1996 version of the will states that all future versions of a will should be considered nullified, because Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (then eighty years old) was of the opinion that someone over eighty years of age is no longer fit to change his will, according to the rabbi's interpretation of Jewish law. [11]

The printed will was read at the coronation ceremony for Rabbi Zalman in the Rebbe's house in Williamsburg on the afternoon of April 25. [12] Zalman was given further support by a Satmar beit din, or rabbinical court, in Williamsburg, which agreed with his reading of the will, and named him the legitimate successor.[13][14] Zalman's critics mock the idea of this Beit Din having any legitimacy, claiming this Beit Din was created by the zalmen camp solely for this purpose, so the ruling is neither surprising nor seen as authoritative by all Satmar Hasidim. [15]

Aaron and his followers remained defiant following Zalman's coronation, declaring that "The Grand Rebbe's will does not determine succession. Only the Satmar Board of Directors can make that decision. That's how the Grand Rebbe himself was selected. And that's how his successor will be selected."[16] Both sides have announced that they will be filing further litigation in the New York State Supreme Court. [17]

Regardless of any decisions, it seems that the followers of both rabbis will each accept their leader as the new Grand Rebbe of their respective congregations. However, one of them may take a new title.

Rabbi Aaron spent the first Sabbath after his father's death in Williamsburg, setting up a tent in the playground of a local public school. Some analysts have hypothesized that this could indicate that Aaron has plans to move to Williamsburg on a permanent or semi-permanent basis to exert further pressure on his brother and gain more followers from among Zalman's power base.[18][19] Others characterized the move by both brothers as a "showdown" meant to demonstrate their relative strength, particularly Aaron, by coming out in force in his brother's territory with followers from both Kiryat Joel and Williamsburg. Template:Fact

Others, however, downplayed the event, saying that Aaron had already planned to be in Williamsburg before his father's death to celebrate the birth of his first great-grandchild. Both groups held separate Sabbath services three blocks apart, and the day passed without incident. [20]

Beth Din (Jewish Court)

Many attempts has been made to settle the case at a Beth Din; it is unclear as to why it has failed. Both sides have blamed each other. Since early 2002, about 6 months before the first court litigation had been filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, the faction of R' Aaron had subpoenaed the faction of R' Zalman to a Beth Din in Brooklyn, but they refused the subpoena. According to a written statement by Rabbi Samual Fried, the Zalman head representative at the Beth Din, he wrote "no outside Beth Din who has no knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the Satmar congregation (TAHALICHES HAKEHILA) is allowed to judge this case. Since the Grand Rabbi has the final word, no one can go against his word", hence, they suggested that some of the congregation's own Rabbis should decide the case. But the Aaron faction strongly disagreed; they believed that only a neutral, experienced, independent Beth Din is the most appropriate panel to sit on the case. In a written statement by Rabbi Zalman Grauz, the Aaron head representative at the Beth Din, he wrote "it is absurd, unfair, unjust and against the Jewish Law to force a civil dispute to be decided be personnel who - with all due respect - has zero experience in presiding over Jewish civil cases, are paid employees of the Zalman congregation, and more overly have a long time ago publicly shunned the Aaron faction in a written decree, naming the Aaron's a Union of Traitors (KESHER BOGDIM)". Both sides, standing firm with their position, forced the Beth Din's attempt into a stalemate. To this date the Aaron’s are occasionally putting full page ads in the newspaper begging the Zalman's to come to a neutral Beth Din, while the Zalman's are accusing the Aaron’s of committing the grave sin of going to a secular court (HOLECH BEARCAOS).

2006 court ruling

On July 12, 2006, an appeals court in Brooklyn on first amendment grounds refused to rule on the legal issues pertaining to the Teitelbaum brothers' dispute. One decision upheld a lower court decision which refused to issue a ruling in the congregation election controversy, and the other overturned an earlier judge's arbitration in favor of Aaron, ruling that the conflict was an internal religious matter and therefore outside the scope of the court.[21] The ruling indirectly left Zalman as the de-facto in charge of all the assets in Williamsburg. Though the ruling in no way stated that any side has more rights then the other over the assets, to the contrary, the court specifically declined to give any side clear ownership. But, since there were no practical way to remove the Zalman supporters from control, it was seen as a victory to the Zalman supporters. Many observers have claimed that this latest legal development could prove to be a major turning-point in the brothers' struggle over the community and its property, though it is highly doubtful whether Aaron and his supporters will withdraw their claims to the Williamsburg territories. It also remains unclear whether the new decisions will solidify the split between the two Satmar communities, or give Zalman's faction increased momentum to make a consolidation attempt of Satmar under his leadership.

Almost immediately after the court decision, 2006, Rabbi Aaron began plans to construct a synagogue in Williamsburg. Building began in mid-September. Aaron's followers were eager to finish the construction as quickly as possible, and hired several shifts of round-the-clock laborers, as well as Satmar volunteers who only rested for the Sabbath. The synagogue was completed within a short time, though it is unclear whether it took two or three weeks (Moshe Indig, one of Aaron's spokesmen, who called the fast construction a miracle, claimed it took only 14 days, plus two Sabbaths).

Zalman followers reportedly dismissed Aaron's shul as "The Home Depot shul", which led Aaron-supporters to suggest that there are plans to dramatically expand the synagogue over the next several years.[22] It is unclear what the impact that Aaron's new synagogue, built in the heart of what many consider to be Zalman's territory, will have. It is also unclear whether Aaron plans to spend more time in Brooklyn to support his followers there, or will remain primarily in Kiryas Joel.

In another significant move by Rabbi Aaron, which indicates his intention to build a parallel empire in Williamsburg. On September 2006, which is the beginning of a new school year, Rabbi Aaron followers opened a new school for boys and girls in Williamsburg. In a speech that Rabbi Aaron gave right before the opening of the school, he said that the cost of buying buildings and hiring all the staff for the new school is a whopping $50 million dollars. Roughly 3,000 students switched from the old school and enrolled to the new school, which is about 40% of the established school ran by Rabbi Zalman. It is believed that more students will follow suit, since many are still hesitating to switch to a new unproven school.

Also, reports are circulating within the Satmars that Rabbi Aaron's followers are vehemently pursuing to buy or build a new mansion resident in the heart of Williamsburg so that Rabbi Aaron can comfortably and honorably reside in Williamsburg for half a year, presumably during the winter monthsTemplate:Fact. If this holds true - which most observant have long predicted - then at some point Rabbi Aaron will for all practical purpose be just as the “Williamsburg” Rebbe as Rabbi Zalman, being that he lives there and has all religious institutions in Williamsburg.

To this date there has been no official peace agreement or any sort of public conciliatory announcement between the two sides, the 2 brothers are avoiding meeting each other, they do not attend to each other's simchas, nevertheless by October 2006, there had been a dramatic decrease in public tensions between the brothers and their communities, for the simple reason that both sides ran out of strategically and viable moves to gain advantage against each other. There were no reports of any fighting during the Sukkot holiday and the weddings of both rebbes' children (Zalman's in Williamsburg, and Aaron's in Kiryas Joel).[23] Rabbis formerly known to be attached with one side over the other attended both weddings, though it appears that most of Zalman's supporters stayed away from the Kiryas Joel wedding. This does not necessarily suggest by any mean that the seven year conflict may be calming down, or will lead to a genuine reconciliation in Satmar but rather simply a "cold peace" between both groups. It is widely believed that the moment any side sees an opportunity to gain power over each other they will seize it with out any hesitation and tension may re-ignite. As recent as in May 2007 the newspaper 'Der Yid' (a publication owned by Rav Zalman) wrote a lengthy and hatefull editorial peace smearing and ripping down Rav Aron personally and calling him the extreme derogatory word: 'rusha' (a word only used for great sinners).

To this date litigation is still raging on for the control of the Williamsburg assets. On March 2007 the New York State Appellate Division, the same panel of 4 judges who ruled in favor of Rabbi Zalman's side, has granted the Aaron faction leave to appeal their own decision to the New York State Court of Appeals, citing that 'Questions of law have arisen, which, in our opinion, ought to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals'. [24] [25]. Briefings are currently being filed by both sides. It is believed that if the Court of appeals renders a decision favoring Rabbi Aaron, the sides will sit down face to face to come to a peace agreement, which did not happen so far by any means.

Historical context of Hasidic schisms

Schisms in the Hasidic dynastic succession are not a recent development, although there has been a growing number of them in the past ten to fifteen years as many of the previous pre-war or immediately post-war generations, particularly leaders, have died. It is customary for Hasidim to have many children, of course, and the issue is also complicated by the tendency among Hasidic leaders who lost families in the Holocaust to remarry and start new ones. All of this has helped create an atmosphere where younger siblings (or sons-in-law) feel more confident about making moves for leadership, as there is a greater possibility that they will be accepted by their community (or sizeable segments of it), compared to earlier periods when the majority might have followed the oldest son simply out of tradition. This can also be linked to a growing tendency of some Hasidic groups, such as Vizhnitz, Biala, Rachmastrivka, and Spinka to divide their territories and followers between relatives, in part in order to lower friction, particularly when they are significantly separated by geography.

Notes

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See also

Template:HasidicDynasties Template:Hasidic dynasties

External links and sources

Conflicts between Teitelbaum brothers

Satmar and Zionism

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