Satmar ( yi|סאַטמאַר; he|סאטמר; hu|Szatmár; ro|Satmar) is a Hasidic group originating from the city of Szatmárnémeti, Hungary (now Satu Mare, Romania), where it was founded in 1905 by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum. Following World War II, it was re-established in New York, becoming one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world. After Rabbi Yoel's death, he was succeeded by his nephew, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum. Since the latter's death in 2006, the dynasty is split between his two sons, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum and Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum. Satmar is one of the largest Hasidic dynasties in the world: The estimated number of affiliated men, women, and children ranges between 65,000 and 75,000. It is characterized by extremely strict religious adherence, complete rejection of modern culture, and fierce anti-Zionism. Satmar sponsors a comprehensive education and media system in Yiddish, and its members use Yiddish as a primary language. The sect also heads the Central Rabbinical Congress.



When Rabbi Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum, the Grand Rebbe of the Sighet Hasidic dynasty, died in 1904, he was succeeded by his oldest son, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum. A small fraction of his Hasidim regarded his second son, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, as the appropriate heir. Rabbi Yoel left Sziget, and on the 8th of September 1905, he settled in Szatmárnémeti (in Yiddish: Satmar), where he began to attract a small following, in addition to his few original supporters. Hungarian journalist Dezső Schön, who researched the Teitelbaum rabbis in the 1930s, wrote that Rabbi Yoel started referring to himself as the "Rebbe of Satmar" at that time. Rabbi Yoel's power base grew with the years. In 1911, he received his first rabbinical post as chief rabbi of Ilosva. In 1921, the northeastern regions of Hungary, which were densely populated with Orthodox Jews, were ceded to Czechoslovakia and Romania, under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon. Many Sziget Hasidim, unable to regularly visit Rabbi Chaim Tzvi's court, turned to Rabbi Yoel instead. In 1925, Rabbi Yoel was appointed chief rabbi of Nagykároly. On 21 January 1926, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi died unexpectedly, leaving his twelve-year-old son Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum (II) to succeed him. His mother emphasized Rabbi Yoel as successor, her grandson being too young for the position, but Rabbi Chaim Tzvi's followers would only accept Rabbi Yoel (who was highly regarded, but barely liked there) as a trustee-leader until Yekusiel became old enough. Under these conditions, Rabbi Yoel would have become the dynasty's head in all but name, which was nevertheless unacceptable for him and his mother, and they left Sziget again. In 1928, Rabbi Yoel was elected as chief rabbi of Szatmárnémeti itself. The appointment resulted in bitter strife within the Jewish community, and he only accepted the post in 1934. Rabbi Teitelbaum rose to become a prominent figure in ultra-Orthodox circles, leading an uncompromisingly conservative line against modernization. Among other issues, he was a fierce opponent of Zionism and Agudat Yisrael.

World War II

The Jewish population of Hungary, which was concentrated in the Satu Mare ghetto, was spared wholesale destruction until 1944. On 19 March 1944, the German Army occupied the country, and deportations to the concentration camps ensued. Joel sought to re-assure the frightened people who, for the most part, weren't able to leave the country, saying that by the merit of their religiosity, they would be saved. However, when the Germans invaded, he was saved by his devoted followers, who paid a huge ransom to have him included in the passenger list of the Kastner train. Rabbi Yoel reached Switzerland on the night of 7–8 December 1944, and soon immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine. Many of Satu Mare's Jews were murdered by the Nazis.


Rabbi Teitelbaum chose to move to the United States following his last daughter's death in Jerusalem, after a year, arriving in New York aboard the MS ''Vulcania'' on 26 September 1946. Rabbi Yoel settled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a small group of followers, and set out to re-establish his sect, which was destroyed in the Holocaust. His arrival in America allowed him to fully implement his views: The separation of religion and state enabled the Satmar dynasty, as well as numerous other Jewish groups, to establish independent communities, unlike the state-regulated structures in Central Europe. In April 1948, his adherents founded "Congregation Yetev Lev", which was registered as a religious corporation. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum appointed Leopold Friedman (1904–1972), a former bank director, as the congregation's president, while he was declared supreme spiritual authority. After his death, Friedman was replaced by Leopold Lefkowitz (1920–1998). The Grand Rebbe's policy was to maintain complete independence by refusing to affiliate with, or receive financial aid from, any other Jewish group; his Hasidim established a network of businesses that provided an economic base for the community's own social institutions. The Satmar group grew rapidly, attracting many new followers. A 1961 survey established that its Williamsburg community included 4,500 people. From the 860 household heads, about 40 percent were neither Satmar nor Sighet Hasidim in the pre-war years. In 1968, Satmar was already New York's largest Hasidic group, with 1,300 households in the city. In addition, there are many Satmar Hasidim in other parts of the United States, and worldwide. As part of his vision of complete isolation from the outside world, Joel encouraged his followers, many of whom were immigrants from former Greater Hungary who spoke primarily German or Hungarian, to use only Yiddish. The sect has its own Yiddish-oriented education system and several publishing houses which provide extensive reading material. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum's work in this matter made him, according to Bruce Mitchell, the "most influential figure" in the maintenance of the language in the post-war period. The uniformity of Satmar in America made it easier to teach young people the language, unlike in Europe: George Kranzler noted already in 1961 that the children speak Yiddish much better than their parents. On 23 February 1968, Rabbi Yoel suffered a stroke, which left him barely functioning. His second wife, Alte Feiga, administered the sect for the remainder of Yoel's life, with the assistance of several Satmar functionaries. In 1974, the sect began constructing the housing project Kiryas Yoel in Monroe, New York, for its members. It was accorded an independent municipal status in 1977. On August 19, 1979, the Grand Rebbe died of a heart attack.


Rabbi Yoel was not survived by any children – all three of his daughters died in his lifetime. After prolonged vacillations by the community board, his nephew Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi's second son, was appointed as successor, in spite of Feiga's severe objections. Rabbi Moshe was proclaimed Rebbe on 8 August 1980, the first anniversary of his uncle's death by the Hebrew calendar. The great majority of Hasidim accepted the new leader, though a small fraction called Bnei Yoel, which was unofficially led by Feiga, opposed him. The tense relations between both led to several violent incidents in the 1980s. The new Rebbe appointed his oldest son, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, to chief rabbi of Kiryas Yoel in 1984. Both incurred opposition from elements within the sect. They were blamed for exercising a centralized leadership style, and for lack of sufficient zealotry. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in the case of Board of Education of Kiryas Yoel Village School District v. Grumet, that a school district whose boundaries had been drawn to include only Satmar children violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Until the late 1990s, Rabbi Moshe's heir apparent was his oldest son, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum. In 1999, his third son, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, was recalled from his post as Satmar chief rabbi in Jerusalem, and received the parallel post in the sect's largest enclave, Williamsburg. He was later proclaimed successor, and a struggle between both brothers ensued. Rabbi Aaron resided in Kiryas Yoel, New York, where he was considered as the local authority, while Rabbi Zalman held sway in Williamsburg.


Following Rabbi Moshe's death in 2006, both groups of followers announced that their candidate was named successor in his will, and declared them Rebbes. Rabbi Zalman and Rabbi Aaron were engaged in prolonged judicial disputes as to who should control the Congregation's assets in Brooklyn. The sect has effectively split into two independent ones. At the time of Reb Moshe Teitelbaum's death, sources within the sect estimated it had 119,000 members worldwide, making it the world's largest Hasidic group.Michael Powell.
Succession Unclear After Grand Rebbe's Death
'. Washington Post, 26 April 2006.
A similar figure of 120,000 was cited by sociologist Samuel Heilman. However, anthropologist Jacques Gutwirth estimated in 2004 that Satmar numbered about 50,000. As of 2006, the dynasty controlled assets worth $1 billion in the United States. The two largest Satmar communities are in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Kiryas Yoel, New York. There are also significant Satmar communities in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Monsey, and Bloomingburg, New York. Smaller communities can be found in other North American cities such as Los Angeles, Lakewood, New Jersey, and Montreal; in some European cities such as Antwerp, London, and Manchester; and in Argentina, Australia, and Israel. Aaron said that he wants to establish a community in Romania too. In addition to the Grand Rabbis' two main congregations, Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua Halberstam, chief rabbi of the Satmar community in Monsey, New York, became its local leader. Unlike the two brothers, Halberstam does not lay claim to the entire sect, though he conducts himself in the manner of a Hasidic Rebbe, accepting ''Kvitel'' and holding ''tish''. Another son, Reb Lipa Teitelbaum, established his own congregation and calls himself Zenter Rav, after the town Senta, Serbia, where his father served as Rabbi before World War II. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rabbi Aaron's wife Rebetzin Soshe fell ill and was placed on a respirator. At the same time, Rabbi Lipa (Zenter Rav) the brother of Rabbi Aaron and Rabbi Zalman was fighting for his life against the virus. This situation led to Rabbi Zalman making a phone call to Rabbi Aaron, after not speaking to each other for 20 years, during which they exchanged holiday greetings. The October 15, 2020, wedding of Rabbi Zalman's grandson, planned to attract thousands of guests in violation of pandemic-related limits on public gatherings, was reduced to a 50-person affair, after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his office would shut it down. Another wedding, the November 8 nuptials of Rabbi Aaron's grandson Yoel Teitelbaum, did go forward, with thousands packing a Williamsburg hall in violation of pandemic restrictions. On November 24, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio fined the organizers $15,000.


The ideology and principles of Satmar reflect Yoel Teitelbaum's adherence to the Hungarian ultra-Orthodox school of thought (similar to, but also fundamentally different from, "Ultra-Orthodox Judaism"). This school was founded by Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein and his son-in-law Akiva Yosef Schlesinger in the 1860s, on the eve of the Schism in Hungarian Jewry. Faced with rapid acculturation and a decline in religious observance, Lichtenstein preached utter rejection of modernity, widely applying the words of his teacher, Moses Sofer: "All that is new is forbidden by the Torah." Schlesinger accorded Yiddish and traditional Jewish garb a religious status, idealizing them as a means of separation from the outside world. To reinforce his opposition to secular studies and the use of a vernacular, Akiva turned outside of Jewish law, and based his rulings on the non-legalistic Aggadah. The ultra-Orthodox believed the main threat did not come from liberal Jews Neologs, who advocated religious reform, but from the moderate traditionalists; they directed their attacks chiefly against the modern Orthodox Azriel Hildesheimer. Their power base lay among the Unterlander Jews of northeastern Hungary — roughly present-day eastern Slovakia, Zakarpattia Oblast, and Northern Transylvania — where modernity made little headway, and the local Galician-descended Jews were poor, unacculturated, and strongly influenced by Hasidism. Sighet, as well as most other Hungarian Hasidic dynasties, originated from these regions. Lichtenstein's successors were no less rigid; the leading ultra-Orthodox authority in the Inter-war period, Chaim Elazar Spira of Mukačevo, regarded the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel as a demonic force, as much as both religious and secular Zionism. He demanded complete political passivity, stating that any action to the contrary was akin to disbelief in divine providence. While Aguda opposed Zionism for seeing it as anti-religious, Spira viewed their plan for establishing an independent state before the arrival of the Messiah as "forcing of the end", trying to bring Redemption before God prescribed it. In addition, he was an avowed anti-modernist: He sharply denounced Avraham Mordechai Alter, Rebbe of Ger, for introducing secular studies and allowing girls to attend school, and criticized modern medicine, believing the treatments recorded in the Gemara to be superior. Though personal relations between Spira and Joel Teitelbaum were tense, his ideological stance had a strong influence over the younger rabbi. Aviezer Ravitzky believed it remained unacknowledged in the latter's writings due to the personal animosity between both. Already firmly anti-Agudist and anti-Zionist in the inter-war period, Teitelbaum had to contend with the issues which baffled world Jewry in the aftermath of World War II: the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1959, he enunciated his theological response in the book ''Vayoel Moshe'' ( he|וַיּוֹאֶל מֹשֶׁה|translit=va-yo'el moshe|lit=and Moses was content; the title is from Exodus ). The book contained three segments; the first was devoted to Teitelbaum's interpretation of an Aggadatic text from the Ketubot in the Talmud, the Midrash of the Three Oaths. It discusses the meaning of a phrase quoted thrice in the Song of Solomon (, , ): "I adjure you ..that ye awaken not, nor stir up love until it please." The passage explains it as a reference to three oaths forced by God; two on the Children of Israel — that they "shall not go up" (migrate en masse) to their land before redemption, and neither rebel against the Gentile nations among which they are exiled — and the third upon all nations, "that they shall not oppress Israel too much". Teitelbaum argued that the first two are binding and eternal, and that their intent was to keep the people in divinely decreed exile until they would all fully repent their sins and earn solely miraculous salvation, without human interference. He sought to demonstrate that Rabbinic sages of the past were all aware of the Oaths, and even those who did not mention it, like Maimonides, did so because it was self-evident. His thesis was also meant to refute contrary pro-Zionist religious arguments: that its aggadic source made it non-binding, or that the Oaths were no longer valid, especially after the Gentiles "oppressed Israel too much" in the Holocaust. Based on this, Teitelbaum stated Zionism was a severe heresy and a rebellion against God, and that its pursuit brought about the Holocaust as a divine punishment; the continued existence of Israel was a major sin in itself, and would unavoidably lead to further retribution, as well as to the delaying of redemption. ''Vayoel Moshe'' crystallized the Rabbi's uncompromisingly hostile stance toward the State. The Oaths were not utilized as a central argument beforehand, and his analysis of them is Teitelbaum's most notable contribution to rabbinic literature. The link between Zionism and the Holocaust became a hallmark of his religious worldview. Teitelbaum's rabbinic authority and wealthy supporters in the United States made him the leader of the radical, anti-Zionist flank of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world. He adopted a policy of utter non-recognition towards the State of Israel, banning his adherents residing there from voting in the elections or from affiliating in any way with the state's institutions. When he visited the country in 1959, a separate train was organized for him, with no Israeli markings. The Israeli educational networks of Satmar and Edah HaChareidis, the latter also led by the Grand Rebbe, are fully independent and receive funding from abroad. Satmar and allied elements refuse to receive social benefits or any other monetary aid from the Israeli state, and criticize those non-Zionist Haredim who do. Teitelbaum and his successors routinely condemned the Agudah and its supporters for taking part in Israeli politics. As to Religious Zionism, the Satmar Rebbe described its chief theologian, Abraham Isaac Kook, as "wicked adversary and enemy of our Holy Faith". In 1967, when the Western Wall and other holy places fell under Israel's control after the Six-Day War, Teitelbaum reinforced his views in the 1968 pamphlet ''Concerning Redeeming and Concerning Changing'' ( he|עַל-הַגְּאֻלָּה וְעַל-הַתְּמוּרָה|translit=a'l ha-ge'ulah v-a'l ha-tmurah; Ruth ), arguing the war was no miracle, as opposed to statements by Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad and others, whom he condemned severely, and forbade prayer at the Wall or at the other liberated holy sites, as he believed it would grant legitimacy to Israel's rule. While providing some support for the otherwise unrelated Neturei Karta, Satmar has not always condoned its actions. Joel Teitelbaum denounced them in 1967 when they co-operated with Arabs, and in 2006, the rabbinic court of Zalman Leib's group placed an anathema upon those who visited the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust.

Women's role

Satmar women are required to cover their necklines fully, and to wear long sleeves, long, conservative skirts, and full stockings. Whereas married Orthodox Jewish women do not show their hair in public, in Satmar, this is taken a step further: Satmar women shave their heads after their weddings, and wear a wig or other covering over their heads, while some cover the wig with a small hat or scarf. The Grand Rebbe also insisted that the stockings of women and girls be fully opaque, a norm accepted by other Hungarian Hasidic groups which revered him. Teitelbaum opened Satmar's "Bais Ruchel" school network only because he feared that if he did not, many parents would send their daughters to "Bais Yaakov". In 2016, the sect issued a decree warning that university education for women is "dangerous". Written in Yiddish, the decree warns:


225px|Entrance of the Satmar Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York The sect operates numerous community foundations. ''Bikur Cholim'' ("Visiting the sick"), established in 1957 by the Grand Rebbe's wife Alte Feiga, concerns itself with helping hospitalized Jews, regardless of affiliation. ''Rav Tuv'', founded in the 1950s to help Jews in the Soviet Union, aids Jewish refugees. Today, the organization mostly helps Jews from Iran and Yemen. ''Keren Hatzolah'' is a charitable fund to support yeshivas and the poor in Israel, providing for those who shun government benefits. Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum founded a network of large educational institutions, both yeshivas and girls' schools. If its schools in New York were a public school system, it would be the fourth-largest system in the state, after those of New York City, Buffalo, and Rochester. In most places, the girls' schools are called ''Beis Rochel'', and the yeshivas ''Torah VeYirah''. In 1953, Rabbi Teitelbaum founded the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, which provides various services, including a kashrut supervision. Satmar also operates its own rabbinical courts, which settle various issues within the community by the principles of Jewish Law. The sect has a Yiddish newspaper called ''Der Yid'', now privatized, and various other Yiddish publications. It is currently identified with Rabbi Zalman's hasidim; whereas ''Der Blatt'', established in 2000, is owned and run by a chasid of Rabbi Aaron.

In media

The Satmar community of Williamsburg was portrayed in the controversial Netflix miniseries ''Unorthodox'' in 2020, with consultation from Eli Rosen, a former Hasidic community member. A majority of the show's dialogue is in Yiddish.

Notable Satmar Hasidim

* Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum (born 1947), rebbe of Satmar in Kiryas Yoel, New York * Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua Halberstam, Satmar rabbi in Monsey, New York * Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum (1887–1979), founding rebbe of Satmar * Louis Kestenbaum (born 1952), American real estate developer * Meilech Kohn (born 1969), American singer * Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1914–2006), rebbe * Shmueli Ungar, singer * Yossi Green (born 1955), American composer * Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum (born 1951), rebbe of Satmar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

See also

* History of the Jews in Hungary * Jewish anti-Zionism * Neturei Karta


Further reading

* Feldman, Deborah (2012). ''Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots''. New York: Simon & Schuster. . ** Roberts, Sam
"Embracing a Race and Rejecting a Sect"
Bookshelf. ''The New York Times'', February 12, 2012. ** ''The New York Times'
Bestseller: Non-fiction, October 21, 2012
* Weisshaus, Yechezkel Yossef (2008). ''The Rebbe: A Glimpse into the Daily Life of the Satmar Rebbe Rabbeinu Yoel Teitelbaum''. Translated by Mechon Lev Avos from ''Sefer Eidis B'Yosef'' by Rabbi Yechezkel Yosef Weisshaus. Machon Lev Avos. Lakewood, New Jersey: Distributed by Israel Book Shop. .

External links

Goldstein, Joseph (March 22, 2006). "Satmar Dispute Over Many Millions To Be Decided by a Secular Court", ''New York Sun''. Retrieved 30 April 2020.

One Rebbe or Two? (05/05/06)
from ''The Forward''
Hats On, Gloves Off (05/08/06)
from ''New York Magazine''. {{DEFAULTSORT:Satmar (Hasidic dynasty) Satmar Category:Hasidic Anti-Zionism Category:Jewish anti-Zionism in the United States Category:Satu Mare Category:Williamsburg, Brooklyn Category:Kiryas Joel, New York