The Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg Zalman Lieb Teitelbaum speaking to French Jews, July 2017.
(photo credit: AVRAHAM BLOOM)
The grand rabbi of the Satmar hassidic group in Williamsburg, New York, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum – now on a visit to France – told a gathering of Jews not to immigrate to Israel because the state is making their co-religionists non-Jewish.
Satmar is a fiercely anti-Zionist hassidic group that has waged an ideological battle against the State of Israel since its inception.
Last year, the leader of the Williamsburg sect of Satmar adherents began raising millions of dollars to provide haredi (ultra-Orthodox) educational institutions for the children of French immigrants to Israel who arrived in record numbers following an increase in France in recent years of antisemitic hatred and attacks.
Teitelbaum and other haredi leaders have claimed that French immigrants in Israel are being secularized by the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish Agency has described such claims as “absurd.”
Now, a Satmar spokesman said, Teitelbaum is seeking to raise money to strengthen the Jewish community in France to dissuade its members from moving to Israel.
To further this goal, he is now visiting the country with a group of generous donors whom he is encouraging to donate to community projects there.
Speaking in Yiddish to haredim at a Paris conference center on Wednesday, Teitelbaum said he would financially support Jewish institutions in the French capital “so they will be a tower of light for the entire city.”
He warned his audience of spiritually negative consequences that would befall them if they move to the Jewish state.
“Don’t go up [make aliya] to the Land [of Israel], and don’t believe in all the good that they are promising you there,” adjured Teitelbaum.
“The evil ones of the state are causing Jews to lose their religion,” he said.
Teitelbaum said that many French Jews who had immigrated to Israel now regretted having done so because their children had stopped being religious.
“It’s very hard, almost impossible to remain a faithful Jew who believes in God and his Torah there.”
The Yeshiva World News website quoted Teitelbaum as saying many immigrants to Israel “undergo a spiritual holocaust” and have been cut off from Judaism.
Despite the rebbe’s alarming words, Robert Ejnes – president of the Jewish community in the Boulogne district of Paris and senior figure in the French Jewish community – said he believed almost no French Jews thinking of moving to Israel would pay attention to Teitelbaum’s warnings.
“The Satmar Hassidic group doesn’t represent anything in France. Some communities are closer to their idea, but they are peripheral and they are very distant from the core of the community,” Ejnes told The Jerusalem Post.
Noting that French Jews are generally Zionists with lots of family in Israel whom they visit regularly, he said, “I don’t think this will have any effect.
French Jews who are thinking about aliya will not pay attention to these comments.”