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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Satmar Chasidim’

Will Observant Judaism of the Future Look Like Satmar?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

A friend of mine (by way of the internet – I never met him personally) once told me never to predict the future based on linear projections. That was a very wise observation.

One of the things that many people seem to believe is that the exponential rate of growth of the Charedi community is so vastly greater than the growth of any other segment – that ultimately the future will be theirs. Meaning that the rest of Orthodoxy will either be absorbed by them, or will become so small in comparison that it will become either irrelevant, or extinct altogether.

I am one of those people. The Charedim have won. By their growth and sheer determination they are the wave of the future. But I have a modified version of that prediction. Moderate Charedim will populate the the new mainstream majority. It will also contain those I have called RWMO (right wing Modern Orthodox). And evolve into a sociological demographic I call the New Centrists. Rabbi Berel Wein was first made note of this phenomenon. And it is already in progress.

In brief  what is happening is that both communities have adopted modalities of the other. So that even if our Hashkafos are somewhat different, our lifestyles are not. Moderate Charedim and RWMO are both generally are well educated in Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol. Both generally have solid careers where many are professionals.

We are both Koveiah Itim (establish fixed times for Torah study); Daven in the same Shuls; send our children to similar – and occasionally the same schools; are very often good friends, trust each other’s Kashrus; and our families  interact socially each other. It is not that uncommon to find a Chavrusa  beween a moderate Charedi and a RWMO learning together at night in a community Kollel. Our differing Hashkafos are not a divisive issue socially. The extremes on both the right and left may continue to exist, but in my view will at best be marginalized.

Nothing new here.  I have mentioned all this before. Many times. But what I have not mentioned in this context is another demographic that is perhaps the fastest growing demographic of all. One that has absolutely nothing to do with the above phenomenon.  The exponential growth of Satmar and like minded Chasidim. Does that mean that I believe that Satmar is the wave of the future… that eventually they will overtake the rest of Orthodoxy by their sheer population size?  Based on linear projections, one might say that will indeed happen. But I don’t think so, despite their continuing and phenomenally rapid growth.

Currently Satmar Chasidim live in their own world and prefer to keep it that way. The same is true of other Chasidic sects like Skvere.  They will not ‘assimilate’ into any new grouping.  Their values are not the same as the New Centrists at all. They live in a world apart from the rest of observant Jewry.

They are not well educated in Limudei Chol. And although they do work, they generally do not work as professionals. They do not attend colleges and universities. They work at jobs that often do not pay a living wage. Certainly not for a family of 12 or 13 is which is a very common family size. So a great many of them live in poverty…. isolated from the rest of the world.

While it is true that there are some very wealthy Satmar type Chasidim in trades like the diamond industry, construction, and other businesses (like the wildly successful B&H) – they are the exception and not the rule.  Most Satmar Chasidim barely eke out a living and more often than not have to be aided by free loan societies.

There is an article in the Forward by a Frimet Goldberger. She was raised in the world of Satmar. Ms. Goldberger describes  Satmar Chasidim as not only living isolated lives, but as living very religiously demanding lives. More than any other religious demographic. Lives that are stricter now than at any time in the history of Satmar. They have taken upon themselves Chumros that that did not even exist during the life of their founding Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum. And he was pretty Machmir  requiring the rejection of the outside world in its totality.

His purpose was to insulate his Chasidim form the slightest taint of non Jewish culture.  His method was to not only live in a tightly knit neighborhood  - but to be as different from the rest of the world as possible. That would make it virtually impossible to see any commonlaity and thereby assimilate.  That – combined with their extreme Tznius measures makes them culturally incompatible with -  not only the secular world, but even   the moderate Charedi world. Not to mention the Modern Orthodox world.

Here is how Ms. Goldbeger describes it:

(The Satmar Rebbe) had railed against married women growing their hair underneath the turbans and wigs. After his death, most Hasidic women finally adhered to this rule – many out of fear of the severe ramifications of defiance. It is now the acceptable practice in Satmar to expel children from school if their mothers do not shave their heads. The Satmar Rebbe also decried the thin stockings and uncovered sheitels worn in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Now, most Satmar women wear thick, seamed stockings.

The latest Chumra is the blurring out faces of little girls in their photos. Which did not exist when the Satmar Rebbe was alive. She calls such radicalization alarming and not to be ignored.

In my view, all of these factors are the reason that we should not project a victory for the Satmar way of life. This lifestyle is not the wave of the future. Despite their rapid exponential growth. Insuring the isolation that has kept this demographic together and intact, is no longer possible. The internet has just about assured that. Especially now that one can access it in the palm of one hand.  Bans of technological advances like I-phones no matter how harsh the consequences simply are probably honored more in the breach than in adherence.

I am not saying that young people will drop out in significant numbers. Although going OTD  is a growing problem for them like it is for every other religious demographic. But I do think that they will gradually see what the rest of the even Frum world has to offer and many will seek it out. The poverty and strictures particular to this community will accelerate that process. They will see that it is possible to be religious and not be as isolated as they have been in the past. Modernity will catch up to them. Their increasing poverty that their current lifestyle practically guarantees them will motivate many of them to try another way.

They will see a growing new Centrism and realize that there other legitimate ways to practice Judaism. I am not saying that they will all eventually become new Centrists. Although not likley – it is not out of the realm of possibility once they start seeking to better their lives materially. More likely is a scenario to create their own version of a centrist society – rebelling against that part of their culture that keeps them poor – by seeking a better education and pulling back a bit on their radically different appearances… like the insistence that all their married women must save their heads.

I can’t predict the future. But what I think I can predict is that this demographic is not the wave of the future as they are currently constructed.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

The Chesed of Satmar and of the American People

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

There’s a story on a website called Behadrey Haredim (in the rooms of Charedim). This Hebrew language – Israeli based website is now available in English. It tells of how Satmar Chasidim, at the behest of their Rebbe have pulled out all the stops to help fellow Jews in neighborhoods such as Far Rockaway and Bayswater that were suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
It is quite in character for Satmar to help fellow Jews in need. They are well known for their Chesed towards their fellow Jew. One may recall that their Bikur Cholim Society is internationally recognized for just that. Chesed. They visit sick Jews in hospitals and provide for more than their needs regardless of how religious they are. It doesn’t matter if a patient is a Satmar Chasid or not. If you are in the hospital and a Jew they are there to help you. In spades!

So this story is not all that remarkable. They are simply living up to their reputations as Baalei Chesed.

But it occurred to me that what they are doing is already being done in spades. Not by Satmar Chasidim but by the good people of New York City – Jew and non-Jew alike – to all people in need, not just their co-religionists.

This too is in character. Of the American people who comprise this Medinah Shel Chesed. There has been story after story of people helping people in need during this crisis.

Two examples come to mind.

One is about how many of runners who were scheduled to run in the NYC marathon used that time to distribute supplies originally reserved for the runners.

Then there was the story of a gas station owner who stayed open despite the fact that electric power was cut off and his gas pumps weren’t working. He somehow found a hand pump and started pumping gas manually to anyone who came to his gas station. And he did not charge them an extra dime for the gas. There have been hundreds of stories of people helping people without expecting anything in return but out of the goodness of their own heart. All of it non discriminatory. None of it selective – based on what religion you are.

So when I hear about how caring the Satmar community is for their fellow Jews and how much they are doing, I feel it is imperative to note that they are not alone. Nor is it uniquely Jewish. Non-Jews are doing it too. Only they are doing it more inclusively than Satmar.

This is not to take away from the great work Satmar is doing. It is only to praise the even greater work is being done by the good people of this great country. To that end I would also note that MASBIA a soup kitchen in Boro Park founded by Chasidim is extending their hand to all in need – Jews and non Jews alike. That is what I like to see. A real Kiddush HaShem.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-chesed-of-satmar-and-of-the-american-people/2012/11/11/

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