January 13, 1887|
Sighet, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary
|Died||August 19, 1979
Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City, United States
|Resting place||Kiryas Joel Cemetery|
|Known for||Founder of the Satmar dynasty|
Joel Teitelbaum (Hebrew: יואל טייטלבוים pro. Yoel Teitelboim; 13 January 1887 - 19 August 1979) also known as Reb Yoelish or the Satmar Rav (or Rebbe), was a Hasidic Rebbe and Talmudic scholar who established the Satmar Hasidic dynasty. A major figure in the postwar renaissance of Hasidism, he was known for his fierce opposition to Zionism, which he viewed as inherently heretical and the cause for Jewish suffering in the 20th Century.
Early years 
According to Satmar spokesman Rabbi Edgar Gluck, Teitelbaum was born on 13 January 1887. He was the fifth, youngest child and second son of Grand Rabbi Chananyah Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum (1836–1904) and his second wife Chana née Ashkenazi. His father served as the rabbi of Sighet and the leader of the eponymous Hasidic dynasty based in the city. Yoel was renowned for his intellectual capacities from a young age. After his father died and his older brother Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum succeeded him, Yoel moved to Satu Mare (in Yiddish, Satmar) where he gathered a small following. In 1911 he became rabbi of Irshava (then Ilosva), and in 1925 he was elected chief rabbi of Krole (Nagykaroly or Carei) near Satu Mare. In 1928, he was invited to become the rabbi of Satu Mare, but opposition to his appointment led to fighting and he was unable to take up his position until 1934.
Personal life and family 
In 1904, at age 17, Teitelbaum married Chavah née Horowitz, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Chaim Horowitz, the Plontcher Rav. After her death in 1936, he remarried in 1937 the rabbi's 25 year old daughter Alte Faige née Shapiro from Czestochowa, Poland. He had three daughters from his first marriage: Esther, Rachel and Roysele. They all died in his lifetime: Esther died during childhood; Rachel died 6 months after she married her first cousin, Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum (II), the rabbi of Sighet; and Roysele (the only of his children to survive the holocaust), who married Lipa Teitelbaum, the Semihaya Rav, and died in 1953 in the US. His second wife did not have any children. Thus, whilst his second wife survived him, he had no living descendants at the time of his death. This was the source of a succession dispute after his death.
The Holocaust 
During the Holocaust, Teitelbaum and his wife were rescued in 1944 in Nazi-controlled Transylvania as a result of a deal between a Hungarian Zionist official, Rudolph Kastner, and a deputy of Adolf Eichmann. Although the Kastner train, on which they were passengers, was first re-routed by the Germans to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the Teitelbaums reached Switzerland.
United States 
They briefly lived in Jerusalem after the war, but, at the request of some of his followers who had emigrated to the United States, Teitelbaum settled instead in 1947 in Williamsburg located in northern Brooklyn in New York City. There he attracted many new followers and established a large community in the densely Orthodox neighborhood. In 1953, he also became Rabbinical Court President of the anti-Zionist Congregation of God-Fearers in Jerusalem, and visited Israel every few years.
Town Founder 
Starting in the early 1960s, his envoys searched for a location outside Williamsburg to establish a new self-contained community for his disciples and their families, eventually deciding upon Monroe, New York where a new settlement known as Kiryas Joel (Town of Joel) was launched. The first families settled in 1974. On Shabbat Shekalim (24 February) 1968, he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed and barely functioning. His wife, backed by several sextons and other functionaries, became the behind-the-scenes power in Satmar. When he died in August 1979, reputedly over 100,000 people attended his funeral in Kiryas Joel. He was succeeded by his nephew, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, who divided the control of the Williamsburg and Monroe Satmar communities between two of his own sons.
Opposition to modern Zionism 
Teitelbaum was renowned for his vocal opposition to Zionism in all arenas. He encouraged his followers to form self-sufficient communities without assistance from the secular State of Israel and forbade any "official" engagement with it.
Before World War II, most Hassidic rabbis, as well as many other prominent Orthodox rabbis and leaders, believed that God had promised to return the Jewish people to the land of Israel under the leadership of a Jewish Messiah, who would arrive when the Jewish people had merited redemption. While awaiting the Messiah, the Jewish people were to perform the mitzvot and, in addition, were not to antagonize or rebel against the gentile nations of the world . In the years following the Holocaust, Teitelbaum undertook to strengthen this position.
In the view of Teitelbaum's followers, the founding of the modern State of Israel, founded by secular as well as religious Jews, rather than a Jewish Messiah, violated the fundamental Satmar vision that Jews should wait for the Messiah. Moreover, the Satmar Rebbe taught that the existence of the Zionist State of Israel was actually preventing the Messiah from coming.
The three oaths 
The core citations from classical Judaic sources cited by Teitelbaum in his arguments against modern Zionism are based on a passage in the Talmud, Rabbi Yosi b'Rebbi Hanina explains (Kesubos 111a) that the Lord imposed "Three Oaths" on the nation of Israel: a) Israel should not return to the Land together, by force; b) Israel should not rebel against the other nations; and c) The nations should not subjugate Israel too harshly.
According to Teitelbaum, the second oath is relevant concerning the subsequent wars fought between Israel and Arab nations. He views the Zionist State of Israel as a form of "impatience" and in keeping with the Talmud's warnings that being impatient for God's love leads to "grave danger". Satmar Hasidism explains that the constant wars in Israel are a fulfilment of ignoring this oath.
Teitelbaum saw his opposition to Zionism as a way of protecting Jewish lives and preventing bloodshed. Although some Haredi rabbis may agree with this idea, the general view of Agudath Israel and many other orthodox rabbis is that for all practical purposes, through participating in the Israeli government, efforts can be made to promote religious Judaism in Israel. Teitelbaum, however, felt that any participation in the Israeli government, even voting in elections, was a grave sin, because it contributes to the spiritual and physical destruction of innocent people. He was openly opposed to the views of Agudath Israel, and until the present time, the official Satmar movement refuses to become a member of the Agudath Israel organization or party. The Satmar view is that only the Jewish Messiah can bring about a new Jewish government in Eretz Israel, and even if a government declaring itself religious would be formed before the Messiah, it would be illegitimate due to its improper arrogation of power.
While the Satmar Hasidim are opposed to the present secular government of Israel, many of them live in and visit Israel. Teitelbaum himself lived for about a year in Jerusalem after his escape from Europe, but before the establishment of the State of Israel, and visited Israel after moving to the United States.
Other Opinions 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2011)|
Teitelbaum was very stringent in many particulars of Jewish law. He argued with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein over the proper height of a mechitza (divider between men and women in the synagogue). Feinstein held that the mechitza need go only up to the shoulders of the average woman, while Teitelbaum opined that the mechitza should not allow women to be seen at all.
Teitelbaum encouraged all married chassidic men to wear ceremonial fur hats. Although these were not worn by most chassidic men in Hungary before the war, Teitelbaum felt that in America it was more important for people to look very different from the non-Jews, in order to prevent assimilation, which was far more rampant in America than it had been in Hungary.
Teitelbaum held that boys and girls shouldn't meet more than two or three times before getting engaged.
Teitelbaum stressed the importance of tznius for women. He was a strong proponent of the Hungarian hasidic custom for married women to shave their head every month before immersion in the mikveh (ritual bath). He also strongly opposed the wearing of wigs by married women. He felt on Jewish legal grounds that this was prohibited; he wanted women to cover their hair with something else instead, such as a turban. He also insisted that all women and girls wear thick, brown stockings with seams. The stockings had to be at least 90 denier. Due to the lack of a general market for such stockings, Teitelbaum encouraged one of his hasidim to manufacture the stockings on his own. The stockings were called "Palm," the English translation of Teitelbaum's last name.
Teitelbaum prohibited the ownership of a television in the house. This was in the 1950s, when TV was still heavily censored for promiscuous content. He also bought and oversaw his own Yiddish language newspaper, Der Yid, for two reasons: First, he felt that the other Yiddish newspapers at the time contained articles that were prohibited to read—because of their promiscuous content and because they didn't respect haredi leaders. In addition, Teitelbaum wanted a platform from which to spread his anti-Zionist ideas.
Teitelbaum's works include collections of responsa and novelae (scholarly contributions to Talmudic debates) entitled Divrei Yoel and Al HaGeulah V'Al HaTemurah this was written with the help of the late Rabbi N.Y. Meisels. He also authored a brief introduction to the Talmudic tractate Shabbos for a Holocaust-era printing in Romania. His exposition of his belief that Zionism is prohibited by Halakha ("Jewish law") is entitled VaYoel Moshe. There are also collections of his speeches entitled, Hidushei Torah MHR"I Teitelbaum.
- Vayoel Moshe (1958)
- Al HaGeulah VeAl HaTemurah (1967)
- Divrei Yoel
- Dibros Kodesh
Further reading 
- Farbstein, Esther, Sermons Speak History: Rabbinic Dilemmas in Internment between Metz and Auschwitz. Modern Judaism, May 2007
- Meisels, Dovid. The Rebbe. The extraordinary life and worldview of Rabbeinu Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. Distributed by Israel Book Shop, Lakewood, New Jersey, 2010. ISBN 978-1-60091-130-9
- Weisshaus, Yechezkel Yossef. The Rebbe. A Glimpse into the Daily Life of the Satmar Rebbe Rabbeinu Yoel Teitelbaum. Translated by Mechon Lev Avos from Sefer Eidis B'Yosef by Rabbi Yechezkel Yosef Weisshaus. Machon Lev Avos. Distributed by Israel Book Shop, Lakewood, New Jersey, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60091-063-0
See also 
- "Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum Dies at 92; Leader of the Satmar Hasidic Sect; Opposed State of Israel Moved to Brooklyn in 1946". The New York Times. August 20, 1979. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Nadler, Allan. "Satmar Hasidic Dynasty". The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Sherman, Moshe D. (1996). Orthodox Judaism in America. A biographical dictionary and sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 209–211. ISBN 978-0-313-24316-5.
- Martin, Douglas (June 13, 2001). "Faiga Teitelbaum, 89, a Power Among the Satmar Hasidim". The New York Times.
- "Rav Yoel Teitelbaum - The Satmarer Rebbe". OU, The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
- Rubinstein, Avraham. "Teitelbaum". Encyclopaedia Judaica. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Ed.), Vol. 19., Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2007. pp. 582–583. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- "Kiryas Joel". Encyclopaedia Judaica. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Ed.), Vol. 12., Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2007. pp. 191–192. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Vayoel Moshe, Three Oaths, Chapter 69. Teitelbaum quotes Sanhedrin 98b: "Rabbi Hama son of Hanina said: The son of David will not come until even the pettiest kingdom ceases [to have power] over Israel" Rashi explains that this means the Jews won't even have the least amount of sovereignty. Since the Messiah won't arrive while Jews have any sovereignty, the State of Israel prevents the arrival of the Messiah. (However, elsewhere Teitelbaum implicitly allows for the Messianic Kingdom to immediately replace the State of Israel without any sovereign holding power in between. See Teitelbaum's Divrei Yoel on the Pentateuch, Vol. 3, Page 250.)
- Biography at OU.org
- "My Neighbor, My Father, The Rebbe"
- Joel Teitelbaum at Find a Grave
- Nadler, Allan, The Riddle of the Satmar. Jewish Ideas Daily, February 17, 2011