HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum, rov of the Satmar Chassidim
worldwide, was niftar in New York City on Monday 26
Nisan at the age of 91. The levaya was held the
following evening, leaving from Williamsburg in Brooklyn for
the burial in Kiryas Yoel in upstate New York.
HaRav Teitelbaum was born in Ujfeherto, in what is now
eastern Hungary near Sighet, on Tuesday 28 Cheshvan 5675
(November 17, 1914). He was named after the 18th-century founder
of the Satmar dynasty, from whom he was descended. He lost
his father at a very young age. As a young man he served as
the rov of Zenteh. When the region fell to the Nazis, HaRav
Teitelbaum was sent to Auschwitz with his wife and three
children. He was the only survivor from his immediate
After the war, he remarried and moved to the United States in
1946, where he first opened a beis medrash in
Williamsburg. His uncle HaRav Yoelish, a major Torah
personality in Europe even before World War II, re-
established the Satmar community there. Later HaRav Moshe
founded a congregation in Borough Park.
When his uncle was niftar on 26 Av 5739 (1979) HaRav
Moshe was chosen to succeed him. He officially became the
Satmar Rov on the first yahrtzeit of HaRav Yoelish.
The flourishing community established by HaRav Yoelish
continued to blossom under his nephew. The Satmar community
today has large congregations in Williamsburg and the village
of Kiryas Joel, 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of New
York City. There are also important communities in Borough
Park, Yerushalayim, Lakewood, London, and other cities around
The Williamsburg community numbers some 35,000, and now
spills over into adjacent neighborhoods. Kiryas Yoel, in
Orange County, has more than 15,000 residents. It was
established by the previous Rov and later named after him.
Estimates of the total number of Satmar chassidim around the
world vary, but all agree that it is a large community,
It was estimated that the Satmar schools in New York are the
fourth-largest school system in the state, after the public
school systems of New York City, Buffalo and Rochester.
Rabbi Solomon Gelbman, a Satmar historian, told the New
York Times that HaRav Teitelbaum had likened himself to
Yaakov Ovinu, who considered himself custodian of the great
works begun by his fathers Yitzchok and Avrohom before
"Yaakov said, `I'm not digging any new wells; I'm just
watching the wells that the father and the grandfather dug,
that they should continue to produce clean water,' " Rabbi
Gelbman said. "Rabbi Moshe said the same thing: `Rabbi Joel
dug the wells. I'm just tending them.' "
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called HaRav
Teitelbaum, "A gentle soul who carried himself with poise and
"From the fires of the Holocaust, the grand rebbe and his
uncle performed a miracle here in New York by rebuilding
their community to match its glory days in Europe," Bloomberg
said in a statement.
In 1999 HaRav Moshe chose HaRav Zalmen, his third son, to
take over the main congregation in Williamsburg. He had
previously named HaRav Aaron, the eldest son, to run the
Satmar congregation in Kiryas Yoel, N.Y. It is not yet clear
who will now take over the overall leadership.
HaRav Moshe entered the hospital on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, March
30, for treatment of spinal cancer and other ailments. The
doctors thought that he had recovered and would soon be
released, but they were wrong.
Thousands of mourners crammed into the main Williamsburg shul
Monday night for the beginning of the levaya at around
10 pm. Many more were outside. Police sent hundreds of
officers to control the crowds. The official police estimate
of participants in the levaya in New York was said to
be more than a hundred thousand.
In communities around the world thousands more participated
in the levaya through telecommunications hookups. The
Gavad of the Eida HaChareidis, HaRav Weiss, was also
maspid from Yerushalayim.
The aron went to Kiryas Yoel, arriving at about 3:30
in the morning local time, where there were more
hespedim. Many thousands came to the levaya and
traffic was snarled for miles around. The Rov was buried in
the Kiryas Yoel cemetery at around 7 am near his great
HaRav Moshe Teitelbaum zt"l is survived by his wife,
Moras Pessel Leah; his sons Rabbis Aaron, Lipa, Zalmen and
Shulem; two daughters, Bracha Meisels and Hendy Halberstam;
and at least 86 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There
was a report that his first great-great-grandchild was born
the day he was niftar.