Belzer Yeshiva, 1779 51st St., Brooklyn, NY 11204
The Shapira are a Polish Hasidic family that established several Hasidic dynasties in the nineteenth century. One was established at Belz, a small town in Ukraine. By the beginning of the twentieth century the majority of the town’s 6,000 residents were Jews.
The first Belzer rebbe was Shalom Rokeach of Belz (1779–1855), better known as the Sar Shalom. His lengthy career as head of the new dynasty began in 1817, and he started with good credentials, being a disciple of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lublin (1745–1815) the famous Seer of Lublin, revered for both his humility and great intuitive powers. The Sar Shalom was succeeded by Yehoshua Rokeach of Belz (1825–1894), his youngest son, who had an equally long period in office (1855–1894); Yissachar Dov Rokeach (1854–1926); and Aharon Rokeach (1877–1957). Just ahead of the Nazis, Rabbi Aharon escaped from Belz to Hungary and then to Palestine.
Operating from headquarters in Tel Aviv after World War II, Rabbi Aharon began to rebuild his following, most of which had been destroyed in the Holocaust. When he died in 1957 his nephew and successor, Yissachar Dov, was only nine years old, so the movement operated without a leader for the next nine years until he was old enough to assume his duties. Among his major tasks has been the completion of a new synagogue, the Beis HaMedrash HaGadol (or Great Synagogue), the largest synagogue in Jerusalem and the movement’s international headquarters.
As Belzer Hasidism has rebuilt, it has found a small following in New York, now centered on the yeshiva in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
Israel, Yosef. Rescuing the Rebbe of Belz. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 2005.
Shneider, Chaim. “The Belz’e Sect.” HasidicNews.com. November 6, 2001. Available from hasidicnews.com/Belz.shtml.
c/o Biala Institutions of America, 5809 13th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11219
The Rabinowicz family has one of the most outstanding Hasidic lineages and is the source of several dynasties. The founder of the Biala dynasty was Yaakov Yitzchok Rabinowicz (1766–1813). As a wandering preacher, he was guided to Rabbi Jacob Isaac Horowitz, the father of Polish Hasidism, known for his psychic abilities and often referred to as the “sad-eyed Seer of Lublin.” The Seer told him that he was a reincarnation of Patriarch Jacob Mordecai and Rabbi Jacob ben Meir Tam, a twelfth-century scholar. He quickly became known as a Talmudic scholar and a seeker of justice, then gradually separated from the Seer and established himself at Peshischa.
The emphasis of Yaakov Yitzchok was introspection, aimed at making an individual a good Jew. He thought it essential that one neither lies to himself nor lives in superficiality. The highest pinnacle of the love of God could be acquired only by painstaking personal striving. He insisted on kavanah, concentration and devotion in prayer. Peshishcha services were not always at the proper times; it was better to pray late than to pray without kavanah. Action and service, charity and loving kindness were seen as the measures of sincerity.
The lineage of Yaakov Yitzchok was passed down through Yerachmiel Rabinowicz of Peshischa (d. 1831) and Nathan David Rabinowicz of Shidlovtza (d. 1865) to Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Rabinowicz (1847–1905), who was known for his devotion to the Sabbath, a topic that fills most of his writings. The lineage then passed to Grand Rabbi Yechiel Yehoshua Rabinowicz, Biala Rebbe of Jerusalem (1900–1981). He survived the Nazis by fleeing to Siberia; then in 1947 he settled in Israel. He was known as a miracle worker, and he established a yeshiva (a school for Talmudic study) at B’nai Brak. From Rabbi Yechiel Yehoshua, the lineage passed to Grand Rabbi Dovid Matisyahu (Reb “Duv’tche”) Rabinowicz (1928–1997) and then to Grand Rabbi Betzalel Simchah Menachem Ben-Zion Rabinowicz, the Biala rebbe of Jerusalem.
The Biala Hasidic tradition was brought to the United States in the early 1920s in the wave of Russian Jewish migration by Rebbe Joshua Hershal Rabinowicz (1860–1938). In 2008 it was headed by Grand Rabbi Aharon Shlomo Chaim Eleazar Rabinowicz, the son of Rabbi David Matisyahu, and the Biala rebbe of America. He resides in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York.
Biala Institutions. www.geocities.com/bialarebbe/.
c/o Hessi Halberstam, 4909 15th St., Brooklyn, NY 11219
The Halberstam family has contributed to the formation of several Hasidic groups. The Bobov dynasty originated with Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (1847–1905), who opened the first yeshiva in Poland in 1881 in the town of Vishnitsa. He later moved the school to Bobov. The dynasty was then founded by his son, Rabbi Benzion Halberstam (1847–1941). He was a noted composer, and his niggun (melody) “Yah-Ribbon”(“God of the World”) is still chanted on Sabbath evenings. The Bobov are known for their musical creativity. Under Rabbi Benzion’s leadership, Hasidic education spread throughout Galicia in the Carpathian mountain region of southern Poland.
Rabbi Benzion, his family, and most of his following were killed in the Holocaust, but Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam (1905–2000) and his eldest son Naftali (1931–2005) escaped and found their way to the United States. There, Halberstam began to gather a new group of followers, many of whom had no Polish background; it grew steadily as Jewish families came to respect his mild-mannered pastoral approach. He founded a yeshiva that by 1985 had about 3,000 elementary students (many of whose families had no attachment to the Bobov organization); it became the largest religious school in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn. He also assisted displaced Jews in Europe and built followings in London and Antwerp, as well as in Canada and Israel. As Rabbi Shlomo aged, Naftali, his son and designated successor began to assume some of the leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately, Naftali died only five years after his father.
Not reported. Bobov Hasidism has centers in Brooklyn and Monsey, New York, and Miami, Florida. There are an estimated 50,000 Bobov Hasidim residing in Brooklyn. In Canada, centers are found in Montreal and Toronto. There are several centers in Israel, and in Europe in London and Antwerp, Belgium.
Following the death of Rabbi Naftali Halberstam in 2005, the Bobov were divided over his successor. One group accepted Rabbi Mordechai Dovid Unger, Rabbi Naftali’s son-in-law, and an almost equally large faction favored Rabbi Naftali’s younger son, Rabbi Ben Zion Aryeh Leibish Halberstam. In 2008 the conflict remained unresolved, and the issue stood before a Beth Din (Jewish court).
“A Brief Introduction to Hasidism.” PBS Online. Available from www.pbs.org/alifeapart/intro.html.
Mintz, Jerome R. Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
c/o New England Chasidic Center, 1710 Beacon St., Brookline, MA 02146
The Horowitz family has been a prominent Jewish family for many centuries, producing numerous rabbis. It was frequently divided between those supporting and those opposing Hasidism. Among the first Hasidic rebbes in the United States was Grand Rabbi Pinchas D. Horowitz (1876–1940), who settled in Boston in 1919. He came from a branch of the Horowitz family that had settled in Jerusalem several generations earlier. Rabbi Pinchas moved his court to Brooklyn in 1939.
Rabbi Pinchas died shortly after his move to Brooklyn. He was succeeded by his elder son, Rabbi Moshe Horowitz. Four years later, Rabbi Pinchas’s younger son, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz (b. 1921), left Brooklyn and established a second Bostoner court on Beacon Street, in suburban Boston at Brookline. Since then there have been two Bostoner rebbes, each heading his own court. Over the rest of the twentieth century, their practice diverged, though not enough to break their relationship.
Rabbi Moshe Horowitz resided for many years in a home adjacent to that of the Satmar rebbe, who heads one of the larger Hasidic communities in Brooklyn. The Bostoner Hassidim have been very much influenced by the more dominant Satmar group. Among the differences that have developed is that the Brooklyn Bostoners no longer light their pre-Sabbath candles 48 minutes before sundown as the group in Brookline does. The Brookline center has become known for social outreach in its community and has attracted a number of younger Jews interested in exploring their heritage through Hasidism.
In 2006 Rabbi Avrohom Horowitz, the current rebbe for the Brooklyn group, moved to Israel. Two years later, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz also relocated to Israel. In recent years he had been spending more and more time there, and had advised his American following to move to Israel if possible.
Not reported. There are two centers in the United States and one in Israel. The movement serves several thousand members families worldwide and some 200 Jewish families residing in Brookline.
Casper, Michael. “Leader of American Hasidic Dynasty Leaves the States.” Jewish Daily Forward. April 17, 2008. Available from www.forward.com/articles/13176/.
Farber, Seth. “Between Brooklyn and Brookline: American Hasidism and the Evolution of the Bostoner Hasidic Tradition.” American Jewish Archives Journal 52 (1999): 34–53.
Gil, Micah. “In the Court of the Bostoner Rebbe.” Killing the Buddha web site. Available from www.killingthebuddha.com/critical_devotion/bostoner_rebbe.htm.
Shabbos, Zmiros, and Yom Tov. From the Rebbe’s Table. Brookline, MA: New England Chasidic Center, 1983.
c/o The Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth, 5014 16th Ave., Ste. 263, Brooklyn, NY 11204
Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1810) was a Ukrainian great-grandson of Baal Shem Tov. He became known, even as a child, for his asceticism. After he made a trip to the Holy Land, a group formed around him. He died at an early age, 38, and as he passed away he was heard to say, “My light will glow till the days of the Messiah.” His followers interpreted his statement to mean that they would never need another rebbe. Unique in Hasidism as a group without a living rebbe, the Bratslav are referred to by other Hasidic groups as the “dead Hasidim.” Rebbe Noson (1780–1844), who studied with Rebbe Nachman, recorded much of his work, and it is his record of Nachman’s teachings that have survived for present study and reflection.
The outstanding follower of Rebbe Nachman in the twentieth century was Rebbe Avraham Sternhartz (1862–1955), who as a youth had studied Nachman’s writings. He moved to Palestine in 1936, and over the next decade came to be revered as the outstanding Breslover elder of his generation. He trained a number of future Bratslav leaders, including Rebbe Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld (1922–1978), Rebbe Shmuel Shapiro (1913–1989), and Rebbe Yaakov Meir Schechter (b. 1932).
The group’s emphasis is on utter simplicity and warmth of feeling. Infusing prayer with devotion is of major importance. Teachings are found in the 13 stories of Rebbe Nachman, which emphasize that the trials of life are to be seen as preludes to new soarings of the spirit.
In the 1980s, a Bratslav group was headed by Rabbis Leo Rosenfeld and Gedaliah Freer, who gathered followers of the tradition primarily from young Orthodox Jews attracted to the Hasidic traditions. That work is continued by the Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth, founded in 1997 by HaRav Elazar Mordechai Kenig, the leader of the Breslov community of Tzefat, Israel. The center works closely with the Breslov Research Institute, the research and publishing arm of the movement (with facilities in Jerusalem, Monsey, New York, and the United Kingdom). It has assembled a team of scholars, and the Institute publishes their translations, commentaries, and general works on Bratslav Hasidism.
Freer, Gedaliah. Rabbi Nachman’s Fire. New York: Hermon Press, 1972.
Green, Arthur. Tormented Master. New York: Schocken Books, 1979.
Magid, Shaul. God’s Voice from the Void: Old and New Studies in Bratslav Hasidism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.
Sternharz, Nathan. Eternally Yours (Alim LiTerufah): The Collected Letters of Reb Noson of Breslov. Trans. Yaakov Gabel, ed. Moshe Schorr. Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute. 1993.
The Tales of Rabbi Nachman. [Adapted by] Martin Buber. Trans. Maurice Friedman. London: Souvenir Press, 1974.
1520 49th St., Brooklyn, NY 11232
The Twersky family has given the world of Hasidism several dynasties. The oldest began with Menahem Nahum ben Zevi (1730–1787) of Chernobyl in the Ukraine, a contemporary of the Baal Shem Tov. Never a tzaddik (“righteous one”) himself, he helped the initial spread of Hasidism in the Ukraine and laid stress on purification of moral attributes to make one worthy of the Torah. His son, Mordecai Twersky (1770–1837), was the first tzaddik and the real founder of the Chernobyl dynasty. Mordecai had eight sons. Aaron Twersky, the eldest, continued the dynasty, and the rest founded their own dynasties that dominated Ukrainian Hasidic Jewry in the nineteenth century. Most of these dynasties were destroyed by the Holocaust.
Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Twersky (1902–1983) was the last of the Chernobyl dynasty to reside in Chernobyl. He moved to the United States in 1938 and settled in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. His son Rabbi Shlomo Twersky succeeded him.
In 2008 there were three Hasidic groups headed by members of the Twersky family in the United States.
“Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl.” Nehora web site. Available from www.judaicaplus.com/Tzadikim/tz_viewer.cfm?id=107&page=menachemnachu m.htm&t=Rabbi%20Menachem%20Nachum%20of%20Chernobyl.
Robinson, Ira. “Anshe Sfard: The Creation of the First Hasidic Congregations in North America.” Conference on the Jewish Immigrant Experience in North America, Centre for American Studies, University of Western Ontario, 2005. Available from www.americanjewisharchives.org/journal/PDF/2005pp53-66%20Hasidic%20NA.pdf.
N Main St., New Square, NY 10977
Isaac Twersky (1812–1895), the seventh son of Mordecai Twersky, the head of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty, settled at Skver, southwest of Kiev, Ukraine, and began a new dynasty in the 1830s. His successor, Rebbe Dovidl Twersky (1848–1919), moved to Kiev in 1914 and stayed there until his death in 1919. He passed his lineage through two of his sons.
First, Rebbe Yakov Yosef (1900–1968) moved to Belz, Ukraine, for a while before settling in Romania, where he remained through World War II. After the war he moved to the United States and established a synagogue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His repugnance of American urban materialism led him to establish a rural community in Rockland County, New York, which was named New Square. He moved there in 1956.
Reb Yakov Yosef was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Duvid Twerski, and under his guidance New Square prospered and a similar community was created in 1963 at Spring Glen, in upstate New York. Affiliated centers are found in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel.
Second, Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky (1888–1941), the grandson of Rebbe Dovidl’s eldest son, Rabbi Mordechai (1866–1919), migrated to the United States in 1923. He settled in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York, and opened a shul. He died, however, before his son Dovid (1922–2001) was ready to succeed him. In the late 1940s Dovid was taken under the tutelage of his uncle, Rabbi Yakov-Yosef, who had just arrived from Romania. When Dovid matured, he assumed leadership of his father’s shul, which he led until his death in 2001. At that time, his son, Yechiel Michl Twersky, became the Skver rebbe of Borough Park.
Reb Yechiel Michl’s community in Borough Park thrives and manages several key Hasidic instuitutions. including the Tomer Devorah Girls School and Bais Yitzchok, a school for boys.
Not reported. In 1988 the New Square congregation reported 20,000 members in 15 centers in the United States and 2,000 members in one center in Canada. There were another 3,000 members in centers in England, Belgium, and Israel.
Rabbinical Seminary of New Square, New Square, New York.
Yeshiva of New Square, New Square, New York.
Gould, Joan. “A Village of ‘Slaves to the Torah.’” Jewish Digest (October 1967): 49–52.
Surkis, Leibel. Reb Itzikl Skverer. New Square, NY: Privately published, 1997.
Yeshiva Yagdil Torah, 5110 18th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11204-1534
The Ger Hasidic dynasty dates to the middle of the nineteenth century and to the town of Ger, Poland. The founder of the dynasty was Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg Alter (1799–1866), better known as the Chiddushei HaRim. He came to his task in 1859 when the leader of another dynasty died and many of his followers chose Rabbi Meir as their new leader. After accepting the invitation to become the new rebbe of the Kotzker Hasidim, he settled in Ger and over the seven remaining years of his life created a new dynasty.
Rabbi Meir had been the student of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787–1859), who stood in stark contrast to the Baal Shem Tov. Rebbe Mendel became known for his strong belief that the enlightenment that was the goal of study and devotion could be attained by only the few most dedicated of individuals. Thus he sought out a small group of the elite with whom to work. The Ger, which would grow into one of the largest Hasidic groups, would become the children of Rebbe Mendel’s demands for intensity, but infused by Rabbi Meir’s warmth and desire to approach all Jews with the possibilities of accomplishment. Like his teacher, Rabbi Meir was also an accomplished scholar of the Talmud.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was succeeded by Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin (d. 1870), who died just four years later. He was then succeeded by Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib (1847–1905), who despite his youth (he was in his twenties) quickly demonstrated his leadership abilities, and the Ger prospered under him. That prosperity continued under Rabbi Leib’s son and successor Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (1886–1948). Under his leadership, in 1926 the Ger established a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
By the end of the 1930s the Ger numbered almost 200,000, but by the end of World War II most of them were dead, victims of the Holocaust. Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai was able to escape to Palestine in 1940 with three of his sons, and he began the task of rebuilding the Ger after the war. He died in 1948 and the rebuilding was left to his three sons—Rabbi Yisrael Alter (1895–1977), Rabbi Simchah Bunim Alter (1898–1992), and Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter (1926–1996)—the next three leaders of the revived community. In 2008 the rebbe was the son of Rabbi Sincha Bunin, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter (b. 1939).
The Ger were among the first of the Hasidim in the United States. As early as 1903, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib encouraged Reb Shmulkeh Reichek and his family to settle in New York, where he opened the first Hasidic shteibl (synagogue) in the United States, Beth Hasidim de Palen, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The shteibl became a gathering place for Polish Hasidim of various dynasties. Despite this early start for the Ger, however, the group almost died out due to assimilation, and was revived only by the arrival of Holocaust survivors after World War II.
In rebuilding the Ger, Rabbi Yisrael placed an emphasis on holiness and purity of life, two characteristics that have remained the keynotes of Ger existence. The Ger men are distinguished by their distinctive dark clothing and their habit of putting their trouser legs into their socks. Politically, the Ger were anti-Zionist in the early decades of the twentieth century, but emerged as pro-Zionists in the 1940s.
In 2008 the main community of the Ger was in Israel, where it has become the largest Hasidic group in the country. It also has centers (including two yeshivas) in the Borough Park section Brooklyn, New York, and a European presence in London and Antwerp.
Alter, Judah Aryeh Leib. The Language of Truth: The Torah Commentary of Sefat Emet. Trans. Arthur Green. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1998.
“Ger.” Educational program on Yiddish Culture, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research web site. Available from epyc.yivo.org/content/8_2.php.
Reichek, Mort. “Earliest Hasidim in the U.S.” PBS web site forum: A Life Apart— Hasidim in America. Available from www.pbs.org/netforum/static/alifeapart/11.html.
Stolin Bet Midrash, 1818 54th St., Brooklyn, NY 11211
The Karlin-Stolin Hasidic dynasty began with Rebbe Aharon the Great, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch (c. 1710–1772), who in turn was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Rebbe Aharon originally established his work in Karlin, in what is now Belarus. His followers became known for a distinctive custom of screaming while praying. Karlin-Stolin Hasidim settled in Palestine in the mid-nineteenth century, and the primary rebbe relocated in the twentieth century.
Possibly the first Hasidic rebbe to reach the United States was Rebbe Yaakov Chaim Perlow of Stolin (d. 1946). During his life there were four centers for prayer (shtieblach) in Brooklyn, New York, and one in Detroit. He frequently visited the Detroit center and was eventually buried in the city. By 1940 there were approximately 100 families under Rebbe Yaakov’s leadership; holding the young adults was a major problem. In the meantime, the Stolin Hasidim in the Soviet Union suffered under the German onslaught, and four of Rebbe Israel’s other sons were killed by the Nazis. Only one, Rebbe Yochanan Perlow (1900–1956), survived the war and made his way to Israel. Following Rebbe Yaakov’s death, a delegation went to Israel and persuaded Rebbe Yochanan to assume leadership of the U.S. group. Among his first efforts was the mobilizing of the community to create a yeshiva for the young men. Though not known for his public teachings, he was extolled for the miracles attributed to him.
After Rebbe Yochanan’s death in 1956, the Stolin community was headed by two men designated by him because there was no male heir ready to assume the task. In 1967 the properties were signed over to the thirteen-year-old grandson of Rebbe Yochanan, and over the next decade, he gradually assumed his duties. In 2008 Rebbe Baruch Yaakov Meir Shochet (b. 1955) continues to lead the Stolin Hasidim in New York, though he has taken up residence in Israel, where he has gained notice for his efforts for Russian Jews and remains in contact with the small Stolin community that still exists in the Ukraine.
There are approximately 300 families associated with the Stolin Hasidim in the United States.
Rabinowitsch, Wolf Zeev, ed. “Hasidim in Pinsk and Karlin.” In Pinsk Historical Volume, History of the Jews of Pinsk, 1506–1941, vol. 1: Belarus. Trans. Ellen Stepak. Available from www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Pinsk1/Pine12_005.html#Page9.
Mintz, Jerome R. Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
c/o Talmud Torah Chatzar Hakodesh, 1353 50th St., Brooklyn, NY 11219
The relatively new Klausenburg (also known as Sanz-Klausenburg) Hasidic dynasty was founded by Grand Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam (1905–1994), the first Klausenburger rebbe. He was a descendant of Grand Rabbi Chaim Halberstam (1793–1876) of Sanz (Nowy Sa?]cz), Poland. In 1927 Halberstam became the rabbi in the Romanian city of Klausenburg (also known as Cluj-Napoca, Romania), and soon developed a following. Both his community and his family were ravaged by the Holocaust, but he survived, and in 1947 he moved to the United States. After a decade of work, in 1956 he moved to Israel and founded the Kiryat Sanz community on the outskirts of Netanya. The community became well known for its hospital, the Laniado Hospital, where medical care strictly follows halakha (Jewish law).
Rabbi Yekutiel Jehudah died in 1994, but before he died he instructed his two sons (both of whom were born after his move to the United States) to each assume leadership of one section of the work and to develop them as two independent endeavors. Abiding by his guidance, his older son, Grand Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, became head of the work in Israel, and his younger son, Grand Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, became the Sanz-Klausenburger rebbe in Borough Park.
Not reported. There are several centers in Brooklyn, one in Union City, New Jersey, and one in Montreal, Canada.
Sanz-Klausenburg web sites. (Unofficial, in Hebrew.) www.klausenburg.org/;sanzusa.com/.
770 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn, NY 11213
By far the largest of the Hasidic bodies is the Lubavitch (also Lubavitcher). The arrival the Lubavitch rebbe Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson (1902–1994) in New York in 1940 signaled the rebirth of Hasidism in the New World. Compared with most Hasidic groups, the Lubavitch are more open and evangelistic toward their non-Hasidic Jewish neighbors, and the group has established itself as a national body. Lubavitch Hasidism began in 1773 in Lithuania under the leadership of Rabbi Schneur Zalman (1745–1813), a child prodigy and student of Rabbi Dov Baer, an outstanding Hasidic scholar. Upon Dov Baer’s death in 1772, Rabbi Zalman was sent to Lithuania as a Hasidic missionary. He spent the rest of his life in Lithuania and Russia, teaching and writing. His works include the Likutic Amanan, better known as the Tanya, the essential text of the Chabad, as his teachings became known.
A second Rabbi Dov Baer (1773–1827), the mittler (middle) rebbe, the son of Rabbi Zalman, succeeded as leader of the Chabad. After his father’s death, he settled in White Russia’s Lubavitch, the town that gave the dynasty its name. Rabbi Dov Baer was succeeded in turn by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1789–1866), son of Rabbi Zalman’s daughter; Rabbi Samuel Schneerson (1834–1882), Rabbi Mendel’s son; Rabbi Sholom Dov Baer (1860–1920), Rabbi Samuel’s son, and Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson (1880–1950), the son and secretary of Rabbi Dov Baer, who brought the movement to the United States.
The Lubavitch work began in the mid-1920s when Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson formed the Agudas Chassidas Chabad of the United States of America and Canada. He visited the United States in 1929, during which time he met with President Herbert Hoover. He had settled in Warsaw after World War I. When his life was threatened by the Nazis, the rebbe was finally persuaded to migrate to the United States.
Schneerson’s son Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994) had been living in Paris when World War II began. He escaped and in 1941 moved to the Lubavitcher headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. Assuming the leadership in 1950, he began growing the relatively small movement and turning it into an influential force in the world of Jewish Orthodoxy. Over the next decades he aggressively recruited liberal and nonpracticing young Jews into the movement and founded more than 900 centers internationally. He built educational centers and developed programs of humanitarian aid and social services that reached beyond the Jewish community.
In the early 1990s Schneerson pointed to the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe as the herald of an era of peace and tranquility for humankind. As he spoke of Moshiach (the messiah), his followers began to speculate about his relationship to the messiah and the messianic age, and some concluded that he himself was the messiah, especially in the years immediately before his death.
Schneerson’s death in 1994 brought a fundamental split in the movement between those who believe Schneerson was/is the messiah and those who do not. One consequence of this conflict was that the group did not name a leader to succeed Schneerson. In 2008 the messianists appeared to be losing favor.
Chabad is an acronym for “chochmah (wisdom), binah (understanding), and daath (knowledge), the highest virtues in the Kabbalistic system. The three concepts reflect key aspects of God’s manifestation in the world as described by Judaism’s mystical teachings known as the Kabbalah. Faith and belief in God require intellectual study and understanding of religious truth. The emphasis on truth has made education basic to the Lubavitch program. The love of one’s fellow Jew (Ahavas Yisroel), a second emphasis of Lubavitch, suggests an openness to the entire Jewish community, in contrast to the view of most other Hasidim, who generally hold a low opinion of their lax, nonpracticing brethren.
Music and dancing are important to Lubavitcher life. Dancing is the bodily manifestation of inward joy. It is always done by males separately from females, as mixed dancing is prohibited by Jewish law. There are two varieties: circle dancing, in which the hand is placed on the shoulder of the brother in front, and rikkud, jumping and skipping up and down. Dancing is a vital part of festivals such as Purim and the Hasidic historic anniversaries.
Lubavitcher headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York, where the Tomchoi T’mimim, the Lubavitcher yeshiva, is located. A year after Rabbi Schneerson arrived in the United States in 1941, he was placed in charge of the Merkos L’Inyone Chinuch, the educational arm of the Lubavitch movement; more than 67 educational institutions have since been founded. Rabbi Schneerson also guided the development of Merkos Publication Society, the major publisher of Hasidic literature in the United States, and the Ezrat Pleitim Vesidurom, a relief organization in 56 cities across the United States.
In 2007 there were approximately 200,000 adherents in some 3,300 Chabad centers located in 70 countries. Observers suggest that there is an additional constituency of up to a million persons.
Talks and Tales • The Uforatzto Journal.
Chabad Lubavitch Global Network. lubavitch.com/; www.chabad.org/.
Challenge. London: Lubavitch Foundation of Great Britain, 1970.
Dalfin, Chaim. The Seven Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes. Jason Aronson, 1998.
Fishkoff, Sue. The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch. New York: Schocken Books, 2003.
Mintz, Jerome R. Hasidic People: A Place in the New World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. Anticipating the Redemption: Maamarim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Concerning the Era of Redemption. Brooklyn, NY: Sichos in English, 1997.
———. I Await His Coming Every Day: Based on Talks of the Lubavitch Rebbe. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1998.
———. Letters by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1979.
1569 47th St., Brooklyn, NY 11220
The Novominsk dynasty was founded by Jacob Perlow (1847–1902), who as a young rabbi was advised to “go to Poland, raise a family, and establish a dynasty.” He settled at Minsk-Mazowiech, not far from Warsaw. His fame and following grew, and he built a yeshiva and a large synagogue. Upon his death, his son, Alter Yisrael Shimon Perlow (1874–1933), succeeded him. Known for his intensity of prayer and passion while preaching, the young rabbi moved to Warsaw in 1917 and drew crowds to his Sunday discourses.
In 1925 Rabbi Yehuda Arye Perlow (d. 1960), brother of the rebbe of Novominsk, arrived in New York and established the Novominsk dynasty. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Nahum Mordecai Perlow (1896–1976), who had originally accompanied his father from Poland.
c/o Congregation Y L D’Satmar, 152 Rodney, Brooklyn, NY 11220
The Satmar Hasidic tradition is one of the newest, having been founded by Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum (1887–1979) in the first decade of the twentieth century. Following the death of his father in 1904, Yoel, the second son, moved from Sighet, his birthplace, and founded his own group at Satmar in northeast Hungary. Zionism was a growing force in European Jewry in these formative years of Satmar, and from the yeshiva he had established at Orshovah, Yoel actively opposed Zionism. After the unexpected death of Rebbe Yoel’s brother in 1926, the leadership of the dynasty passed to Yoel rather than the new rebbe of Sighet. Yoel’s prestige grew steadily until 1944, when the Holocaust hit Hungary. The rebbe was saved, ironically, by his Zionist enemies, and he escaped to Switzerland.
In 1946 Rebbe Yoel settled in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, with the Satmar’s few survivors of the Holocaust. The congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, established in 1948, had 860 members by 1961. Many of these were converts. The anti-Zionist stand remains the distinctive feature of Satmar Hasidism. The Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City), an ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist group in Jerusalem, has placed itself under Satmar’s care. Members believe that because only the Messiah can reestablish Israel, the attempt to set up a Jewish state is blasphemy. In 1965 Amram Blau, the leader of the Neturei Karta, was relieved of his position for marrying a divorced convert from Catholicism.
Headquarters of the Satmar movement are in Brooklyn, where there are a number of groups. They have purchased land at Monroe, New York, for the establishment of a Satmar community. Satmar groups are also found in Jerusalem and B’nai Brak, Israel; Antwerp, Belgium; London, England; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Montevideo, Uruguay; São Paulo, Brazil; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Rabbi Yoel had a stroke in 1968 and was somewhat hampered in the performance of his duties during the last decade of his life. He died in 1979. His nephew, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1914–2006), then the rabbi of a small Sighet Hasidic congregation in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn and head of Sighet Hasidism, was designated his successor and installed in office in 1980.
Not reported. The Satmar community has an estimated 200,000 adherents worldwide. Of these approximately 70,000 reside in Williamsburg, 20,000 in Borough Park, about 20,000 in Kiryas Joel, and several thousand in Monsey, New York. The largest concentration of Satmar believers in Canada reside in Montreal. Tens of thousands live in Israel, and there are smaller but important communities in London, England, and Antwerp, Belgium.
Since the recent death of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the Satmar community has been in some disarray. Four persons—three of Rabbi Moshe’s sons and one of his sons-in-law—have each claimed all or part of his lineage and established their own independent groups with separate followers and institutions. Immediately after Rabbi Moshe’s death, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum was declared his successor and the new Grand Rabbi of the Satmar dynasty. Rabbi Aaron’s primary center is in Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic community in Monroe, New York.
Yet, as early as 1999, Rabbi Moshe had indicated his intention of placing his third son, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, in charge of the group’s facilities in Williamsburg, where the group’s wealth was centered. Rabbi Aaron remained in control in Kiryas Joel and in the Borough section of Brooklyn. Rabbi Zalman’s followers declared that he was the new grand rabbi of the Satmar dynasty. Rabbi Zalman and Rabbi Aaron remain in charge of the two largest factions of the Satmar community.
In the meantime, Rabbi Lipa Teitelbaum assumed leadership of the small ZentaBeirach Moshe Shul in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. He also does administrative work in the United Talmudical Academy of the Williamsburg Satmar School System. Finally, Chaim Shia Halberstam emerged as the Satmar rebbe in Monsey, New York.
As this encyclopedia goes to press in 2008, no resolution of the schismatic state of the community appears on the horizon.
Gersh, Harry M., and Sam Miller. “Satmar in Brooklyn.” Commentary 28 (1959): 31–41.
Rubin, Israel. Satmar: Two Generations in an Urban Island. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.
Weiss, Maud B., and Michael Neumeister. The Challenge of Piety: The Satmar Hasidim in New York. Munich, Germany: Gina Kehayoff, 1995.
Winson, Hella. Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
Talner Congregation, 64 Corey Rd., Brookline, MA 02146
David Twersky (1808–1882), the sixth son of Mordecai Twersky, established his dynasty at Talnoye, south of Kiev in Russia. It is said that he lived luxuriously and sat upon a silver throne engraved with the words “King David of Israel lives forever.” Rabbi Nochum (another son of Rabbi Mordecai) succeeded Rabbi David in 1882, and was in turn succeeded by his son, Rabbi Meshulem Z. Twersky. In the mid-twentieth century Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky (1930–1997) became the Talner rebbe. He brought the lineage to the United States, and along with Rebbitzen M. Z. Twersky was responsible for the founding and development of Beis Midrash in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The Talner Beis Midrash. members.bellatlantic.net/~vze2nb56/talner/.
Even, Isaac. “Chasidism in the New World.” Jewish Communal Register of New York City, 1917–1918. New York: Kehillah of New York City, 1918.
c/o Vizhnitz Shul, 52 Francis Pl., Monsey, NY 10592
Vizhnitz Hasidism was founded by Rebbe Menachem Mendil Hager in the middle of the nineteenth century in the village of Vyzhnytsia, in what is now Ukraine. The leadership of the group was subsequently passed to Rebbe Baruch Hager of Vizhnitz and Rebbe Yisroel Hager of Vizhnitz. Rebbe Yisroel had two sons who reestablished the dynasty in Israel after World War II: Rebbe Baruch Hager of SeretVizhnitz, who settled in Haifa; and Rebbe Chaim Meir Hager of Vizhnitz, who settled in Bnei Brak. Under their leadership the Vizhnitz grew into one of the largest Hasidic groups in Israel, with sister centers in London and New York.
Rebbe Baruch passed his lineage to Rebbe Eliezer Hager of Seret-Vizhnitz, the present rebbe of Seret-Vizhnitz in Haifa. Rebbe Chaim Meir passed his lineage to his son Rebbe Moshe Yehoshua Hager of Vizhnitz, the present Vizhnitzer rebbe in Bnei Brak. Rabbe Moshe’s brother, Rebbe Mordechai Hager, became the leader of the Vizhnitz Hasidim in Monsey, New York.
In the 1980s problems developed within the group in Bnei Brak. Rebbe Moshe removed his eldest son, Yisrael Hager, from any leadership in the group, and dismissed him as a Hasidic rabbi. His place was taken by the younger son, Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Hagar. Shortly after the beginning of the new century, pressure was brought upon the aging Rebbe Moshe to return his eldest son to a position within the community, an action favored by Rebbe Mordechai.
The return of the elder son led to a split in the Vizhnitz community, with the larger support going to Rebbe Yisrael. In 2005 supporters of Rabbi MenachemMendal broke into the Vizhnitz yeshiva in Bnei Brak and stole the computer that contained Rebbe Moshe’s speeches. The situation was further exacerbated in 2006, when Rabbi Menachem-Mendal announced plans to open his own synagogue and yeshiva. He organized his following as the Ichud Chasidei Vizhnitz (Union of Vizhnitzer Chasidim). Meanwhile, members of the two factions were involved in fights with each other. The developments in Israel have had significant repercussions in the United States, especially in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, where claims to ownership of the Bnei-Brak Vizhnitzer Shul have been made by both factions. The case was still being adjudicated in 2008.
Sela, Neta. “So What Is Going On in Vizhnitz?” Jewish World (April 13, 2007). Available from www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3387142,00.html.
Shneider, Chaim. “The Two Viznitz’s.” Hasidic News (November 6, 2001). Available from hasidicnews.com/Viznitz.shtml.