Teitelbaum, Yoel (1905-1997)

The Rabbi of Satmar

The ultra-religious Rebbe of Satmar, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of the Romanian city of Satu-Mare, boarded the Musterzug saving himself and his clan in 1944. The rabbi did not mind that the train’s organizers, headed by Kastner were secular Jews, but more so, were also dedicated Zionists, whereas he, the rabbi and his followers were rabid anti-Zionist who through their deep religious belief argued that the land of Israel can only be redeemed with the coming of the Messiah and any attempts to do so before, by force and any other means was prohibited and was to be boycotted. The organizers and the people who made the final passenger allocation lists, did not consider the Satmar animosity towards Zionism as a reason to deny space to the group. This amply demonstrated that the criteria of selection was to put Jews on the train, political and religious convictions notwithstanding. It preempted the Sternbuch argument of the urgent need of organizing their ‘own’ train of religious Jews, because secular leaders would discriminate against the orthodox in the seat allocations. The Satmars on the train, not merely orthodox but anti-Zionists, puts this argument to naught.

After the war, but before the founding of the State of Israel, Teitelbaum lived for a year in Jerusalem. He immigrated to the US to join his thousands of followers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He moved some of his followers out of New York City to Monroe where he built a new town for his disciples. He died in 1997, aged ninety-two and was buried in Kiryas-Yoel, the town he founded and was named for him.


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