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Aaron Teitelbaum

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Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum (born October 1947) is one of two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, and the chief rabbi of the Satmar community in Kiryas Joel, New York. He is the elder son of Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the late Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who was the nephew of the late Satmar Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, who founded the village of Kiryas Joel in the town of Monroe, New York. Rabbi Teitelbaum is the son-in-law of Grand Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, the Viznitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak, Israel.

Background

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum has written a number of scholarly commentaries on the Torah and Talmud. Over fifteen volumes of his teachings have been published. Rabbi Aaron was appointed as the chief rabbi of the Satmar congregation in Kiryas Joel in 1984. Prior to that he was the rabbi of Atzei Chaim of Siget Synagogue on Hewes Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY.

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His followers point out that since 1980, when his father was named successor to Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, Aaron has become the most prominent Satmar voice against Zionism both at community events as well as at anti-Zionist street demonstrations in New York and Washington DC. His famous anti-Zionist addresses include a speech delivered in Bnei Brak in the summer of 1994 where he specifically articulated the Satmar position against speaking Modern Hebrew. His father also mentioned that Aaron’s family ties to Agudat Israel, meaning his father-in-law's participation in it, would not weaken his anti-Zionist stand.

Presently, Rabbi Teitelbaum has control of the main Satmar synagogues in Kiryas Joel. In Williamsburg his main centers of operation are the great Satmar synagogue on 14 Hooper Street and the Sigeter synagogue on Hewes Street, his father's first home in America and his own home after his father moved to Boro Park. He is the official leader of 10 other synagogues in Williamsburg; the main Satmar shul in Boro Park and its branches; the main Satmar shul in London and its branches; the main Satmar shul in Bnei Brak and its branches; the Satmar shul in Jerusalem named after the work authored by his late father, Beirach Moshe.

Satmar succession feud

Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, in synagogue, on Hanukkah, in Kiryas Joel, New York State

Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum on the Jewish festival of Hannukkah in front of the menorah

In 1999, a major turn of events transpired in Satmar with respect to the future succession of the late Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum. The - until then unthinkable - idea of splitting up the dynasty into two separate sects, started to circulate and gain momentum.

Up to 1999, the wide perception within the community was that after the death of Rabbi Moshe, Satmar would remain one united sect under one rebbe, presumably Rabbi Aaron, since he is the eldest son, and being the leader of Kiryas Joel, he held the highest post in Satmar, besides his father. There was no real talk about any other candidate besides Aaron.

On about May 1999, it was announced that Rabbi Moshe decided to change course completely and place his third son, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, as the local leader of the Williamsburg congregation, a new position that never existed.

The then leaders of Satmar, which mainly supported Aaron, and always fought for the unity, pride and power of Satmar, were devastated and in shock. They have always been the most loyal and closest allies of Rabbi Moshe, and believed that is not the real true wish of the Rebbe. Aaron supporters in Williamsburg were stripped of their positions. The supporters of Aaron scrambled to reverse it; initially they attempted for about a year to settle it at a Beth Din, but disagreements as to which Jewish tribunal is qualified to judge this case, stalled it. Then secular court litigation ensued, with little to no success.


The Satmar split, drastically and permanently changed the dynamics of the Satmar dynasty. Instead of being a united global entity, headquartered in Williamsburg, Brooklyn led by one Grand Rabbi; it is now split into two independent sects. One led by Rabbi Zalman who inherited all the assets in Williamsburg, the biggest stronghold of Satmars in terms of assets and members. While Aaron, being in charge of the second and third largest Satmar communities, Kiryas Joel, Monroe, where his supporter regularly win the local government elections, and Borough Park, Brooklyn, a Hasidic neighborhood 8 miles from Williamsburg.

Since then, the followers of Aaron have been building new synagogues and schools in Williamsburg.

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