Klausenburger Rebbe in Williamsburg for the First Time


The Repercussions from the decade-old Satmar-Zalman feud are pervasive and unmistakable. A number of new alliances have been formed by the brothers in their attempt to shore up their base of supporters, harking back to that fateful “election day” when Mr. Kahana and Mr. Friedman fought tooth and nail to win the presidency of KYL and with it control of its valuable property

It is ironic that a bitter rift between brothers would ultimately be the trigger to enable peace to develop between decades-old archenemies of Satmar such as bene-Joel, Belz, and now the latest: Klausenburg. Each of those instances will be enumerated below:

Bene Joel: In the early 80’s, soon after Moses Teitelbaum’s appointment as the new Rebbe and his installation of his son Aaron as Rav in Kiryas Joel (KJ), rumblings of revolt were heard. Some people were bitterly opposed to this radically altered terrain where a shrewd businessman is held up to be as saintly as the previous Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum. They politely requested that Moses not implant his son in KJ, but the Rebbe balked. One thing led to another and after a while the dissidents established not only a rival synagogue but full-fledged educational institutions called Bene Joel (after Waldman’s children were expelled from the KJ institutions).

The Bene Joel have now been legitimated in the Zalman faction. They still have their own institutions but they consult each other and coordinate their communal activities. The alliance seems borne out of Bene Joel followers’ intense hatred of all things Aaron and also their insistence on hewing closer to the zealotist line championed by the original Satmar Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum.

Belz: The Samar-Blez rift in the early 80’s rocked to Hasidic world. It was sparked by the Belzer Rebbe’s Motzai Simhat Torah sermon in approx. 1982 in which he supposedly disparaged R. Joel. The satmar’s were furious — this young Rabbi, an Aggadist, how dare he spurn the Holy Rebbe right after his passing. R. Moses saw it as his duty as the Satmar Rebbe to crush was he saw as the Belz insurgency. Signatures were gathered from leading Rabbi’s affiliated with Satmar in America and Israel and R. Rokeach, the Belzer Rebbe was ostracized.

R. Aaron Teitelbaum happens to be a brother-in-law of the Belzer Rebbe (their wives are sisters), and the fact that R. Moses was entangled with this Aggadist family always loomed large on his conscience as Satmar Rebbe (perhaps that’s why he so strenuously denounced Belz to disavow accusations of disloyalty to the “shittah” — Satmar doctrine).

In his recent trip to Israel, R. Aaron has now turned a fresh leaf. After Belz “apologized” by sending a delegation to R. Joel’s grave, R. Aaron is now ready to talk again and establish “diplomatic relations” between the courts.

Klausenburg: The Klausenburg rift if the oldest of the three. It hearkens back to the 1950’s when R. Joel Teitelbaum himself was not yet fully established as the undisputed leader of Hasidic Jewry in America –or at least in Williamsburg. The Klausenburger Rebbe, R. Yekuthiel Yehudah Halberstam –who in his prewar marriage had been a son-in-law of the atzei chayyim, R. Joel’s brother– also settled in Williamsburg and tended to “compete” against his Uncle, R. Joel. There are reports, for example, of Satmar lads tossing orange peels on the Klausenburger and other petty harassment. In the end, the Klausenburger realized that Satmar had gained the upper hand and was forced to cede the Williamsburg turf to the enemy, relocating to Israel ultimately.

Now R. Shmuel David Halberstam, son and successor of the previous Klausenburger Rebbe in America, spent last Shabbat in Williamsburg (on the occasion of his brother from Natanya, Israel visiting in the former’s Borough Park home base). R. Zalman utilized the opportunity to arrange a meeting between the two, supposedly to admonish the Klausenburger over the halakhic illegality of the eruv as per his father R. Moses responsa. In turn, the Klausenburger Rebbe reportedly responded that the distinguished Klausenburg Dayyan in Wiliamsburg, Fishel Hershkowits, had issued the imprimatur for the eruv and his cachet is recognized enough to hold is own against any detratctors.

Pundits claim, however, that the real purpose of the meeting was not to regurgitate the decade-old eruv dispute but to open talks with the Klausenburger; it was an overture of reconciliation. Zalman needs allies to countervail the new allies Aaron is scoring such as Belz and Vizhnitz (Aaron even visited the Seret-Vizhnitzer in his recent trip to Israel).

HasidicNews.com is following the latest Hasidic courts alliances closely and will report on any developments. Tips and insight are appreciated. Use the Contact button on the navigation menu or email to jajogluck@yahoo.com.

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