Rav Soloveitchik Predicted There Would Never Be Hasidic Judaism In America

During World War II, there were fewer than 100 Satmar families in the United States. Now the Satmar are the most numerous Hasidic group, about 125,000 presently.

In a lecture on the Satmar Rav for Torah in Motion, historian Marc B. Shapiro says 45 minutes in: "The Satmar Rav didn’t see anything in shades. Everything is true or false."

"We have the Rav on tape speaking about how there will never be Hasidus in America. Someone gets up in the audience and says no, there is Hasidus. This is from the seventies. The Rav shoots him down, even makes fun of him. ‘You don’t know Hasidus. I saw real Hasidus in Warsaw, in Europe.’ And the Rav was wrong."

"That the Satmar were able to thrive in post-War America is probably the most incredible Jewish story."

Unlike Rav Aron Kotler who despised the Rebbe and thought Chabad was a disaster, the Satmar Rav was friendly with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

If you put the Satmar Rav in cherem because he blasted other Torah scholars, then you’d have to put half of all rabbis in cherem.

"Let the gedolim fight it out. We should respect everyone."

Dr. Shapiro: "I heard from people who knew the Rav that he just couldn’t understand the whole Satmar thing."

"Do you ever wonder why nobody moves into Kiryas Joel? No hispanics, etc. Because they control the town. It’s obviously illegal. They control every house that comes on the market. It’s just like the schtettle. It’s certainly worth a trip to Kiryas Joel."

How do the Satmar accummulate so much money? "They collect maaser (tithe)… They also have certain tax things going on. Certain shady things. You talk to the Satmar and they’ll tell you."

The Chareidim seem to do a better job of keeping their young than do the Modern Orthodox let alone the non-Orthodox.

"The Satmar became financially powerful… The Satmar Rav gave many people brachas (blessings) and many of the Satmar Hasidim became very wealthy. They’re not Litvisher people (who believe primarily in Torah study). They believe in working. They all go out and work… Many of them are good businessmen. They attribute it to the bracha of the rebbe. Tuition to Satmar schools is about $2,000 a year. Compare that to Modern Orthodox tuitition [around $20,000 a year]."

Dr. Norman Lamm published one of his best essays in a 1971 edition of Tradition magazine analyzing Satmar ideology.

Dr Shapiro lists off great rabbis who were unafraid to speak their mind — Rav Shach, Reb Moshe Feinstein, the Satmar Rav.

Dr. Shapiro lists rabbis who often feared public disputes — Srida Aish (R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg), the Rav (Soloveitchik), Rabbi Chaim Herzog, and most everyone not in the first list.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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