Skver (Hasidic dynasty)

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Skver (also Skvir or Skwere; Yiddish: סקווירא) is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Yitzchok Twerski in the city of Skver (as known in Yiddish; or Skvira, in present-day Ukraine). Followers of the rebbes of Skver are called Skverer hasidim.

The Skver synagogue in Skvyra, Ukraine - restored in 2004

The dynasty of Skver is a branch of the Chernobyl dynasty. Its founder, Rebbe Yitzchok, also known as Reb Itzikl, was one of the eight sons of Rabbi Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl.

There is currently one main off-shoot of the Skverer dynasty. It is led by Grand Rabbi Duvid Twersky, and is headquartered in New Square, New York. There are two other small groups: one, identified as Skver-Boro Park, is led by Grand Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky, son of the late Grand Rabbi David Twersky of Skwer-Boro Park; and one is identified as Skver-Flatbush.

Family tree[edit]
















 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twerski of Chernobyl (1730–1797),
disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch,
and author of Me'or Einayim
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Aaron of Karlin,
disciple of
the Maggid of Mezritch
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Dovid Leikes,
disciple of
the Baal Shem Tov
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chayah Sarah
 
 
 
Rabbi Rabbi Mordechai Twersky,
Maggid of Chernobyl
 
 
 
Feiga
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Aaron of Chernobyl
 
Rabbi Moshe of Karustshov
 
Rabbi Yakov Yisroel of Tcherkas
 
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Makarov
 
Rabbi Avraham, the Maggid of Turisk
 
Rabbi Dovid of Tolna
 
Rabbi Yitzchak of Skvira
 
Rabbi Yochanan of Rachmastrivka
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Makhnifke
 
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Shpikov
 
Rabbi Yisroel
 
daughter of R' Shlomo Wertheim of Savran
 
 
 
Rabbi Dovid'l (1848–1919) of Skver
 
 
 
daughter of R' Elyokim Getz of Ostraha
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Mordechai Twerski
 
 
Rabbi Shlomo Twersky
 
 
Rabbi Nachum Twersky
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky of Kishinev
 
Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky (1899–1968), previous rebbe of Skver and founder of New Square community
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yitschok Twersky of Skver
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Mordechai Hager, rebbe of Viznitz-Monsey
 
Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, rebbe of Rachmastrivka-Boro Park
 
 
Rabbi Duvid Twersky (born 1940), present rebbe of Skver and leader of New Square community
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Dovid Twersky of Skwer-Boro Park
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky of Skwer-Boro Park

History[edit]

The first Skverer Rebbe was Rabbi Hershele of Skver (Reb Hershele Skverer), a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov. When Rabbi Hershele settled in Skver (Skvira) he was elected to become the town rabbi in the shtutishe shil (Yiddish: שטאטישע שול = main shul in the city). Rabbi Hershele's daughter later married Yitzchok Twerski, called Reb Itzikl, the seventh son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl.

Reb Itzikl, founder of the dynasty[edit]

After Reb Hershele died on Chol Hamoed Succos 5548 (1788) the townspeople chose Rabbi Itzikl, the seventh son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl and Reb Hershele's son-in-law, as the next rabbi of Skver. According to Hasidic legend, Reb Itzikl was given the honor of leading the Atoh Horeiso prayer on the night of Shemini Atzeres, and his prayers moved the townspeople so much that he was immediately chosen to be the next rabbi. The election of a successor to Reb Hershele as the town rabbi, which had been scheduled to take place after the Sukkot holiday, was canceled as the townspeople had already agreed on their rabbi.

Rabbi Itzikl was married three times. He married his first wife, who was a granddaughter of Rabbi Yitzchok of Radvil and the Apter Rov, in 1783. They had two sons, Avrohom Yehoshua Heshil of Makhnovka and Menachum Nochum of Shpikov. His second wife Chaya Malka was a daughter of Rabbi Yisroel Friedman of Ruzhin. His third wife Chana Sima was the daughter of Rabbi (Tsvi) Hershele of Skver.

Unlike his father, Itzikl was a reticent sort and did not deliver public discourses as was common among other Hasidic rebbes. His successors generally did the same. The philosophy of general reticence and understatement in devotional behavior characteristic of Skver can be traced to this practice.

While Reb Itzikl was not a preacher, people traveled from afar to discuss their personal matters privately with Reb Itzikl. He established his Hasidic court in the center of the city, occasionally traveling to other towns in Ukraine.

Reb Itzikl is known in Hasidic legend as the filozof eloki, the Godly philosopher. He is said to have studied the works of Maharal extensively. There is evidence that he also studied medieval and pre-medieval works of Jewish philosophy, in departure from the common Hasidic practice to shun philosophical studies of fundamental faith issues.

The Haskala movement (the Jewish Enlightenment, not to be confused with the more general Age of Enlightenment), was sweeping through Eastern Europe in the late eighteenth century, and Reb Itzikl frequently attempted to debate and confront the Maskilim. A well-known tale relates that Reb Itzikl engaged in a fierce debate with a Maskil, and won the debate after citing an argument from Sefer Haikarim.

There are no published works by Reb Itzikl himself, although a collection of oral teachings (name needed) has been published by Skverer chasidim in recent years under the imprint of Mechon Mishkenos Yakov.

Reb Dovidl[edit]

Rabbi Itzikl's son by his third wife Chana Sima, Reb Dovidl, succeeded his father as Skverer Rebbe. He was known to be ascetic and exceedingly reticent. He once said, "Men shvagt un men shvagt, dernoch riet men abisl un men shvagt vater" ("We keep silent and we keep silent; then we rest a bit, and go on keeping silent").

In 1919 Rebbe Dovidl left Skvira for Kiev due to the Bolshevik revolution, which left smaller cities and towns unsafe. He stayed in Kiev until his death (on 15 Kislev 5680) later that year. He left no published works.

Reb Yakov Yosef[edit]

Rebbe Dovidl's son, Rebbe Yakov Yosef (1899–1968), was revered as an exceptionally pious man. In 1925 he married Trana, the daughter of Rabbi Pinye of Ustilla and granddaughter of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach of Belz. As a young man he lived in Belz and later adopted some of the Belzer customs. A few years later he set up court in Kalarash, Romania (now Călăraşi, Moldova),[1] and later in Iaşi. After World War II he lived in Bucharest.

After the war Rabbi Yakov Yosef came to the United States. Disappointed with American materialism and decadence, he was immediately overcome by a desire to create a rural community far from the hustle and bustle of New York life. It is said that soon after he arriving on American shores he said to his followers, "If I weren't so embarrassed, I'd turn around and head back immediately."

Building a shtetl[edit]

After spending a few years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where his home and synagogue became a beacon for many who sought his counsel, he established a community in what was then rural Rockland County, New York, and named it New Square. Establishing the village and its institutions became his life's work. It was the first such Shtetl in America, and was later emulated by a number of other groups.

In 1956, with a handful of followers, Rabbi Yakov Yosef moved to New Square.

The present rebbe[edit]

Skverer Rebbe dancing with the Torah

After Reb Yakov Yosef's death in 1968, his son, Rabbi Duvid Twersky, took over the community's leadership. The community grew to new prominence under his guidance. To this day, Rabbi Twersky counts close to twenty thousand followers, with institutions all over the world. Aside from its headquarters in New Square and its branches in New York City, the group maintains institutions in Canada, England and Israel. Its School in New Square counts close to five thousand students. Each Shabbos he runs three tishn, and his chasidim file past him five times.

Due to immense population growth in New Square (close to 1,300 families), the new village of Kiryas Square has recently been inaugurated in Spring Glen, New York.[2]

Reb Itzikl Skverer of Boro Park[edit]

Rebbe Dovidl's eldest son, Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, died in the same year as his father in Kiev. During those difficult times many Jews fled Ukraine and came to America.

Rabbi Mordechai's son, Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, also left Bessarabia and came to America, arriving in 1923. Eventually he settled in the Borough Park, Brooklyn and opened his shul on 45th Street between 13th and 14th Avenue.

Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky died while his son Rabbi Dovid Twersky was still young. Although there were not many vibrant Hasidic communities in America in those days, he was raised in a Hasidic atmosphere in his mother's house where he was guarded against the influences of the American culture. Later, when his uncle the Grand Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky of Skver came to America, his mother asked Rabbi Yakov Yosef to look after him and teach him. When Rabbi Dovid grew older he took over the leadership of the shul of his late father, and devoted his life to help a fellow Jew. Rabbi Dovid Twersky was known for his expertise and influence with many in the medical field, and consequently, was often sought out for advice. He died in 2001 and was succeeded by his son, Yechiel Michl Twersky, the Skwerer Rebbe of Boro Park.

Institutions of Skwer-Boro Park[edit]

Institutions of Skwer-Boro Park include:

  • Bais Yitzchok boys' school. (Founded by the late Grand Rabbi Dovid Twersky around 1980, the school currently has an enrolment of about a thousand girls).
  • Tomer Devorah girls' school (named after Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky).

There are also summer camps for the boys and girls where they enjoy a range of programs in the summer months.

Dynasty lineage[edit]

  • Grand Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov — founder of Hasidism.
    • Grand Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl (1730–1797) — author of Meor Einayim and Yesamach Lev; disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.
      • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Twersky (1770–1837) — also known as the Chernobyler Magid (Preacher of Chernobyl); son of the Meor Einayim; author of Keser Torah.
        • Grand Rabbi Yitzchok (Itzikl) Twersky of Skver (1812–1885) — son of the Magid of Chernobyl; son-in-law of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Skver, a patrilineal descendant of the Baal Shem Tov;
          • Grand Rabbi David (Duvidl) Twersky of Skver (1848–1919) — son of Rebbe Itzikl.
            • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Twersky of Skver (1868–1919) — son of Rebbe Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky of Skver (1888–1941) — arrived in America in 1923, son of Rabbi Mordechai.
                • Grand Rabbi David Twersky of Skver-Boro Park (1922–2001) — son of Rabbi Yitzchak.
                  • Grand Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky — present Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park, son of Rabbi David.
            • Grand Rabbi Shlomo Twersky of Skver (1870–1921) — son of Rebbe Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Elazar Twersky of Faltitshan-Skver (1893–1976) — Rebbe of Faltitshan (Fălticeni, Romania); son of Rabbi Shlomo; arrived in America in 1947.
                • Grand Rabbi Yisrael Avraham Stein of Faltitshan (1915–1989) — Rabbi of Faltitshan, and Faltitshaner Rebbe in Brooklyn; son-in-law of Rabbi Elazar; arrived in America in 1946.
                  • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Stein of Faltitshan — present Faltitshaner Rabbe, son of Rabbi Yisrael Avraham.
            • Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twerski of Skver (1899–1968) — Rebbe of New Square; son of Rabbi Duvidl;
              • Grand Rabbi Duvid Twersky of Skver — present Rebbe of New Square and Grand Rabbi of the Skverer Hasidim worldwide; son of Rebbe Yaakov Yosef.

Philosophy and lifestyle[edit]

Skverer Hasidism stresses Torah study, prayer, and abstention from excessive earthly pleasures in order to achieve purity of heart and mind. To that end, the Village of New Square was established, where residents are sheltered from influences deemed decadent.

A central part of the lifestyle is the attachment to the rebbe. As with most Hasidic groups today, the Rebbe's position is generally attained through his lineage. However, to be accepted by the masses, the Rebbe is expected to display behaviors such as humility, love for fellow Jews, and general devotion to God's service. The rebbe, as tzadik or righteous person, is seen as a conduit to God for the masses.

Modes of dress for Skverer hasidim are generally similar to those of other Hasidic groups, especially that of Vizhnitz, Belz, and Klausenberg. Weekday attire for men consists of long coats called rekels and velvet hats. On Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath), Jewish holidays and special occasions the men wear long black coats made of silk (or imitation silk made from polyester) called bekishes. Married men also wear fur hats called shtreimels, and knee-high leather boots known as shtievl.

Married women wear wigs, generally with an additional covering over it, such as a hat or kerchief, and wear modest clothing with wrist-length sleeves, fully covered necklines, and stockings.

Although all Haredim and Hasidim stress fealty to established traditions, for Skverer Hasidism it is stressed exceedingly, and is a cornerstone of their philosophy.[citation needed]

Actor Steven Hill is a staunch Skverer Hasid.[3]

Important literature[edit]

  • Meor Eynayim by the first rebbe of Chernobyl, Rebbe Menachem Nachum Twersky.
  • Toldos Yaakov Yosef, by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Hakohen of Polnoye, disciple of the Baal Shem Tov;
  • Ohr ha-Chaim ("the light of life"), by Rabbi Haim Ben-Attar. (Traditionally studied on Friday nights (on the eve of the Sabbath). The book is especially treasured by Skverer Hasidim.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tamir, Noah. Sefer Kalarash, p. 35
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ BENSOUSSAN, BARBARA. "The Master Storyteller: Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Hill Tells His Story", Mishpacha Issue 315, June 30, 2010.

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Yachas Chernobyl V'Ruzhin, by David Aaron Twerski of Zhurik
  • Reb Itzikl Skverer, by Leibel Surkis, New Square, NY, 1997
  • Bikdusha Shel Ma'la, Biography of Rabbi Yakov Yosef (Twerski) of Skver, by Mechon Mishkenos Yakov, 2005