- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Moses Teitelbaum, 91, Orthodox rabbi

NEW YORK (AP) — Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, the spiritual leader of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with tens of thousands of followers worldwide, died April 24 at Mount Sinai Hospital, which he had entered March 30 for treatment of spinal cancer and other ailments. He was 91.

Mr. Teitelbaum was the rebbe, or grand rabbi, of the Satmar Hassidim, community leader Isaac Abraham said.

The Satmars have 120,000 followers worldwide, said sociologist Samuel Heilman, with large congregations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the village of Kiryas Joel, 45 miles northwest of New York City.

Thousands of mourners crammed into Mr. Teitelbaum’s Brooklyn synagogue Monday night waiting for his body to be brought into the main sanctuary. Thousands more congregated outside, and police sent hundreds of officers to control the crowds.

A burial was to follow immediately in Kiryas Joel. Under Jewish law, the dead must be buried as quickly as possible.

Mr. Teitelbaum took over leadership of the Satmar sect from his uncle, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, who died in 1979. He took the formal title of rebbe the next year.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called Mr. Teitelbaum “a gentle soul who carried himself with poise and distinction.”

“From the fires of the Holocaust, the grand rebbe and his uncle performed a miracle here in New York by rebuilding their community to match its glory days in Europe,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The Satmars emphasize tradition and adhere to a strict dress code — long skirts for women, long black coats, black hats and long beards for men. Marriages are arranged and married women must keep their heads covered.

The sect takes its name from the town of Satu Mare in what is now Romania.

Mr. Teitelbaum was born in Siget, in present-day Romania. He escaped Nazi persecution during World War II and came to the U.S. in 1946.

The question of who will succeed him as spiritual leader now looms. Two of his sons, Aaron and Zalmen Teitelbaum, have been feuding over that question.

Members of the sect are so devoted to tradition that they oppose the state of Israel, because they believe that biblical Jewish sovereignty over the ancient Land of Israel can come only with the Messiah.

Survivors include four sons, two daughters and dozens of grandchildren.

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