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Zalman Teitelbaum

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Rabbi Zalman Leib (Yekusiel Yehuda) Teitelbaum (born 1952) is one of two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, and the third son of Grand Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the late Rebbe of the Satmar Hasidim. He is the son-in-law of the previous Bistritzer Rebbe of Brooklyn. He is a rabbi in one of the Satmar congregations in Williamsburg and the Dean of a Satmar Yeshiva of Queens.

Prior to taking up his position in Williamsburg, Rabbi Teitelbaum was the rabbi of the Satmar Hasidim in Jerusalem. Before that, he was the rabbi of the Sighet Synagogue in Boro Park, which had once been his father's synagogue. Presently, both of those synagogues are led by sons of Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum. He hopes to control (by virtue of a purported will of his father's) the central synagogue, and around ten smaller synagogues, as well as a boys' school and girls' schools that teach over 7,000 children plus a high school of about 620 students, the charitable funds and several large organizations.

In 2007 Newsweek named him the 15th most prominent rabbi.

Satmar succession feud

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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 Teitelbaum, 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 sopporters 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 wins the local government elections, and Borough Park Brooklyn, a Hasidic neighborhood 8 miles from Williamsburg.

Comparisons to earlier conflicts

The conflict between Rabbis Aaron and Zalman Teitelbaum is in some ways comparable to the longstanding disagreement between the two rebbes of Vizhnitz, as well as Toldos Aharon. The conflict is becoming increasingly similar to the ongoing dispute in the Bobov community.

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