Israel's ultra-Orthodox Were Part of Society. Then the Satmar Rabbi Showed Up

The extraordinary story of the Satmar rebbe, who transformed a small Hasidic court into an ultra-Orthodox powerhouse, helps explain the growing extremism of today's Hasidim around the world

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The Satmar rebbe embarking on a journey to Israel from New York, in 1965. Unlike other leading rabbis, his trips were preceded by a well-oiled public relations campaign.
The Satmar rebbe embarking on a journey to Israel from New York, in 1965. Unlike other leading rabbis, his trips were preceded by a well-oiled public relations campaign.Credit: John Rooney / AP
Avi Garfinkel
Avi Garfinkel

Many times drafts of articles and other texts are tossed out or forgotten. But it’s already possible to say with a high degree of certainty that whatever is being written these days about the attitude of ultra-Orthodox society to the coronavirus pandemic will not suffer either of those fates.

True, many Haredim meticulously abide by the guidelines in Israel, and of course those who violate them include many secular and traditionalist people. But even after we pay obeisance to the Moloch of political correctness and non-generalization, it’s impossible to disregard the scale, the defiance and the tremendous damage wrought by violations on the part of large swaths of Haredi society.

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