Is this the Satmar that R’ Yoel z”l envisaged?

For many of you, this post is nothing new. Indeed, for me it should have been nothing new. Nonetheless, the incident shook me up. Yesterday I was about to get into my car in a street which has a sizeable number of Hungarian Haredi residents. From the distance, a boy on a bike called out, “Mr Balbin, Mr Balbin, do you remember me from xxx’s wedding? Do you still do weddings”. I waited till he and various other boys who were riding on their bikes approached. After apologising that I didn’t recognise him because I perform at many weddings and it’s hard for me to remember a single face in a crowd, we continued chatting amiably. There were 6 to 10 boys on their bikes in total. Their ages spanned (what looked to me to be) from 7 to 12 years of age. By now, each boy was staring at me. I asked each what type of chasid he was, expecting a range of responses. It turned out that they were all Satmar. We chatted and I informed them that I wasn’t a fan of Satmar ideology vis a vis the State of Israel and Satmar’s attitude towards people who were not yet frum. I explained that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had effectively paskened that the State of Israel is part of his plans and this is plain for all to see. I added that I don’t (at least I  try not to) “hate” any Jews. I wasn’t quite ready for the outpouring of pre-canned volcanic hate that subsequently erupted, although I hear you saying that I was asking for it by daring to question their views.

Satmar Rebbe ז’ל

I was informed (in rather yelling tones) that

  • the ציונים are Kofrim
  • the ציונים dig up kvaros to build hospitals
  • the ציונים caused the holocaust because they went against the Shalosh Sh’vuos
  • the ציונים should be hated not loved
  • and did I know Lubavitchers think their dead Rebbe is Moshiach (I think they brought this up because I said all Yidden should be loved)

Big deal, I hear you say. Haven’t you ever been to Meah Shearim or Williamsburg or “name a Satmar enclave”? This is Melbourne, though. Melbourne is/was unique. Even the Haredim are more tolerant of each other.

Where else in the world would you find a single Haredi Shule where Satmar, Belz, Viznitz, Slonim, you name it daven together? I always thought that Melbourne was different. I think it was different. It is quickly becoming no different, at least as far as these brainwashed boys is concerned.

I tried to tell them that

  • they should consider loving all Jews because all Jews were created B’Zelem Elokim (to which the response was “except the Zionim”)
  • there are people who question whether there are indeed Jewish graves being dug up, but more importantly there are authoritative Poskim who say that it’s okay to dig up and even if they disagree and their Poskim say that they shouldn’t, it’s no reason to “hate” and “carry on” against Yidden who are acting according to a written Psak Din
  • that the Shalosh Shvuos is widely held to be not L’Halacha but either way, I suggested that they acquaint themselves with the views of those who hold that the Shalosh Shvuos doesn’t apply and to “open their eyes”.

They looked at me like I was from planet mars, and asked me “where do you daven”. I saw this as a leading question. It would lead to the criticising of any Shule/community I davened with, as a means of discrediting anything that I said. This is how the ’thought’ processes worked. I told them that I daven “wherever people let me in”. That threw them off the track.

Perhaps what bothered me most was that the younger the kid, the more yelling took place about the ציונים. I asked myself where were they learning to espouse views with such a hatred and lack of tolerance? Is it at their School? Perhaps these kids are part of the so called new דברי אמונה school which has opened up because the local Haredi Adass school is no longer considered extreme enough. Is this what their Melamdim teach? Even if they hold these views, why are such views being inculcated at an age where they simply do not know enough to make head or tail of weighty issues? Are they being encouraged to speak like this at  home? Perhaps. I do know that at least one of their parents refused to buy a blue and white havdala candle because it’s too much like the colours of ציונים. If a child is with their father in a store and hears that attitude, then of course plenty of unbridled hate must rub off.

Ironically, they asked me “if it wasn’t the ציונים then why did the holocaust happen” to which I answered וידום אהרּן. We were speaking throughout in Yiddish, and it was clear that they didn’t know what I was talking about. I retold them the story of Aaron’s sons, and Aaron’s reaction. I got into my car with their wide eyes following my every move. I couldn’t help but be overcome with genuine sadness. Is this חינוך? Was this the vision of R’ Yoel? Did R’ Yoel envision the creation of robotic, hate-filled, automata?

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

10 thoughts on “Is this the Satmar that R’ Yoel z”l envisaged?”

  1. 1) These boys are too old to attend the new ‘Satmar’ school. They are being taught this at home, Adass school and Adass shul

    2) The ‘Satmar’ school purports to align with other ‘Satmar’schools world wide and not to compromise on the education of their children. They want to align with the policies of the Chassam Sofer and Netziv in removing English as the main language, replacing it with Yiddish and removing secular from the program. In essence they feel that the Adass school has comporomised too much in order to gain government funding. To this end, some of the more moderate Belzer families have enrolled their children and ‘apparantly’ others are looking to move.

    3) The diatribe that you heard is what they believe, from the top down. Rav Beck believes it, the teachers believe it, the parents believe it. The kids are not astute enough to keep their mouths shut about their beliefs as they don’t uderstand that the leadership of the shul ask for financial support from members of the other Melbourne communities, their parents rely on other Jewish communities to buy their products or services and employ them.

    Finally, in my opinion – YES

    Yes- he has a committed and GROWING chassidic base focused on adhering to his edicts. In order to create this ‘army’ on his behalf he had to ensure that they KNOW they are special and everyone isn’t special.

    This is the resultant


  2. The Netziv certainly had this view for Volozhin, but the Netziv himself also read Seforim Chitzoniyim. There is no doubt about that. He certainly wasn’t the חדש אסור מן התורה card carrier. Indeed, he was also a ציוני


  3. There is a new book about the Satmar Rebbe out now. It is extremely lop-sided but if you read between the lines, you can learn a lot about the man, the movement and the motivation.

    Funnily enough, in almost every section the author finds a link to the wickedness of Modern Zionism and provide a platform to show how the Satmar Rebbe was against Agudas Yisroel, Mizrachi, Lubavitch and many of the other Chassidic sects

    Note: The book is purposefully entitled “The Rebbe” a distinct challenge to Chabad who claim that their Rebbe was “The Rebbe”


  4. Dear Isaac,

    What would your response be to a person who calls another Jew a “Kofer B’Ikkar” if he did not say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaus?

    Best Wishes, Reuven


  5. אם היה מדובר בקבר של אביו, האם היה סומך על ה”רבנים” המקילים להעביר קברים?!!! ובכלל האם זה העוול של הציונים, הערבת קברים, הרי הם מעבירים יהודים יום יום על דתם, עם החינוך הקלוקל שלהם


    1. Shraga,
      I’m not sure I understand your reasoning. As far as I know, Halacha does not include the consideration that you describe. It is easy to introduce emotive arguments into any issue and then rally the troops as if to imply that their whole world is coming down. Plain and simple this is about evidence, consideration of safek, and pure halacha. Unfortunately, I find that on many issues those who are supposedly חרד לדבר ה are actually using meta-halachic principles which only serve to incite the masses and have little to do with the issue at hand. Your argument is indeed one of those.


  6. Do you think it is fair or right to try to alter children’s religious beliefs without their parents’ permission? These children approached you with warmth and friendliness and you then, with no invitation, criticised their Rebbe. To me it seems both rude and uncalled for and also unfair given that you’re an adult and they are children. It sounds like harrassment to me. All you will have achieved is to make it fairly likely they won’t be open to friendly conversation with another ‘outsider’ in the future and they will become more suspicious of the motives of other friendly Jews than they would have been. Argue with their fathers if you must, but lay off kids.


    1. I wasn’t intending to alter their beliefs. It is also pretty much given that this is unlikely.
      There was no ad-hominem criticism of their Rebbe. Rather, there was an attempt to indicate that there were alternative opinions. In particular, it was precisely because they approached me, which many would never do because their parents had inculcated that people unlike them are Avi Avos HaTumah, that I felt comfortable telling them more about me. I fully expected they would report this back to their teachers and/or parents. In days gone by, that would have resulted in some degree of tolerance for alternative opinions being expressed. In the new current climate, especially amongst the break away Adass School, it seems that their attitude is a binary one—they are one and every one else is zero.
      By the way, I have my answer now. No semblance of tolerance was transmitted, or at least transmitted successfully. Rather, they were loaded up with anti-zionist, anti-anyone-but-Satmar-Neturei Karta rhetoric. I don’t expect I added to the range of their reaction to alternatives. Rather, their introduction to different people with different world views, albeit religious ones, meant that they were faithfully inculcated to parrot well worn slogans rather than to be taught that “their way is not our way, but we are civil and say hello to each other etc”. I should add, that in that street, there are quite a number of this variety of “thinkers”. Unlike their grandfathers, the fathers and children simply don’t say good morning to neighbours. THIS is the type of seismic movement that I was trying to illustrate. Witness this morning that the Eda Charedis ignored its own Av Beis Din who called on Tfillos for R’ Elyashiv and decided in revolt against their own Daas Torah, that R’ Elyashiv was not holy enough to warrant Tfilos for a Refuah Shelemah. Unfortunately, unlike me, the kids who are being brainwashed with this nonsensical and dangerous philosophy will likely never be exposed to an “alternate” view.


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