Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Religious Life II

What, was there rivalry between Hasidim as well?

Yes, there were rivalries. As a matter of fact uh, I remember in my time--I was a little boy of ten at the time--I remember there was a battle among the Gerrer Hasidim and our Hasidim because the Hasidim actually were, uh, uh, the prominent families, you see. It was the Hasidim consisted of two kinds: merchants who were scholarly or scholars that were no merchants, and also merchants that were, you know, that had no scholarship, and they were--belong to that group, because they were, you know, wealthy. I don't know but you had to be one or the other. If you were not, you were sort of an oddity. You were a shoemaker, you were a tailor, you know, whatever, a blacksmith, and those people among the shul. But they were misnagdim, and they said, "Well, they don't know better," you know, had to be Hasid, you know, they didn't understand it. So, I remember probably three or four years before the war, they were electing a new Rabbi. By a Rabbi, I mean a Ruv, not a Hasidic Rabbi. You have two different kinds of a--here we call everybody a Rabbi who is in charge of congregation.

This was a Rebbe.

This was a Ruv. A Ruv was the leader of the whole community. He was the sort of the, uh, the uh, the authority. He represented the city on behalf of the Jews--of all Jews. There was a difference. A Rabbi was a Hasidic Rabbi, and he lived someplace. He didn't have to live in city he had followers all over the, the uh, country, and people who identified with that lineage--this Rabbi and followed him, the father and son and so on for ever and ever. A Ruv, every city--every sort of major city that had five hundred Jewish families had their own Ruv. And he was sort of, I suppose, the czar or they were appointed--they had certain government privileges.

Would he have been head of the council?

Not exactly. He was sort of independent. He served supposedly nobody. He is there to establish a, you know, like if there's a question--like the Ruv in the Fiddler on the Roof, you know, that kind of a role. You know, if you had a question about a chicken, is it kosher or isn't it, you'd send a piece of the liver or the lungs of the chicken to the Ruv and he would dissect it, and he would tell you whether it's kosher or not, I mean these are--paskin ???, you know, that means he would pass judgment on religious right or wrong, you know, or somebody had problems in their family. You want a get, you would go to the Ruv.. So he was--tried to, uh...

Did he have such authority with the Hasidic as well? I mean, if he issued a get, I mean, did that Hasidic consider him to be...

Oh yes, yes, yes. He was...

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