Gur Hassidic factions fight for second night in a row, clash with police

Fighting between factions of the Gur Hassidic sect have taken place at different cities over the past few nights as tensions rise in the community.

 Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter of the Gur Hassidic Dynasty and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men at the wedding of Grand rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter grandson in Jerusalem on February 19, 2019. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter of the Gur Hassidic Dynasty and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men at the wedding of Grand rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter grandson in Jerusalem on February 19, 2019.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Tension within Israel’s largest hassidic sect reached new heights on Saturday night when clashes broke out between two factions of Gerrer hassidim in Jerusalem for the second night in a row.

Israel Police used various crowd-dispersal methods to break up the crowd. Dozens of riot police were needed to evacuate one of the sect’s leaders from a besieged synagogue.

A similar incident occurred on Friday night in Bnei Brak and Ashdod, KAN reported.

The Gerrer Hassidic dynasty is Israel’s largest, wealthiest and most influential.

According to the report, the reason for the clashes was a Thursday visit by the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, to the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv to visit the grave of his mother-in-law, where breakaway sect members clashed with him.

The sect is facing an unprecedented schism that has recently damaged its prestige and power. After several years in which tensions have simmered between Yaakov Alter and his first cousin, Rabbi Shaul Alter, the two have parted ways and now command separate groups of followers.

The rift is a result of a blurring of the line of inheritance within Gur dating back more than half a century. That resulted in Yaakov being appointed grand rabbi in 1996 instead of Shaul, the son of the most recent grand rabbi, Pinchas Menachem.

Although Shaul never disputed his cousin’s leadership of Gur, a concern grew within the court of the current grand rabbi that there could be an inheritance battle when the current 80-year-old grand rabbi dies.

Rabbi Shaul Alter, head of a breakaway faction in the Gerrer hassidic community, at a celebration last week (credit: YOSSI CHULL)Rabbi Shaul Alter, head of a breakaway faction in the Gerrer hassidic community, at a celebration last week (credit: YOSSI CHULL)

Around a decade ago, the grand rabbi made a dramatic change in the Gerrer educational system. The Talmud in Gerrer yeshivas was to be studied exclusively in a concise fashion, and not in the in-depth style that had been customary until then.

That harmed the stature and prominence of Shaul, who was then dean of the prestigious flagship Gerrer institution, the Sfas Emes Yeshiva in Jerusalem. It eventually led to the closing of the renowned institution in 2016.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.