Satmar in Brooklyn:
A Zealot Community
WILLIAMSBURG, one of the oldest parts of Brooklyn, is the new home of the Hasidic followers of the Satmar Rebbe. Clustered in the areas to the east and south of the familiar great gold dome of the Williamsburg Savings Bank, visible even from across the bridge in Manhattan, live some fifteen hundred families who obey the Rebbe, leader of one of the three major sects that make up -together with numerous lesser groups- the Hasidic “shetl” in the borough of Brooklyn. The Lubavitcher, on Eastern Parkway, and the Klausenburger, also in Williamsburg, are the renowned leaders of the other two large groups. The Satmar Rebbe has won for himself a rather special place by his unrelenting, pure, and active hostility to what he regards as the “sacrilege” of the State of Israel and the “apostasy” of all non-Hasidic Jewry. The other sects of Hasidim have made their peace with Israel.
To get over to the Williamsburg “shtetl” by subway from Manhattan is unexpectedly complicated, as if one were in fact traveling to some foreign place. One must first seek, or even lose, one’s way in the underground complex at Canal Street and Broadway and find the subway there that speeds under Essex and Orchard and Clinton Streets-the memorable East Side of those earlier emigrations from all the shtetlach of East Europe- and over the Williamsburg Bridge to the Marcy Avenue station. Emerging, the visitor is very likely to be accosted by a pair of teenagers in the garb of the neighborhood-ear-locks hanging down from under a businessman’s fedora, ritual fringe showing at the waist-and handed a leaflet written in both Yiddish and English, excoriating the State of Israel.
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