Ger (Hasidic dynasty)

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Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter with his entourage vacationing in Europe.

Ger, or Gur (or Gerrer when used as an adjective) is a Hasidic dynasty originating from Ger, the Yiddish name of Góra Kalwaria, a small town in Poland. The founder of the dynasty was Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798–1866), known as the Chiddushei HaRim after his primary scholarly work by that title.

Prior to the Holocaust, followers of Ger were estimated to numbered in excess of 100,000,[1] making it one of the largest and most influential Hasidic groups in Poland.[2][3] Today the movement is based in Jerusalem and its membership is estimated at 13,000 families, most of whom live in Israel, making the largest Hasidic dynasty in Israel.[4] However, there are also well established Ger communities in Brooklyn, NY, Los Angeles, CA and London, UK.[citation needed]

History[edit]

After the death of the Kotzker Rebbe in 1859, the vast majority of his Hasidim chose Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Kotzker Rebbe's brother-in-law and his closest disciple, as their new rebbe. At the time, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir lived in Warsaw and led the main Kotzker shtiebel there (on ul. Zelazna). Shortly after accepting the leadership of the Kotzker Rebbe's Hasidim, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was appointed as Rav and Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court) of Ger. Relocating to Ger, he became the founding rebbe of the Gerrer dynasty. During his seven years of leadership, the Chassidus flourished, causing it to be known as the "seven years of plenty".[5]

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter in Europe.

After Rabbi Yitzchak Meir's death in 1866, his Hasidim wanted his eighteen-year old grandson, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, to succeed him. When Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib refused to accept this position, most of the Hasidim became followers of the elderly Hasid, Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin, formerly rabbi of Prushnits and Krushnevits and now retired to Alexander. After Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh died in 1870, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib (who became known posthumously as the Sfas Emes) acceded to the request of the Hasidim to become their next rebbe. Despite his youth, he was quickly accepted amongst the rebbes of Poland.

The Gerrer movement flourished under the leadership of Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib and his eldest son and successor, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (known as the Imrei Emes). In 1926, in a bold departure for Polish Hasidim, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai established a yeshiva in Jerusalem, naming it for his father, the Sfas Emes. The first rosh yeshiva was Rabbi Nechemiah Alter, a brother of the Imrei Emes. Today the yeshiva remains the flagship of the Gerrer yeshivas. A branch was set up in Tel Aviv, later to be called Yeshivas Chiddushei HaRim.

Distribution of Gerrer Hasidim[edit]

Almost all Gerrer Hasidim living in pre-war Europe (approximately 200,000 Hasidim) were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.[citation needed] Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, who managed to escape, set about the task of rebuilding the movement in the British Mandate of Palestine.

Under its post-war leaders, the movement began to flourish again. Presently, on major occasions such as Shavuos, more than 12,000 Hasidim may gather in the main Gerrer beth midrash.

Large communities of Gerrer Hasidim exist in Israel in Ashdod, Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, as well as in New York, Lakewood, New Jersey, Los Angeles, London, Antwerp, Zurich and Toronto. Several satellite communities have also been established in small towns in Israel, such as Arad in the Negev desert, Hatzor HaGlilit in the Galilee, Kiryat HaRim Levin in Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat.

Ger maintains a well-developed educational network of Talmud Torahs, yeshivas, and kollels, as well as Beis Yaakov schools for girls. Its leaders dominate the Agudat Israel religious movement and political party in Israel.[citation needed]

Identifying features of Ger[edit]

The men are distinguished by their dark hasidic garb, and by their pants tucked into their socks called hoyzn-zokn (not to be confused with the breeches, called halber-hoyzn, worn by some other hasidic groups). They wear a round felt hat, and a high, almost-pointed kapel. On Shabbos and Jewish holidays, married men wear the high circular fur hat of the Polish Hasidim, called a spodik by Galitzyaners (not to be confused with the much flatter shtreimel worn by married men in Hasidic groups which do not hail from Congress Poland).

Ger follows the way of the Kotzker Rebbe in stressing service of God in a sharp and objective way, as opposed to the mystical and spiritual orientation of other Hasidic groups. Ger also places much emphasis on Talmud study. During both Friday night and Shabbos morning services, worshipers take a break — usually one hour long — which is devoted to Torah study.

Hebrew is spoken, unlike other Hasidic movements where Yiddish is used.

Ger Hasidut produced one of the most prolific composers of Jewish liturgical music of all time, Yankel Talmud (1885-1965). Known as "the Beethoven of the Gerrer Rebbes",[6] Talmud composed dozens of new melodies every year for the prayer services, including marches, waltzes, and dance tunes. Though he had no musical training and could not even read music,[7] Talmud composed over 1,500 melodies,[8][9] most of them sung by him and his choir in the main Ger synagogue in Poland and in Israel.[6] Several of Talmud's compositions are still widely sung today, including his rousing "Shir Hamaalos" march tune, performed at many weddings, and "Lo Sevoshi", sung in Hasidic shtiebels.[10]

The 4th Gerrer Rebbe[edit]

Under the leadership of the fourth Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Alter, known as the Beis Yisrael, Ichud Mosdos Gur (the Union of Gerrer Institutions) was established as the responsible body for funding all the educational institutions affiliated with Ger in Israel. Currently there are about 100 such institutions.

The Beis Yisrael rebuilt Ger after its virtual destruction in World War II.[citation needed]

Gerrer dynastic leadership[edit]

Grave of Yitzchak Meir Alter and Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (second left) - Symbol on Jewish gravestone = Pushke.
Note: The alternate name for each rebbe (given in italics) is the name by which the rebbe is known after his death. This sobriquet, traditionally bestowed by his successor upon his acceptance of the mantle of leadership, is used as the title for his collected writings, which are published posthumously; by extension, it is also used to refer to the rebbe himself. During his lifetime, the given name of the rebbe is not used; he is simply referred to as "The Rebbe, shlita [may he live long]".
  1. Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798 – March 10, 1866), also known as the Chiddushei HaRim. Notable student of the Kotzker Rebbe and a prominent contemporary posek. Assumed leadership of the Hasidim in 1859.
  2. Grand Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847–1905), also known as the Sfas Emes. Born in Warsaw, Poland. Died in Góra Kalwaria. Wrote Talmudic works and Maharal-style Torah commentaries that are known within and outside Hasidic streams. Gerrer Rebbe from 1870 to 1905.
  3. Grand Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (December 25, 1866 – June 3, 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes. Gerrer rebbe from 1905 to 1948.
  4. Grand Rabbi Yisrael Alter (October 12, 1895 – February 20, 1977), also known as the Beis Yisroel. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1948 to 1977.
  5. Grand Rabbi Simchah Bunim Alter (April 6, 1898 – August 6, 1992), also known as the Lev Simcha. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1977 to 1992.
  6. Grand Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter (June 9, 1926 – March 7, 1996), also known as the Pnei Menachem. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1992 to 1996.
  7. Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter (born 1939). Only son of Rabbi Simcha Bunim. Gerrer Rebbe from 1996 to the present.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Estēr Farbšṭeyn (1 October 2007). Hidden in Thunder. Feldheim Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 978-965-7265-05-5. Retrieved 31 July 2013. During this venerated rebbe's lifetime, the Ger court spread farther than ever before; some estimates of the number of his followers before the Holocaust exceed 100,000. 
  2. ^ Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica 8. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-02-865936-7. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life: Before and During the Holocaust. NYU Press. p. 1430. ISBN 978-0-8147-9356-5. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Simeon D. Baumel (2006). Sacred Speakers: Language And Culture Among The Haredim In Israel. Berghahn Books. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-84545-062-5. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  5. ^ After Genesis 41:47.
  6. ^ a b Bleich, Chanania. "Remembering Reb Yankel Talmud". Ami, 1 September 2013, pp. 128–132.
  7. ^ Mandelbaum, Dovid Avrohom (2005). היכל הנגינה [The Chamber of Music] (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Machon HM”Y. p. 213. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Werdyger, Duvid; Finkel, Avraham Yaakov (1993). Songs of Hope. CIS Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 1-56062-226-1. 
  9. ^ "Accompanying Notes by Cantor Moshe Haschel for Shabbat Shira". pelorous.totallyplc.com. 3–4 February 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Mandelbaum (2005), p. 215.
  • Alfasi, Yitzchak (2005), בית גור The House of Ger (2 vols) (4th ed.), Bnei Brak: Moriah 
  • Leff, Nosson Chayim (2010), Personal Correspondence 

External links[edit]

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