Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub of Kaliv has lived a dramatic, at times traumatic, but fulfilled life over the past nine decades.
The leader of the Kaliv Hassidim, Taub survived the horrors of Aushwitz, and dedicated his life to preserving the memory of those who died in the Holocaust.
And on Thursday, Lag Ba’omer, the 89 year old is getting married, for a second time, in a private ceremony, to be attended by just 10 people.
The rebbe’s first wife, Hana Sara, died last year. His new bride, Sheindel Malnik from Bnei Brak, is several years his junior, aged just 55. They were engaged to be married two weeks ago.
During the 49 days of the Omer from Passover to Shavuot, weddings and other festive activities are forbidden because, the Talmud relates, thousands of students of the famed sage Rabbi Akiva died during this period, struck down by plague.
The plague ceased on the 33rd day of the Omer, and so weddings are permitted on this date. It is also the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Akiva’s student, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
On Wednesday night, therefore, his faithful hassidim came to the Kaliv synagogue in Jerusalem’s Sanhendria neighborhood to rejoice ahead of their rebbe’s wedding, as well as to celebrate Lag Ba’omer. Dancing besides a gigantic bonfire, a festival tradition, the rebbe’s followers sang and made merry in honor of the “Admor,” their hassidic master.
The Kaliver Rebbe, as he is known, was born in Transylvania, spanning present-day Hungary and Romania, in 1923, and married his first wife before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1944, following the Nazi conquest of Hungary, Taub and his six brothers and sisters were sent to Aushwitz, where all perished apart from the rebbe.
Taub does not have a beard like most hassidim, a result of chemical burning experiments conducted on him in Aushwitz.
He was sent from there to the Warsaw Ghetto and the Breslau concentration camp, and then to Bergen-Belsen. He discovered that his wife had survived six months after the war, and reunited with her in Sweden. They moved to the US in 1947, where he began his work in memorializing the Holocaust in Cleveland.
They settled in Israel in 1962, where he created the Kiryas Kaliv neighborhood in Rishon Lezion. He moved his headquarters to Bnei Brak several years later, and in 2004, the rebbe’s court moved to Jerusalem.