Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stayed in Hungary - for now... (Part V)

The new building you see was built after I left. A building on the right - not seen here - was at first the pre-school and later the Mesivta, where shiurim and meals took place.

It seems like I didn't keep my promise, after all. At the end of part IV I promised not to make you wait very long for Part V, but I guess I got caught up in other matters and never did get back to "myself." So all this talk about Spinka reminded many of you about my memoirs, and I got lots of requests to continue them, which I'll begin doing right here.

Mesivta Shem MiShmuel of Mattersdorf sits at the corner of 19th Avenue and 50th Street. The fact that they added "Mattersdorf" to the name shows you where they were heading. Before that there was no Mattersdorf on the building, or even on the stationery, AFAIK. Yes, the Roov was the Mattersdorfer Rov, or "miLefnim Ab"D Mattersdorf," but it wasn't some Mattersdorfer franchise that he was running. But in the late 80s somebody decided that the only way they could continue having a mesivta and yeshiva gedola was to give it a franchise name. Things worked out for a while, and for several years the mesivta was running just fine, but only for a few years. For a few years many of those who learned in the Cheder and came from places like Flatbush and Staten Island, would stay on for Mesivta. But that would soon come to an end. A few years after I arrived an entire class from Mesivta got up and left after 11th grade. The Beis Medrish (Yeshiva Gedola, zal) was not to their liking and they all decided that they would not be going there. IIRC there was no 12th grade at that time, or 3 years mesivta was the normal setup then, I forget which, so after 11th grade you had to go to Beis Medrish, and many of the boys were not willing to do that - for several reasons.

Rav Shmuel Ehrenfeld, late Mattersdorfer Rov and Rosh Yeshivah, with his son Akiva, who took a more Litvishe route in life.

The Beis Medrish at that time was made up of mainly holdovers from the old days. Lots of extended family and old talmidim. There was no official kolel by then, but a lot of the old timers came and learned there. The Beis Medrish uses the actual shul that serves as the shul for Baaleibatim on Shabbos. In short, it wasn't a very pleasant situation for those Flatbush and Staten Island kids. But I'm getting way ahead of myself, talking about years later! First we need to discuss what happened while I was there, and some of the personalities I had the pleasure of getting to know. People like Rabbi Gurewitz, zg"z, who was menahel of the mesivta at that time, a Novardhikker with a car from the 60s and a man who I would've liked to have known better while I was there. I was too young to get to know him, just as I was in Spinka, and he left - IIRC - a year after I arrived there. People like Reb Hershel Cohen, z"l, a Talmid of BME and a Yid a true Yerei Shomayim, who I merited to have as a maggid shiur. Rabbi Cohen suffered terribly later on as Parkinson's ravaged his body and took his away (what we see as) before his time. He was a true Rebbi and taught as as we were his own children, caring about our progress in learning and in midos tovos and yiras shomayim.

So when I say I stayed in Hungary I need to actually be a bit more clear. Yes, Mattersdorf - in the Sheva Kehillos - does fall into the category of Hungary, but it sure was different than Spinka. As different as an "Emberrer" from Budapest was to a chossid from Selish. The goyim might speak Hungarian in both cities, but boy was life different, and boy were the Yidden different there. In Spinka there were Litvishe Maggidei Shiur, yes, but we had one only for Shiur Bekius ("Girseh" in Lubavitch lingo) The older bochurim had people like Reb Gershon Neuman and Reb Yerachmiel Ungarisher full time. We had Chassidishe Maggidei Shiur most of the day, and the Litvishe were there only to teach and to instill a derech haLimud, not to make policy, chas vesholom. (Ironically enough they both are quite un-Litvish, with Neuman a Viener and Ungarisher a Litvak only from his mother, who was a daughter of Reb Ruven Grozovsky.) In other words they didn't dictate policy or set the tone there. In Mattersdorf they reined supreme. In Mesivta we had all Litvishe Maggidei Shiur - as far as I can remember - with one Chassidishe Maggid Shiur for Shiur Bekius. Yes, the Roov came ocassionally to give a shiur or shmuess, but that didn't set the tone, and neither did Shalisheedes in camp, it was the boys and the staff, and if you closed your eyes it could've been a Mesivta in Lakewood or Flatbush.


Anonymous said...

it is Yerachmiel Unger not Ungarischer, a rebisher einikel (Dombrov) Rebishe eidem (Komarner) but I think a Misnaged

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Reb Yid

it's Ungarisher, don't tell me. You may be confusing him with someone who's there now, but there was no "Unger" when I was there. You may be talking about the Ungers from ch'san sofer. I'm talking about Ungarisher who was in Spinka and is in Lakewood now

dovy in jersey said...

was the rav hershel cohen you mentioned the father of rav simcja bunim cohen of lakewood?(i know that he is a mattesdorfer einekel somehow)

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

no, Dovy
that Cohen was a SIL of the old Rov. My Rebbi was no relation.

Anonymous said...

"rav simcja bunim cohen"
author of the english artscroll halacha books?

evanstonjew said...

"I'm talking about Ungarisher who was in Spinka and is in Lakewood now"
Does he commute?

Also in describing R. Akiva Ehrenfeld as taking a more litvish route in life, makes sense I guess if you are looking at outfits. As you well know he was a visionary businessman, the developer of Kiryas Mattesdorf, but he has a comprehensive historical consciousness of his Oberlander heritage, and has remained true to that heritage. It's misleading to suggest otherwise.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


I said more Litvish, not completely. And I bet his kids remember far less of their Oberlander heritage.

Oh, and I posted the link to the Marmuresh Yizkor book in the thread where you asked for it.

Anonymous said...

A lot of those Hungarians from out of BP didn't go to any other beth midrash, and were sporting beepers before they were twenty. It had nothing to do with that yeshiva's BM system - more with the elementary school or the houses/homes they came from [DH].

Anonymous said...

I think that Rabbi Cohen has a son - Rabbi Doniel Cohen - who has a Yeshiva in Lakewood.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen is indeed a Mattesdorfer einikel, as well as an einikel of Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT"L.

Kivi said...

The Matasdorfer is not of any Chasidishe background at all .
Btw Rabbi Schustal, The Rosh of Stamford is his brother in law, eydem by the Matersdorfers father.
Rav Chaim Paler was also an eydem

Anonymous said...

he was affiliated with Belzer Chassidus, he spoke about it and wrote about, he still davened Ashkenaz, but was very chassidic spirited

Anonymous said...

Harav Binyomin Paler ZT'L was one of the other eidems. The Harav Kagan from Denver was another. Rav Fisher another eidem was the administrator until his Ptira. He has einiklach " CHASIDIM"

Jingle Belz said...

Why are the oberlanders attracted to Belz? What do they see, that we don't see?


Anonymous said...

why didnt you host an official welcome back to chaim berlin tragedy? maybe he will comment more often?

Anonymous said...

JUST POSTED ON YWN! Classic snag drivel:
Rabbi Volf Greenglass, a symbol of the hardships of the Jewish people in the previous generation and Judaism’s current prosperity, passed away Wednesday, 22 Teves 5771.

He was 94.

Menachem Zev Greenglass (halevi) was born to a non Chabad family in the Polish town of Krasnik, near Lublin, and was sent to learn in the Chabad Yeshivos Tomchei Tmimim in Lodge and Otwock where he acquired his vast knowledge in Torah, Kabbalah and Chassidus

Anonymous said...

I like the name Jingle Belz, it is cool

Henry Cabot Lodge said...


Jingle Belz said...

page 19

"In short, that first Hasidism, whose name at least was fitting, has
wholly perished. Instead, a new Hasidism, which might more precisely
be termed “wheeling and dealing,” has appeared. For the new Hasidism
is little more than shop-keeping. A Jew who enters the Rebbe’s house
does not come to be admonished, to learn some virtue, to hear a good
word, for such Hasidim are no more; they come to the Rebbe in his capacity as a wonder-worker, begging him to demonstrate his miracles
for them, to save them from misfortune, in exchange for the money they
pay him for the miracle.

Jingle Belz said...

page 24

Can your honor, a cultured person, living in the twentieth century,
possibly understand and conceive of this? When I think on it—and
when do I not?!—I am seized by trembling. I am entering a new period
in my life, the most important period in human life—and whom have
they given me as a life partner, to be my wife, with whom I am to spend
the rest of my life, sharing my happiness and my sorrow, my joy and my
woes? I know not. One thing only do I know, that there is a certain town
somewhere, Belz by name, and there lives a young maiden, as unattractive
as can be—this I have indeed been told by people who have been
sent to see her visage—and she is “my bride.” What is the sign that she
is “my bride”—that I know not, but that is what people are saying, and
there is the proof, for now I am being led to the bridal canopy with her.
What is the nature of this maid? That I know not, and neither do all
those who have gone there to see her and have tried to investigate her
character. For how much can be determined from fragmentary information,
acquired in a few days, and moreover by a stranger, who knows not
what to say and what to ask, and I cannot extract from him a proper sentence
about her? Having now to approach her to make her my life’s partner, I am relying on accident. Perhaps accident has indeed ordained a
suitable match for me. And it is equally possible, very easily, that it has
matched me with my very opposite. At best, however, what might I
expect of a “Belzian” maid? What spiritual development could she have
had in such an environment, in such an atmosphere, where such a simple,
innocent thing as learning to write is a serious offense in a young
maid, at most a luxury. “A woman’s wisdom is confined to the spindle”...!
29 What hope is there for me, why should I delay any longer? The
greatest fortune would be if, at least, she were not already entirely
imbued with the usual Belzian ideas and desires, if her heart were still
lively and open to other human ideas and desires as well.

Jingle Belz said...

page 25

And the circumference, the environment, what of it? If ten measures of extreme religious fanaticism, ignorance, and vulgar stupidity came down to the world, Belz has received nine, and one the rest of the world. If your honor should wonder at my non-modern dress, being so
remote from this ancient world, he will marvel a thousand-fold at the Belz customs and will despair of even understanding them with hismind. Let me tell you now a little of their capers, a drop in the sea of their deplorable ways of life, for my feeble pen is powerless to provide a faithful, complete picture of their doings. That would be a task worthy
of a witty belletrist’s pen. May your honor gaze and marvel, hear and not understand, and you will think that I am leading you far, far away,from the cultured lands of Europe to the uncivilized lands of China or India, for there, only there, can one view other pictures like these.
In addition to the stringent and precautionary measures that every
Jew has around him, Belz have adopted further such restrictions that have no sanctified source, nor have they issued from the legal decisors,they originate solely in “ancestral” customs. Left and right, upon one’s
every step, one finds and stumbles over a custom stablished by “the ancestors.” So uncivilized, so obstructing and disturbing the free course
of life are these customs, that one cannot imagine how a person—even a person like myself, accustomed to strange life practices and precautions,but who thinks always of one way of life—could survive in such a stifling atmosphere, in which every move, every wink of an eyelid, every innocent thought, any action, the most proper action imaginable, in line with Jewish Law, will be met with ponderous objections, on account of “custom.”

Snag said...

"Grainom said...

JUST POSTED ON YWN! Classic snag drivel:"


It is Lubavitch writing, where did you get snag from??

Jingle Belz said...

Let the analysis begin.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

we get the point. No need to quote the whole article.

Anonymous said...

This is old stuff from Assaf smear jobs, he is harping on a weak moment of a orphaned 15 year old rebbishe einikel,that only saw his modern sister for a role model. He does not give a analysys that he became a successful rav in Ravveh, with a beautifull Chasidic family, he had a son Yeshaele that was the pride of his grandfather reb Yisocher Dov, he made his say pilpulim at private family events.
assaf has a agenda to expose for every blemish in every chasidic court and just conclude to his point of views. He will quote all sides of the issues but wil conclude to the maskilim side, since the Chosid is a Chalatan and is Possul lEeides, but the menuvel the maskil that couldn"t take the yoke of a religious life and is 100% biased his trustworthy.
Lately their is stupid trend by a lot of charidiem that would like to consider themselves "Aufgeklert" to fall for this nonsense.

Jingle Belz said...

Asaf has an agenda so do the Hasidim. The letter doesn't read as a weak moment. It could have been written today. It is being written today by the ones who are running off.

The reason that he didn't throw everything overboard.R'Nochuml didn't want to hurt his mother

"Nothing would prevent me—save just one hidden power in my soul
which is stronger than all these combined, which holds me back with
tremendous force and will not loosen its grip—the power of compassion.
This feeling, which I have to a high degree, is what will not allow
me to carry out my plan—my compassion for my beloved mother.This wretched soul, who has had nothing in her life, all of whose
life is one terrible tragedy, and I, I alone, am her only hope, her heart’s
desire, I am her comforting salve."

Anonymous said...

I never denied that chasidim have a agenda, and they are not objective when it comes to their lifestyle and belief system , but so is not the professor that writes his thesis on chasidim and chassidus, The Ruzhiner was no Sadam Hussien dictator as Assaf is portraying , I was not their, but Reb Yitzchok Mier Alter of Gur, and Reb Chaim Halberstam of sanz were not gullible peasants of romanian carpatia, they were the biggest and sharpest minds of Poland and Austria, Duvid Assaf chose to follow some maskil talmid of Bnie Yisoscher that despises Orthodoxy that would rather lead a carefree life and sit in pubs and read nonsense, then write a beautifully Teshuva on Masectas Mikvoas.I know that he writes that he is not willing to hurt his mother.But again what about his life as a adult, did he check with his townspeople of Ravvah, if there was some maskilic tendencies in his leadership or sermons? Please dont compare him to that other to the homeless druglaced Twersky that is a hero on certain blogs lately, as of now he does not even know why he fried out.

moshe said...

I"d take Belz over almost all chasids'n every day.
Belz is an empire.
Lubavitch is a "shpitool oon a doctor"

I am personally not a Belzer but have a lot of respect for the rebbe and the chasides

yoel said...

Hungary - Chabad Opens Center In Debrecen; Meets With Hungarian President .

The Debreciner must be proud

Anonymous said...

I am very happy that we have 1 happy yid on board.

Anonymous said...

There was an alter mirrer, avraham aharon serebrovski who was a magid shiur for the Matersdorfer. Do you remember him? Any vignettes?

Jingle Belz said...

Moshe, what is the basis of your respect for the rebbe and the "chasides"?
"Belz is an empire", therefore?

Anonymous said...

Belz is like a great ICU ward in a hospital, you are comatosed for all your life and some hospital aides provide you with food of belzer hashgoche, and reading material only of oirhatzofen/machne charidie(no Kluger chas vesholem it can wake up your comatosed mind) and then you are buried in a Belzer Grave for good

Jingle Belz said...


As we are now fully aware, the romanticizing of early Hasidic masters – a notion that early historians of the Hasidic movement took full part in – has been proven misplaced. While it can be argued that the movement began with a strong current of idealism at its core, it has been shown that even early on – back to the very days of Reb Mordechai of Cernobyl and Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin, the ancestors that Twerski so glorifies – Hasidic leaders were manipulative, power- and money-hungry, and entirely uninhibited in their pursuit of ostentatious wealth.

Assaf’s work has already been criticized within some segments of the contemporary Hasidic world as shoddy scholarship at best, and as libelous at worst. But those accusations remain unsubstantiated. It is the height of irony that the exposure of Hasidic historiography as wildly inaccurate is itself brushed aside with the same inattention to facts and research as that of Hasidic historiography itself. That alone reinforces the notion that shameful events of the past will be carefully obscured and whitewashed, replaced with an alternate version of events – plausible or not. Thankfully, an alternate historiography, rooted in careful methodology, has emerged to counter it, making the perpetuation of the whitewashing all the more difficult in the future.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


are you just gonna cut and paste large blocks of someone else's writings, or will you write something original, or at least hatched in your own free mind?

Jingle Belz said...

I can't help myself. What can I add? These words speak for themselves, The rest is commentary.
I'm trying to jump start a dialogue.

Jingle Belz said...

Anyways, it's territory that's been covered when your blog was in it's heyday.




Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

Anyways, it's territory that's been covered when your blog was in it's heyday.

I'll take that as a compliment...

An Ailmesher said...

R. Yerachmiel is not a grandson of R. Reuven Grozovsky. It's his uncle. R. Don Ungarischer who married Reb Reuven's daughter. R. Yerachmiel's father, R. Don's brother, was in the diamond business. A chashuver Yid, nevertheless, as you can see from the children he raised.

Anonymous said...

"But those accusations remain unsubstantiated"
said who? assaf?

Jingle Belz said...

Asaf may be a mediocre researcher, at the least he brings sources. When do heimishe bicher provide sources?

How do you refute the Shpikover letter? The letter is not speculation. It represents the youth of the time as they ran away in droves. It speaks to today's youth who are bewildered and lost.