Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another Hasidic succession battle - Vishnitz

The Viznitzer Rebbe has 2 sons, Yisrael and Menachem Mendel. About 20 years ago the older son Yisrael was removed from his position, the prevalent rumor was that his mother was responsible. The mother died and the Rebbe remarried 5 years ago and the elder son returned to the Chasidus. With the failing health of the Rebbe the Chasidus has split into 2 camps.

The warring between the 2 camps has spread and started a spate of "Shtreimel snatching".

Shtreimel vs. Shtreimel

The conflict among the two opposing camps in the Viznits Hasidic community in Bnei Brak doesn’t include stealing money or ideological arguments; instead, the Hasidic way of quarreling entails “swiping” shtreimels and bartering their return.

The shtreimel is a fur hat worn by many married haredi Jewish men belonging to the one of the various Hasidic sects on Saturdays and holidays. The hat is usually made out of a young fox’s fur, and a single hat requires 30 of them. A Hasidic man buys one or two expensive shterimels throughout his life for a price range of $2,000 to $4,000.

The shtreimel is worn without fastening, a significant factor in the latest street fights in the Viznits neighborhood. Those looking to humiliate a Hasid snatch his shtreimel, forcing him to return home with a lowered head sporting on his yarmulke.

In recent weeks, the brawls between the camps have intensified, with both sides snatching each other’s shtreimels. During the peacemaking, each camp returns the other’s goods stolen in the last strife.

The barters, one of which took place two weeks ago, also include returning torn shterimels that were intentionally spoiled and torn in the heat of battle in exchange for ones in mint condition.

In each fight, the Viznits Hassids try to snatch as many shterimels off their opponents’ heads, so as to have as many bargaining chips as possible ahead of the next barter.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

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