Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

5
Satmar, M'lochim, Lubavitch: The Struggles between the Courts

Contemporary Conflicts

The passionate commitment of Hasidim to their Rebbe, to a shared philosophy, and to common local customs have often led to competition and antagonism between groups of pietists. The history of Hasidism is marked by contention between the Hasidim and their Orthodox opponents, the Misnagdim, and subsequently between Hasidic courts who criticized, quarreled, and issued bans against one another. Letters and leaflets rained down on opposing communities from Pressburg to Sziget and Sadagora to Sanz. At the heart of the matter were usually differing views on how to ensure adherence to religious law and on the control of community life.

Today, in Brooklyn, contention between the two leading Hasidic courts in America, Satmar and Lubavitch, has become commonplace. Sharply different points of view on a number of issues indicate a deep philosophical division between the two courts. Concerning the causes for the tragedy of the Second World War, Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, declared that the Holocaust had been punishment for the evils of Zionism. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, believes that "the tragedy of the Holocaust is an unanswerable question. There is no human rationale whatsoever that can explain such indescribable suffering." 1

The two polarized courts hold deeply felt beliefs. Satmar, however, appears to seek its controlling vision exclusively in the past, while Lubavitch looks forward to the joy of spreading Yiddishkayt and educating fellow Jews. The two courts are in visible contradiction to each other: Satmar Hasidim dress is an exact replica of Orthodox garb in Hungary a century ago, while Lubavitcher Hasidim follow more contemporary style both during the week and on the Shabbes. The different modes of dress reflect Satmar concern to keep a safe distance between themselves and nonbelievers, and Lubavitch eagerness to interact with and to proselytize

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