Skver (Hasidic dynasty)

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Skver (also Skvir, Skvere, Skwere, or Square; Yiddish: סקווירא) is a Chasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Yitzchok Twersky in the city of Skver (known in Yiddish), or Skvyra, in present-day Ukraine during the mid-19th century. Adherents of the rebbes of Skver are known as Skverer Hasidim.

The Skver synagogue in Skvyra, Ukraine, restored in 2004

The Skver dynasty 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 are currently three rebbes of the Skverer dynasty:

  • David Twersky, who leads the largest and most prominent branch, headquartered in New Square, New York.
  • Yechiel Michl Twersky, son of the late Rebbe David ("Reb Duvid'l") Twersky, who heads the Skver-Boro Park community.
  • Yitzchok Twersky, son of the late Reb Mottel Twersky, who leads the Skver-Flatbush community.

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 Klausenburg. Weekday attire for men consists of long coats, called rekls, 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. Today, married men also wear fur hats, called shtreimels, and knee-high leather boots known as shtievl.

Married women usually wear a wig, often with an additional covering over it, such as a scarf or a hat, and wear modest clothing, with long, conservative skirts, long sleeves, fully covered necklines, and stockings.


The first Rebbe of Skver 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 Rabbi Yitzchok Twersky (called Reb Itzikl), the seventh son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl.

Reb Itzikl, founder of the dynasty[edit]

After Hershele died on Chol Hamoed Succos, 5548 (1788), Itzikl, the seventh son of Mordechai of Chernobyl and Hershele's son-in-law, became the next rabbi of Skver.

Itzikl was married three times. He married his first wife, 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.

Itzikl is known in Hasidic legend as the filozof eloki ("the Godly philosopher"). The Haskala movement (the "Jewish Enlightenment"), was sweeping through Eastern Europe in the late eighteenth century, and Itzikl frequently attempted to debate and confront the Maskilim.

There are no published works by Itzikl himself, but a collection of oral teachings called "Yalkut Meorei Or" (among other books) has been published by Skverer Hasidim in recent years under the imprint of Mechon Mishkenos Yakov.

Reb Avraham Yeshia Heshil[edit]

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, "Meh schvagt un meh schvagt, dernouch rehdt mehn abisl, un meh schvagt vahter" ("(We/they) stay silent, and (we/they) stay silent; then (we/they) speak a bit, and (we/they) further stay 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.

Skver in the U.S.: The New Square Faction[edit]

Reb Yakov Yosef[edit]

Rebbe Dovidl's son, Rebbe Yakov Yosef (1899–1968) married Trana, the daughter of Rabbi Pinye of Ustilla and granddaughter of Yissachar Dov Rokeach of Belz, in 1925. 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.

In 1948, after surviving the war in Romania, Yakov Yosef came to the United States.

After spending a few years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn he established a community in what was then rural Rockland County, New York, and named it New Square, where he moved with a few followers in 1956.

Duvid Twersky[edit]

Duvid Twersky, 2008

After Yakov Yosef's death in 1968 his son Duvid Twersky became rebbe. 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 has close to five-thousand students.[citation needed]

Skver in the U.S.: Other branches[edit]

Reb Itzikl Skverer[edit]

Rebbe Dovidl's eldest son, Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, died in the same year, before 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 Borough Park, Brooklyn, and opened his shul on 47th 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 what they considered the "harmful influences" of American culture. 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, Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Twersky, the Skwerer Rebbe.

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 SarahRabbi Rabbi Mordechai Twersky,
Maggid of Chernobyl
Rabbi Aaron of ChernobylRabbi Moshe of KarustshovRabbi Yakov Yisroel of TcherkasRabbi Menachem Nachum of MakarovRabbi Avraham, the Maggid of TuriskRabbi Dovid of TolnaRabbi Yitzchak of SkviraRabbi Yochanan of Rachmastrivka
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of MakhnifkeRabbi Menachem Nachum of ShpikovRabbi Yisroeldaughter of R' Shlomo Wertheim of SavranRabbi Dovid'l (1848–1919) of Skverdaughter of R' Elyokim Getz of Ostraha
Rabbi Mordechai TwerskiRabbi Shlomo TwerskyRabbi Nachum TwerskyRabbi Yitzchak Twersky of KishinevRabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky (1899–1968), previous rebbe of Skver and founder of New Square community
Rabbi Yitschok Twersky of SkverRabbi Mordechai Hager, rebbe of Viznitz-Monsey (died 2018)[2]Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, rebbe of Rachmastrivka-Borough ParkRabbi Duvid Twersky (born 1940), present rebbe of Skver and leader of New Square community
Rabbi Dovid Twersky of Skwer-Borough Park
Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky of Skwer-Borough Park

Institutions of Skver[edit]

Institutions of Skver include:

  • Bais Yitzchok boys' school (named after Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky).
  • Tomer Devorah girls' school (founded by the late Grand Rabbi Dovid Twersky around 1960; the school currently has an enrollment of about two-thousand girls).

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- (1922–2001) — son of Rabbi Yitzchak.
                  • Grand Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky — present Skverer Rebbe, son of Rabbi David.
                  • Grand Rabbi Avroham Yehoshua Heshel Twersky — Nusi Mosdos Skwere, son of Rabbi David
            • Grand Rabbi Shlomo Twersky of Skver (1870–1921) — son of Rebbe Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Eluzar Twersky of Faltishan-Skver (1893–1976) — Rebbe of Faltishan (Fălticeni, Romania); son of Rabbi Shlomo; arrived in America in 1947.
                • Grand Rabbi Yisrael Avraham Stein of Faltishan (1915–1989) — Rabbi of Faltishan, and Faltishaner Rebbe in Brooklyn; son-in-law of Rabbi Elazar; arrived in America in 1946.
                  • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Stein of Faltishan — present Faltishaner Rabbe; son of Rabbi Yisrael Avraham.
                • Rabbi Avrom Twersky of Faltishan (ca. 1920-1985) — Rebbe of Faltishan Borough Park; son of Rabbi Eluzer.
                  • Grand Rabbi Shulem Meir Twersky — Present Faltishan Borough Park Rebbe; son of Rabbi Avrom.
            • 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.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tamir, Noah. Sefer Kalarash, p. 35
  2. ^ BERGER, JOSEPH (March 16, 2018). "Rabbi Mordechai Hager, Leader of Large Hasidic Sect, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018. Rabbi Mordechai Hager, the reserved but strong-willed leader of one of the nation's largest Hasidic sects, who settled many of his followers in a relatively bucolic upstate enclave to escape New York City's temptations and decadence, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 95.

External links[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