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Hasidism: Satmar Hasidism


The school of Hasidic practice known as Satmar Hasidism arose in Satu-Mare (Satmar), Transylvania, in the decades immediately preceding the Holocaust and rose to prominence primarily in the postwar years. It is identified chiefly with the personality of Yoʾel Teitelbaum (18881982), who was rabbi in Satmar and, after his rescue from Hungary in 1944, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.

In a larger sense, Satmar may be said to represent the distinctive Hasidic style that developed in northern Hungary and Transylvania in the nineteenth century. Lying outside the original heartland of Hasidism, Hungarian Jewry was dominated by a learned and pious rabbinate that saw itself locked in a life-and-death struggle with the forces of assimilation and religious reform, forces that were far stronger in Western-looking Hungary than they were in Poland and the Ukraine. Here Hasidism served as a goad to the revitalization of Orthodoxy, resulting in a bitter and sometimes fanatical tone that was absent from Hasidism in other areas.

After the Holocaust, the Satmar rabbinical court in Brooklyn became a center for the many thousands of pious Hungarian Jews who had escaped the war only by the coincidence of living in the last country to come under the dominance of the "final solution" and its executors. In Brooklyn, the Jewish life of prewar Hungary was reestablished almost unchanged, and the Satmar rabbi was especially known for his generous aid in the resettling of this Jewry. He was also known for his unswerving and increasingly bitter opposition to Zionism, the state of Israel, and all forms of Judaism that differed from his own ultraorthodox way of life. His writings, while reflecting great rabbinic erudition, are polemical in character, including the often repeated charge that the Holocaust was divine punishment for the evil deeds of Zionist and assimilationist Jews. In this sense Satmar represents a "last stand" of certain traditional Jewish attitudes, but he is looked upon with hostility by most other Jewish groups, including other Hasidim, as being overly self-righteous and unrealistically antagonistic to the modern world.


Two sociological studies have examined the Satmar community in its American setting. These are George G. Kranzler's Williamsburg, a Jewish Community in Transition (New York, 1961) and the more specifically focused The Hasidic Community of Williamsburg (New York, 1969) by Solomon Poll.

New Sources

Goetschel, Roland. "La diabolisation du sionisme dans las écrits de R. Joël Teitelbaum, maître des hasidim de Satmar." Les Retours aux Ecritures (1993): 133156.

Arthur Green (1987)

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