Hasidic People: A Place in the New World

By Jerome R. Mintz | Go to book overview

14
Satmar and Lubavitch in Conflict

Disciples

Shifting allegiance from one court to another may realize an individual's search for an ideal Rebbe, a satisfying lifestyle, or a more demanding piety. If, as is often the case, the individual is a yeshivah student a new social identity is drawn. The student not only is attached to a new Rebbe but davens in a different shul, has a new circle of comrades, and possibly establishes ties with a set of in-laws. In the tightly knit and committed atmosphere of a Hasidic court such change has wide-ranging consequences. It often entails an ordeal for the student's family, who may find themselves at odds with and even cut off from their son. They may be regarded with sympathy or suspicion in their own community. If several students are involved and the problems reverberate in still wider circles, it becomes a matter of serious concern for the morale of the court, whose very stability may appear to be challenged.

For these reasons, the proselytizing zeal of Lubavitch frequently poses a direct threat to other Hasidic courts. Their competition for the minds and hearts of young students is a major cause of the angry reactions against Lubavitch. Satmar Hasidim, who have always looked askance at Lubavitcher efforts to proselytize irreligious Jews and to redeem Jews who are under the influence of drugs, become alarmed and enraged when they discover Lubavitcher Hasidim, covertly or not, courting their own young students. For their part, the Lubavitcher Hasidim assert that they are being responsive to the request of Satmar students to study Hasides (Hasidic philosophy), in particular the Tanya of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman. Satmar Hasidim, however, consider this to be a red herring. It is community allegiance rather than philosophy that is at the heart of the dispute. Rabbi Shneur Zatman is venerated throughout the Hasidic world (having provided all Hasidim with a new guide for observance, a Hasidic prayer book, and a key to the kabbala); however, when his teachings are presented by a Lubavitcher it augurs an attempt to win converts for the Lubavitcher community.

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