Ultra-Orthodox Judaism: Satmar Hasidim

Satmar Hasidic Jews Are a Conservative Sect of the Haredi

Young Hasid boy in Williamsburg, New York City
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Satmar Hasidism is a branch of ultra-orthodox Judaism founded by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (1759-1841), Rabbi of Sátoraljaújhely in Hungary. His descendants became leaders of the communities of Máramarossziget (now Sighetu Marmaţiei) (called "Siget" in Yiddish) and Szatmárnémeti (now Satu Mare) (called "Satmar" in Yiddish).

Like other Haredi Jews, Satmar Hasidic Jews live in insular communities, separating themselves from contemporary secular society.

And like other Hasidic Jews, Satmar Hasidim approach Judaism with joy. Like the Neturei Katra sect, Satmar Hasidim oppose all forms of Zionism.

Hasidic Judaism Within Haredi Judaism

In Hebrew, Hasidic Jews are known as Hasidim, a term derived from the Hebrew word "chesed," which means "loving kindness." 

The Hasidic movement began in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Over time, the Hasidism branched out into different groups, such as the Breslov, Skver, and Bobov, among others. The Satmar were one of these sects. 

Hasidim wear traditional clothing, which for men emulates the formal dress of their 18th-century forebears, and for women requires modesty, with legs, arms and heads covered. Most sects of Hasidim wear slightly different versions of the traditional outfits to differentiate themselves from other sects.

Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum and Satmar Jews

Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), one of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum's descendants, led the Satmar Hasidic movement during the Holocaust.



During the war, Teitelbaum spent time in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and later emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine. While he was in Palestine, he founded a network of yeshivas (Jewish religious schools). 

The day Teitelbaum was released by the Nazis (the 21st day of the Hebrew month of Kislev) is considered to be a holiday by Satmar Hasidim.

 

As a result of financial difficulties, he traveled to New York to raise money for the seminaries. As the founding of the State of Israel was taking place, Teitelbaum's American followers convinced him to stay in New York.

Teitelbaum died of a heart attack in 1979, after being in ill health for several years. 

Satmar Hasidic Jews in America

In America Teitelbaum established the foundations of a Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the 1970s, he bought land in upstate New York and founded a Satmar Hasidic community named Kiryas Joel. Other post-Holocaust Satmar communities were founded in Monsey, Boro Park, Buenos Aires, Antwerp, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.

Satmar opposition to the State of Israel is based on their belief that the creation of a Jewish State by Jews is blasphemy. They believe the Jews should wait for God to send the Messiah to return the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

Satmar Hasidism considers the ongoing unrest in Israel to be a result of Jews being "impatient" and not awaiting God's word. 

Despite their opposition to the Zionist State, Satmar Hasidim aim to protect the Holy Land from secularism and bloodshed. Many Satmar Hasidim visit and even live in Israel, and Teitelbaum himself visited numerous times.

But Satmar Hasidim do not vote, pay taxes, accept benefits, serve in the armed forces or recognize the authority of the court in the state of Israel.