Edah Haredit Rabbi Halbershtam dies

A major spiritual leader of the anti-Zionist Edah Haredit community passed away in Jerusalem.

rabbi halbershtam 88 (photo credit: )
rabbi halbershtam 88
(photo credit: )
Rabbi Moshe Halbershtam, a major spiritual leader of the anti-Zionist Edah Haredit community passed away in Jerusalem Wednesday morning of a heart attack. He was 74. Halbershtam's death comes just one day after the passing of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, also a major spiritual leader of the Edah Haredit. Both men were distant relatives of the Sanz Rebbe Haim Halbershtam, known as the Divrei Haim, who lived in the 18th century. Moshe Halbershtam also prayed regularly in Satmar's Ohel Rachel Synagogue in Mea She'arim. Unlike Satmar Hassidim, Halbershtam was more open to Jews outside the confines of the Edah Haredit, said David "Duki" Greenwald, chairman of Hatzolah, a haredi paramedic organization that operates ambulances and first aid motorcycles all over the country. Halbershtam, who specialized in halachic questions related to medicine, was Hatzolah's rabbi. "He answered halachic questions on all sorts of medical issues and made sure all our activities were in line with Jewish law," said Greenwald. "Unlike other rabbis in the Edah Haredit, he was a consensus rabbi who answered the questions of a diverse group of religious Jews from religious Zionist to Sephardi," added Greenwald who was one of the last people to see Halbershtam alive. "He called me this morning complaining of weakness," said Greenwald. "He looked so pale. I took him in my ambulance and on the way he lost consciousness. He died at Bikur Holim." Halbershtam's death was a surprise, although he had complained of back pains and had been hospitalized in recent weeks. He is survived by seven children and close to 100 grandchildren. His son Zalman is a rabbinic judge in Williamsberg, New York and his son-in-law Ben-Zion Deutsch is the Rabbi of Ramat Shlomo. Tens of thousands took part in the funeral procession from Edah Haredit headquarters on Rehov Strauss in downtown Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the preeminent halachic authority for haredi Jews in Israel. In addition to serving on the Edah Haredit's Beit Din (rabbinic court), Halbershtam also headed the Council of Rabbis for Charity together with Elyashiv. "He worked tirelessly to improve the lot of poverty stricken Jews", said Matisiyahu Deutsche, Halbershtam's grandson, who said the charity committee managed to raise NIS 370 million during the past 10 years since it was established. "Twenty-four hours a day he was sensitive to the needs of the poor." Deutsche said that his grandfather had at least 500 students who served as rabbis in posts all over the world. "The Bais Yisrael [Rabbi Israel Alter the fifth Gerer Rebbe who died in 1977] once said of my grandfather that every halachic decision he made received approval in heaven."