Outrage has snowballed over remarks made by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, leader of one of the two branches of the anti-Zionist Satmar hassidic sect, after he blamed the parents of the three Israeli high school students murdered by Hamas terrorists as being responsible for their sons' deaths.
The parents of Naftali Frenkel (16), Gilad Sha'ar (16) and Eyal Yifrah (19) “caused the deaths of their sons and they must repent for their actions," according to Teitelbaum.
“During the funerals, the parents eulogized their sons, but I think it would have been preferable if they had done tshuva [repented], if they had said viduy [confession] with tears, in the nusach [style] that is used on Yom Kippur, to repent for their decision to live and learn Torah in a place of barbaric murderers,” he said, in a Yiddish broadcast on a Satmar radio show Wednesday.
Teitelbaum said that the parents were guilty of "living among known murderers" by living in the "settlements," stemming from the “evil inclination and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel.”
Teitelbaum did inject a note of sympathy into his speech, saying that "every heart bleeds for the teens" and calling the murder "cruel."
However, he concluded that "it is incumbent upon us to say that these parents are guilty,” he continued, condemning Zionists who “place the lives of the Jewish people at risk for the sake of Zionism" as enemies of the Jewish people.
Teitelbaum's remarks have set off a firestorm of condemnations - not only from the wider Jewish world, but also from within Satmar itself. The hassidic sect split after the death of its leader, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, and Rabbi Aaron leads only one of the groups.
"We are shocked and horrified at the audacity of these statements," Rabbi Menashe Pilaf, head of a Satmar Beit Midrash in Williamsburg, stated to Kikar HaShabbat Friday. He added that the statements were an "embarrassment."
The leader of the other branch of Satmar hassidim, Rabbi Yehuda Teitelbaum - who is also Aharon Teitelbaum's brother, added his voice to the condemnation.
"To tell the innocent Jews, who are observant Jews and who are still in the days of mourning that they are guilty of killing the children [. . .] [is a] terrible show of insensitivity," he said.
Satmar hassidim believe, based on their interpretation of a Talmudic passage, that the State of Israel should have been established only after the coming of the Messiah. The more stringent of the Satmar hassidic sect do not visit the Western Wall or Rachel's Tomb because Jews were killed in order to gain control of those sites.