Hungary – The Rebuilding Of Old Siget By Satmar Chasidim


      L-R: Rabbi Sholom Eliezer, 15th Avenue Satmar Rav; Yosef Weiss; and the Satmar Rebbe at the graves of the Kedushas Yom Tov and Rebbetzin Chana in the ohel.Hungary – The transfer of important former Jewish properties in the city of Siget has occurred after protracted negotiations, including intercession by several U.S. congressmen. The properties include the cemetery, shul complex, beis medrash, the Teitelbaum family home, and the mikvehs.

    This great achievement was accomplished by agents of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. Long years of work and untold effort were necessary. The great endeavor was preceded, 10 years ago, by the acquisition of the cemeteries of Uheil, the burial place of the Yismach Moshe, by Yitzchok Schlesinger z”l, Sender Deutsch z”l, and Yosef Weiss, present director of the Satmar cemetery in Kiryas Yoel. The current effort was successfully spearheaded by Rabbi Yosef Meisels, Boro Park Satmar Dayan; son of Rabbi Dovid Dov Berish Meisels, Boro Park Satmar Rav; son-in-law of the Beirach Moshe. Rabbi Yosef had taken up residence in Siget for the duration.

    The ohel has been rebuilt and fortified. In accordance with the Satmar Rebbe’s directives, the ohel was not enlarged or changed in any way. Rabbi Moshe Hershaft, an expert from the London Vaad on Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, headed by Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, was present for any unforeseen problems. Plans to renew the family home of the Teitelbaum family in Siget, as well as the shul property, beis medrash, and mikvehs, are underway.

    Mission to Siget

    The yahrzeit of the Kedushas Yom Tov is on Thursday, the 29th of Shevat, February 3. A delegation of 350 chassidim will be accompanying the Satmar Rebbe to celebrate the yahrzeit. This is the third time since World War II that a large group will be there for the yahrzeit and the first time since it came under Jewish control. The group will remain in Siget for Shabbos Terumah, February 4-5. A highlight of the trip will be when the Rebbe sets the foundation corner stone for the rebuilding of the beis medrash.

    Siget, (Sighet, Sighetu, Sziget), Romania had only four Jews in its 1728 census. By 1740 there were enough Jews to constitute a permanent minyan. The 1746 census lists 10 Jewish families with 39 members. By 1787 the population of Siget had grown to 3,495 residents including 142 Jews. The Jewish population continued to increase following the partition of Poland in 1772, as families migrated south from Galicia. The first official Siget synagogue was built in 1807, and by 1828 there were 46 Jewish households.

    The number of Jews rose steadily through the remainder of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. Siget may have had as many as 20,000 Jews at the time of their deportation to Auschwitz on May 16, 1944. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Siget had the highest proportion of Jews of any Hungarian town.

    Today there are only 100 Jews residing in Siget. Nevertheless, whenever a minyan is needed, public prayers with an excess of a quorum are properly conducted. This has given Rabbi Yosef Meisels a level of comfort during his stay there.

    Teitelbaum Family in Siget

    The first member of the Teitelbaum family to serve as Rav in Siget was Rabbi Elazar Noson Teitelbaum, zt”l (1786-1855), Drohabitcher Rebbe, son of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, zt”l (1759-1841),Rav of Uheily and author of Yismach Moshe. Rabbi Elazar Noson was anointed Rav of Siget in 1834. His installment was a major event. His father, the Yismach Moshe, at that time the leading chassidishe rebbein Hungary-Romania and at the then-age of 75 the oldest, elected to participate in the crowning of his son in Siget. When word got out that the Yismach Moshe was going to be there, thousands ofchassidim arrived from points near and far for the special Shabbos.

    But Rabbi Elazar Noson felt Siget was not ripe for a religious revolution. The Jewish ladies, just like the peasant women who lived around them, did not wear shoes in their homes, and when they came to shul they came without shoes. Rabbi Elazar Noson’s rebbetzin, who was very learned, was unable to tolerate unrefined behavior. Shortly after his inauguration, Rabbi Elazar Noson left Siget.

    In 1858, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda (Zalman Leib) Teitelbaum, zt”l (1808-1883), author of Yetev Lev, was elected Rav of Siget. His wife, RebbetzinRochel, a”h, was the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Dovid Ashkenazi, zt”l (1774-1857), Rav of Toltsheva who emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1843 and became chief rabbi of Tzefas (Safed).The Yetav Lev immediately established a yeshiva. He began with young children, all of whom grew to be Talmudic scholars. Many of his responsa, published in his Avnei Tzedek, were intricate answers to the erudite questions posed by his students.

    The Yetav Lev was succeeded by his son Rabbi Chanaya Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum, zt”l (1836-1904), author of Kedushas Yom Tov. In 1864, he was appointed Rav in Tetsh, and in 1883 he was called to succeed his father. Like his father, he continued in the leadership role of all of Hungarian and Romanian Jewry. The Kedushas Yom Tov had two sons: Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum, zt”l Hy”d (1880-1926), author of Atzei Chaim, and Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l (1887-1979), revered Satmar Rebbe and author of Divrei Yoel.

    The Atzei Chaim succeeded his father, the Kedushas Yom Tov, as Rav of Siget. Sadly, the Atzei Chaim did not have longevity. He was married to Rebbetzin Bracha Sima, a”h (1880-1926), daughter of Rabbi Sholom Eliezer Halberstam, zt”l Hy”d (1862-1944), Ratzferter Rebbe; son of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, zt”l (1797-1876), revered Sanzer Rebbe and author of Divrei Chaim. The Atzei Chaim and his Rebbetzin had 16 children, most of whom perished at young ages.

    Two sons of the Atzei Chaim contributed to the history of Siget — Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda, zt”l Hy”d (1912-1944), and Rabbi Moshe, zt”l (1914-2006). Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda succeeded his father as Rav of Siget at the age of 15. At 17, he was married to Rebbetzin Rochel, the daughter of his uncle, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, author of Divrei Yoel, then Krula Rav. Sadly, Rebbetzin Rochel passed away one and a half years after their wedding (Beis Rochel Satmar Girls School is named in her honor).Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda married Rebbetzin Gitel Yehudis, a”h Hy”d (d. 1944), daughter of his other uncle, Rabbi Meshulem Zusha Yitzchak Halberstam, zt”l Hy”d (d. 1944); son of Rabbi Shalom Eliezer of Ratzfert.

    Rabbi Moshe, son of the Atzei Chaim, was orphaned at the age of 11 when both his parents passed away within months of each other in 1926. He was raised primarily by his grandfather, the Ratzferter Rebbe, and by his uncle, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, then Kruler Rav and later Satmar Rebbe. On September 4, 1936, Rabbi Moshe married Rebbetzin Chana, a”h Hy”d (d. 1944), daughter of Rabbi Chanoch Henoch Dov Myer, zt”l (1884-1942), Keretzkia Rebbe. Rabbi Moshe served as rosh yeshiva in Keretzkia under direction of his father-in-law until September 1941, when he was appointed Rav of the Hungarian city of Zenta, presently in Yugoslavia.

    Rebbetzin Chana and their three children were murdered in Auschwitz. Having survived the Holocaust, Rabbi Moshe remained at Theresenstadt to recuperate from Typhus while waiting anxiously for the roads to open. On April 9, 1945, still weak and listless, Rabbi Moshe left Theresestadt, seeking to reach Siget. En route, Rabbi Moshe was able to find chassidishe clothing in Prague and finally reached Siget in July.

    Returning to Siget after the Holocaust along with other survivors, Rabbi Moshe assumed the rabbinical seat of his martyred older brother, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda, his father, and his grandfathers. In the summer of 1945, Rabbi Moshe married Rebbetzin Pessel Leah, a”h (1922-2010), daughter of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, zt”l Hy”d (1881-1944), Nirbator Rav.

    In the fall of 1945, Rabbi Moshe learned of the pending communist takeover of Eastern Europe from a Jewish Russian soldier who advised that he leave. Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Pessel Leah immediately made plans to reach America. Unable to exit Romania through proper channels, Rabbi Moshe paid $500, a fortune at the time, to be smuggled, together with his Rebbetzin and escorts, through the border blockades. On Sunday, Tzom Gedalia, October 4, Rabbi Moshe arrived in America. He quickly traveled to 500 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he met his uncle, the Divrei Yoel, who had arrived from Palestine on September 27.

    Community members of Siget who arrived in Williamsburg before World War II had established their own beis medrash at 152 Hewes Street. Rabbi Moshe was invited to serve as their Ravand to live there. That shul served as the nucleus of the resurgence of the transplanted kehilla of Siget on American soil. In April 1965, Rabbi Moshe established the Sigeter Beis Medrash on 15th Avenue and 50th Street in Boro Park and moved his residence there. In 1971, Rabbi Moshe appointed his eldest son, Rabbi Aaron, Rav of the Sigeter Beis Medrash in Williamsburg.

    On Sunday, the 26th Av, August 19, 1979, world Jewry mourned the passing of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l, the revered Satmar Rebbe. Rabbi Moshe, his nephew, succeeded him. On Shabbos Shemini Atzeres, October 21-22, Rabbi Moshe entered the main Satmar Beis Medrash in Williamsburg as its leader. He preferred that for the first year he be called Siget-Satmar Rebbe, accepting the title of Satmar Rebbe only at the first yahrzeit of his uncle.

    Ohel in Siget

    The cemetery in Siget has the ohel (mausoleum) originally built immediately after the Yetev Lev passed away. The ohel was built above his gravesite. His RebbetzinRochel is also buried there. His successor, the Kedushas Yom Tov, and the Kedushas Yom Tov’s Rebbetzin Chana are buried in the ohel. Rebbeztin Chana, a”h, was the daughter of Rabbi Yoel Ashkenazi, zt”l (d. 1907), Rav of Zlochev and author of Mahari Ashkenazi. The Atzei Chaim and his Rebbetzin Bracha Sima are also in the ohel. Rebbeztin Rochel, the first wife of Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda (the second) is also buried in theohel. She was the last person to be buried in the ohel. Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda (the second) and his second wife, Rebbetzin Gitel Yehudis, were murdered in the Holocaust and are not in the ohel. Rabbi Moshe, son of the Atzei Chaim and the last Rav in Siget, is buried in the ohel of theDivrei Yoel in Kiryas Yoel.

    Continuation of Siget

    When the Beirach Moshe became Satmar Rebbe, his son Rabbi Aaron became Rav of the Boro Park Sigeter Beis Medrash. In 1984, when Rabbi Aaron was appointed Kiryas Yoel Rav and Satmar Rosh Yeshiva, his son, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, became Rav of the Williamsburg Siget Beis Medrash. In 1997, Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Antwerp Satmar Rav and his brother, Rabbi Chaim Hersh (Chaim Zvi), became Rav of the Williamsburg Siget Beis Medrash.

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