If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. Three families are celebrating engagements of two siblings each – to each of the two other families. Say what?
It happened last week in the U.S. Satmar town of Kiryas Joel – some pronounce it Kiryas Yoyl – in Monroe, New York State. Hundreds of people, in the community of 23,000 people, showed up for the triple engagement. The Gross, Kohn and Philip families will each be marrying off a son and daughter – one to each of the other two families.
Specifically, the son of Reb Avraham Kohn will marry Reb Kalman Philip's daughter. The latter's brother will establish a Torah-based home with the daughter of Reb Yehoshua Aryeh Gross, whose son, in turn, is engaged to the daughter of the above-mentioned Reb Kohn. The circle is thus closed.
All three engagements, as is customary in Hassidic circles, were arranged by the parents.
As per regulations handed down by the Satmar Rebbe some years ago, only light refreshments, such as soda and cookies, are generally served at Satmar engagement parties – even when three families are involved.
Kiryas Joel has the youngest median age (13.2) of any population center of over 5,000 residents in the United States; average family size has been estimated at over 10 children. The town also has the highest poverty rate in the United States, according to 2008 census figures.
Satmar Hassidim have made mainstream news reports at least twice of late. The first was when street signs were posted in Kiryas Joel calling for gender segregation; sidewalks with blue signs are for men, while the red are for women.
More recently, a Satmar Rebbe told followers in Williamsburg, New York that Jews who live "among known murderers" in Judea and Samaria are to blame if and when their children are murdered by Palestinian terrorists – as in the case of the three youths murdered last month. A known opponent of Zionism and the State of Israel, this Rebbe condemned the "evil inclination and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel," and said that Zionists "place the lives of the Jewish people at risk for the sake of Zionism." Rabbis from nearly all circles of Jewish life, including another leading Satmar rabbi and other Hassidic rabbis, condemned the remarks.
On the other hand, Satmar Hassidim are well-known for distributing free Sabbath meals to people accompanying their relatives to the hospital over the Sabbath.