The Jewish Week Editorial On Satmar

For all of our community’s love of “social action,” there may not be a Jewish neighborhood anywhere that has created more grass-roots acts of “social action” than has Williamsburg. According to David Pollock, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, “almost all” of New York’s hallmark chesed organizations — Hatzoloh, the volunteer ambulance service; Bikur Cholim, caring for the sick, including hospital visitations and home-cooked meals for mostly non-Satmar Jews; Kimpaturin, rest homes for new mothers and their babies; Tomche Shabbos, volunteers anonymously delivering Shabbat meals to the poor — “are modeled on institutions founded by the Satmar in Williamsburg.”

Yes, Satmar’s anti-Zionism is “the elephant” in Satmar’s room. To be fair, they are not Neturei Karta, with whom they are confused, a group that has sought alliances with Arabs who are violently anti-Israel. Rebbe Teitelbaum said, through a spokesman, “whoever associates with [Palestinian terrorists] is a killer.” True, he condemned Religious Zionism and Israel’s secular-based government as “false messianism,” but the Satmar rebbe visited Israel and he always cared deeply for the safety of Jewish lives, in Jerusalem as in Kiryas Joel. The rebbe’s critique was theological, believing that the end of the heavenly decreed exile was being unduly and dangerously hastened before its time.

Whether we agree or not — and we don’t — the fact is that we’ve come to accept as brothers and sisters those among us who care not a whit for the most basic Jewish laws and values. Strange then to despise or dismiss Satmar for anti-Zionism at a time when non-Zionism and post-Zionism have become accepted by so many of us.

And this is true in Jerusalem, as well, where, for many years the Satmar sponsored soup kitchen was the best and largest in the city. I worked with several American olim who fell on hard times and had no one to turn to. Invariably, they would go to Chabad’s (New City) soup kitchen and then Satmar’s. All made Satmar their home after a few days of trying out both. Satmar helped them with food, with warm clothes, and often with a bed for a night or two. Chabad did none of those things, other than food. On the other hand, all liked the the non-official Kotel Chabad soup kitchen that ran on Shabbos and Yom Tov, becuase the baal habayit was a kind, gentle man who gave from the heart. But official Chaabd was largely set up to serve Chabadniks. In my time in Israel, that is exactly what they did. Even non-Hebrew, non-Yiddish-speaking Chabd olim felt shut out.

There are lots of problems with Satmar – we can all see that. Hessed is not one of them.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The Jewish Week Editorial On Satmar

  1. Yochanan Lavie

    I am about an ardent Zionist as one might find, but I have friends who are anti-Zionist. Sometimes we have to see beyond the ideology and embrace the individual.

  2. Leib

    Hamas has a better social network than satmar and distributes more aid to the poor and destitute

    This does not excuse their anti-zionism and that applies to satmar as well

    zionism is the dignity of the jewish people after 2,000 years of humiliations and torture

    satmar is robbing us of that dignity with their proclomations that we must not “rebel” against the nations of the world etc. (Their ridiculous views have been refuted by the gedolei yisroel so many times)

    As to neturei karta – who do you think gives them shiduchim and who supports them ??? – one guess

    hitler made the trains run on time and was a big lover of animals – this does not excuse the other things he did

    the destruction of the state of israel (which is the satmar fantasy) – would result in the death of six million jews

    I remember a satmar friend in yeshiva (I am a former chareidi) who when he found out that arabs had heat seeking missiles that could destroy jets – was gleeful that Israel would eventually loose the arms race, be destroyed, and prove r.teitlebaum right

  3. Steve Kaufman

    Bottom line is – if satmar is the future of the jewish people – there will be no place for the rest of us – I was once in kiryas Yoel – at their shul – there were 9 satmars there and me – I said lets start davening – they said no – as soon as one more stmar showed up they started – they will not count any jew for a minyan who does not dress in their type of clothing – I am a shomer shabbos jew who does not wear a black hat – according to them I am not jewish enough to be counted for a minyan – don’t tell me about their love and respect for every jew

  4. Jared

    Leib your words ring true and they cut to the heart of the matter – I wish you would not have expressed yourself in such strong terms (and not used the hitler analogy) – but you spoke the truth. Your Hamas analogy was spot on – hamas gets alot of support because of their social programs – they excel at helping people – and one can call them great at “chesed” –

  5. Neo-Conservaguy

    Can we not learn from them what is good and discard the rest? Surely developing a community-based system of chessed is not dependent upon their other bizarre behavior. Also note: these people mostly work, even if the jobs are menial. Learning all day is not considered a normative mode of existence. Shocking, but true.

    A friend told me that the Satmar matzo bakeries are staffed with widows and other people in need, and the community is required to purchase their matzo at those places. This is what the supervision “kosher tax” is supposed to be: support of the community needs such as chessed and education, certainly not support toward building the Death Star of the OU Empire.

  6. Spot on! Great points! Thanks!

  7. I also agree with the points made here about Hamas. The Black Panther party had much the same ideology in Oakland back in the 60s. While Hesed is a great thing, it cannot excuse one from a lifetime of hatred.

    Neo-Conservaguy, much of the money that the OU generates from their Hashgacha goes straight into educational programs.

  8. “much of the money that the OU generates from their Hashgacha goes straight into educational programs.”

    Then let the OU submit to a full, INDEPENDENT audit of ALL their operations, with the ENTIRE audit made PUBLIC.

    As it now stands, the OU refuses to disclose how much money it takes in or where all that money goes.

  9. shmuel

    Don’t ever defend the OU programs. They have over 6,000 plants worldwide ther is not enough Rabbis to cover them so what do they do they go by whatever leniance they can invent which in effect is not kosher even B’Deaved. There methods of Kashruth is so poor one could question if they a kosher at all. And for all the ones that want to bash my comment just keep in mind that I have been in the Kashruth field for many years.

  10. Then you should know the OU has gotten better in the last few years with regard to coverage. You should also know those same kulot you complain about are regularly used by other kashrut agencies for the exact same reason. You see, Shmuel, I worked in kashrut, as well, and I lived in a location that was central to many plants from all hashgachot, and I knew the mashgichim for those plants, and also many of the rabbis from the agencies in NY.

    Do you have smicha?

  11. ah_yid

    “As to neturei karta – who do you think gives them shiduchim and who supports them ??? – one guess”
    all the satmars that i talk to said that satmar is against the neturei karta and that they have nothing to do with them – they don’t go to protest with hamas and the other Palestinians.

  12. Neo-Conservaguy

    “much of the money that the OU generates from their Hashgacha goes straight into educational programs.”

    To the best of my knowledge, not one penny from the OU has been seen to the schools my kids have attended. They are the evil empire, and mark my words, they will go down in history as a big part of the canonizing of Orthodoxy that will continue to drive people away in droves. Monopolies are almost always a bad deal in the long run.

  13. Yochanan Lavie

    Good point, Neo. Look at the politicized Israeli Rabbinate.

  14. shmuel

    Shmarya,
    To answer your first question I dont have Smicha, I do have a kaballah from VAAD MISHMERET STAM. Plus I started the Smicha classes but drop them when I realized that it does not amount to more than paper. Real Gedolim allways study they dont need proof of it. My friend is a rabbi in kashruth and they rejected his strawberries(plants) because they said the infestation is to great. But they certify them (ou) and they dont have a problem. They told there is no way to certify blackberries because of the bugs are to hard to get rid of, but yesterday I saw in the grocerie store two blackberry jam with chunks of blackberries in them. You see my point.P.S. was it not you that complained about the O.U. defending Rubatchkins. (I dont eat Rubatchkins)

  15. From the organization that I am familiar with (not going to name it here, for various reasons) but that much of the money to support it comes directly from the OU.

    Neo-Conservaguy, why should the OU support your kids schools? Unless they are OU educational programs say NCSY why should they support school A? It’d be very nice, but it’d be great if the Star-K or CRC did the same too.

  16. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Oh, cripes, the OU! They “supervise” the production of bread and some pastries in a bakeshop in an Albertson’s store in Evanston, Illinois. Treif kelim found on the kosher side, kosher kelim on the treif side — it makes no difference to them. A store manager even consulted with a service techician about fixing the oven to give mgt the capability to turn oven off and on at will — goodbye pas yisrael — let’s screw the customer.

    I even called an executive rabbi with the OU in NYC about this matter, it made no difference to him — anything for a buck I suppose. He had a poor professional demeanor to boot.

    Anyway, there’s more to this sordid tale. I’m preparing a letter for Rabbi Menachem Genack, let’s see what he does about it.

    Can anyone confirm that Sefardim will not eat bread from a bakery without a mashgiach tamidi? Or am I mistaken about this?

  17. Check and see the Mechaber’s position on Pat Akum. I believe he’s more strict here than the Rema, but I could be wrong. I learned the inyan in passing several years ago.

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