Monday, May 01, 2006

Shiva Me Timbers!

Why is it that religion, which is supposed to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy, often brings out the absolute worst in people?

Case in point, last week a fistfight broke out among mourners in an Orange County synagogue just before the body of Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum was buried. The late rebbe was the leader of the 120,000-member, ultra-Orthodox Satmar and the violent clash, which required extra police to be called out, was about what?

A. The food served at the meeting hall after the funeral was not kosher.
B. The rebbe’s family was outraged when a member of the press tried to take a photograph of the deceased and attacked him.
C. A woman claiming to be the rebbe’s illegitimate daughter snuck into the funeral and wanted to sit with the family.
D. A family feud concerning who would take over the leadership of the Satmar group.


D: Big surprise, it was a family feud. And what a family feud, the Satmar group has assets of more than $500 million. The violent outburst played out even as the Teitelbaum family sat shiva at the late rebbe’s home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The fight at Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar in Kiryas Joel was the latest example of the battle between the rebbe’s sons, Zalmen Teitelbaum, 53, the rebbe’s designated successor, and his brother Aron Teitelbaum, 57, the head of the sect’s Kiryas Joel congregation in Orange County. The older brother’s supporters say he has rejected the rabbinical court’s decision that Zalmen take the reins of the Satmar group and believes his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Isaac Abraham, a Hasidic community leader in Brooklyn, said it might be a good idea to split the leadership between the two brothers. “Can this be done by one person? Impossible,” Abraham said. “This job is harder than the President’s.”


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