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Thousands Pay Tribute to Satmar Rebbe on Yahrtzeit

On Monday and Tuesday, August 13 and 14, close to one hundred thousand Orthodox Jews from all circles and walks of life streamed to a small cemetery in Monroe, New York, to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar on the anniversary of his passing. It the largest annual pilgrimage to any Jewish gravesite in the United States.

What is it about the Satmar Rebbe that generates so much attention even 33 years later?

“He was one of the main builders of religious Jewish life in America after the Holocaust,” said Isaac Schnitzler, a resident of Monroe. “After serving as rabbi in three Hungarian towns, he narrowly escaped from Nazi clutches and came here to reestablish what had been lost. He founded a large system of Hasidic schools, synagogues and charity institutions that flourish to this day.”

Rabbi Teitelbaum was also well-known as an opponent of the State of Israel – a fact that sometimes put a strain on his group's relations with assimilated and pro-Zionist Jews of his time.

“The rabbi’s ideology has often been misunderstood,” said Schnitzler. “He loved the Jewish people more than anyone and cared for all of us – both here and in Israel. In fact, he founded a whole network of schools there, and was one of the biggest distributors of charity to poor Jews living there. And because he cared so much, he foresaw what most others didn’t at the time: that Zionism was a failing enterprise that only caused trouble for Jews by dragging them into unwanted conflicts.”

“Today, most American Jews have dropped Zionism as their political agenda. Despite the impression deliberately created by groups like the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, only a small number of Jews – maybe 6% or so – will vote based on a candidate’s position on Israeli issues. The rest put America first, as they should.

“In fact, many here in the Hasidic community are outraged over what is going on during the current election campaign. Certain high-profile Jews are leading a smear campaign against the President because, in their view, he is not sufficiently supportive of the current right-wing Israeli government. That is the exact opposite of what Rabbi Teitelbaum taught. He taught us to appreciate the United States, where our community is allowed to flourish, and to respect its leaders. He taught us to make it clear to the world that Zionism is not Judaism and the Zionists don't represent us.”

The Rebbe authored two major books on Zionism. They are available here.

Click here for shiurim and translations of Vayoel Moshe.

The staggering volume of charity that was the Satmar Rebbe's life’s work was reflected in the countless booths that lined the path to his gravesite, collecting tens of thousands of dollars for schools, hospital services, orphans, widows, poor brides and needy individuals.

Click here to watch coverage of the event by YNN News.

Click here to buy a biography of the Satmar Rebbe.

Click here to read some of his quotations against Zionism.