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At My Father’s Table

Shimon Breitkopf and Shlomi Gil

Their fathers’ names are renowned throughout the Jewish world — as leaders, doers, public servants, and influencers. Six sons share a glimpse of life at their famous fathers’ tables

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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Shoulder to Lean On

Name: Rav Yaakov Dov Teitelbaum, son of Rebbe Yekusiel Yehuda (Zalman Leib) of Satmar
Age: 42

Residence: Boro Park, New York

Learned in: Mesivta of London headed by Rav Chaim Breish ztz”l, and Yeshivas Eretz Tzvi, headed by Rav Mendel Atik in Jerusalem

Position: Gaavad and rosh kollel in the Atzei Chaim-Sighet community, rav of the chassidus’s beis medrash in Boro Park, and his father’s right hand in communal and spiritual affairs


It’s never easy being the son of a rebbe.

All the more so when that rebbe leads one of the world’s largest chassidic courts.

Rav Yaakov Ber Teitelbaum, as he’s known, has managed to carve out his own path. He lives in Boro Park, where he leads a beis medrash that was established by his grandfather, the Beirach Moshe of Satmar, upon his arrival in America from Europe.

After the Beirach Moshe accepted the leadership of the Satmar chassidus, the beis medrash, named for the town where he was born —Sighet, in the Marmarosh Mountains of Hungary — was given over to his son Rav Zalman Leib. In 2006, when Rav Zalman Leib became Rebbe, the shul was given over to Rav Yaakov Ber, making him the third generation to serve as Sigheter Rav in Boro Park.

Among Rav Yaakov Ber’s most notable accomplishments is the release of a popular set of seforim. Called Heishiv Moshe, the series contains teshuvos written by his grandfather, the Yismach Moshe of Ujhel zy”a, along with his own explanations and chiddushim.

Along with the general responsibilities of a rav and posek, the young Sigheter Rav possesses personal charm and has become an effective spokesman for his community in the halls of power. How does he manage to play so many different roles?

“The secret is effective time management,” he says. “There’s always a long list of things to do, and every day is different. When New York City mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to cave in to the liberal elements in City Hall and restore the ban on metzitzah b’peh, we formed a delegation of senior chareidi askanim and met with him on a Friday. The meeting was supposed to take a few minutes, but it lasted almost until Shabbos began. At the end, the mayor announced that the issue was off the table. Sometimes the only effective approach is a personal one, and where there’s a real need that no one is stepping in to deal with, Chazal teach us that one must take action.”

Reb Yaakov Ber’s ability to raise huge sums of money in a short time and his sharp legal mind and fluency in English complement his traditional Satmar focus on helping others, especially when it comes to pidyon shevuyim. He works with a large network of lawyers and is intricately involved in several high-profile cases.

 

“There is nothing greater than helping another Jew. Unfortunately, there are too many Yidden who get in trouble with the law in America,” he says. “When people get into trouble with the law, they feel that their world is crashing down around them. They have no one to turn to and they think there’s no way out, and that is when they need a shoulder to lean on. That’s the role we try to fill.” 


Although he lives in Boro Park, the Rav visits his father in Williamsburg each day, receiving different missions and sharing updates on various campaigns. When the Rebbe travels to Miami in the winter, his son accompanies him and they learn together — a special time for both. “During those two weeks, we learn together b’chavrusa with no disturbances. The Rebbe is alone, and for me it’s a taste of Gan Eden.” In the summertime, father and son sit in the garden near the Rebbe’s bungalow on the grounds of the Satmar camp, learning for several hours a day.

Reb Yaakov Ber, who has a keen understanding of the realities of this world, has overseen the creation of the Meshumar device, a filtered phone sponsored, researched, and produced by Satmar. He has taken the lead in sending young couples to live in the satellite communities in Bloomingburg and Lakewood.

If the Rav has a special cause, it’s the older bochurim in the community who haven’t yet found their match. He opened a yeshivah for them and maintains personal connections with many of them.

Rav Yaakov Ber, chassidim say, is comfortable in both worlds — the beis medrash and the offices of Manhattan — but wherever he goes, he’s rooted in the court of his father and grandfather before him. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 704)

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