Daily Israel Report
Show More

OpEds


Gerer Chassidim Attempt to Wrest Control over Arad Synagogue

Police were called in over disturbances between Chabad and Gerrer Chassidim at the city’s Ashkenazi central synagogue.
By INN Staff
First Publish: 1/12/2010, 2:25 AM / Last Update: 1/12/2010, 3:11 PM

For the second time in less than a month, Arad police were called this past Saturday to deal with disturbances between Chabad and Gerrer Chassidim at the city’s Ashkenazi central synagogue.

The religious Zionist synagogue had few worshippers for years due to population changes and
At first, this was a successful exercise in merging different types of observant Jews.
had asked Chassidic groups to send worshippers to join its services. At first, this was a successful exercise in merging different types of observant Jews.

After the death of long-time Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Arad, Rabbi Ben Tzion Lipsker, a Chabad Chassid who was the central synagogue’s spiritual leader and frequently spoke at Sabbath morning services until his illness, the committee running the synagogue decided to merge with the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch community. Arad’s Chabad synagogue had recently received orders to vacate its premises and agreed. The new synagogue rabbi is Rabbi Lipsker’s son-in-law, Rabbi Yaakov Mendelsohn.

The  Gerer Chassidim in Arad insist their greater numbers in the city entitle them to the building.

For several weeks, increasing numbers of Gerer Chassidim have been swamping the synagogue for Sabbath services in what seems like an attempt to achieve a de facto takeover. Worshippers report that the new arrivals engage in various provocations, force their tunes and customs on everyone by praying loudly, prevent the cantor from praying according to the synagogues’ tradition, insult the Chabad group's members. 

The incident that prompted a neighbor to call the police this past Sabbath morning allegedly began when Gerer Chassidim blocked a small girl from entering the men’s section to go to her
The tensions that have surfaced at the city’s central synagogue may be a reflection of a wider phenomenon.
father. When other worshippers tried to stop him, the dispute deteriorated into a fight.

Police issued a restraining order against several Gerer Chassidim Monday night, blocking them from approaching the building in an effort to avoid further disturbances.

The tensions that have surfaced at the city’s central synagogue may be a reflection of reactions to a wider phenomenon. Gerer Chassidim have come to Arad in increasing numbers due to the low cost of housing. They have become a significant force in the existing government structure; a community center, medical center and the Arad fundraising website, as well as building an educational complex. They are also becoming increasingly influential in the city's Arad Rabbinate kashrut supervision division. 

Non-involved observant residents who spoke to an INN reporter noted that Chabad’s attitude towards the State of Israel is compatible with the central synagogue’s tradition and that its outreach orientation suits the synagogue which has always extended a welcome to the secular and immigrant community. They felt that a takeover by Gerer Chassidim would end that.