Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Betar and The Munkatch Rebbe's Son-in-Law

I hope all recall this wedding video

A bit more on it:

...the wedding of the Munkács rabbi's 18-year-old daughter, Frime Chaye Rivke. The Grand Rabbi of Munkács (Mukacevo), Chaim Elazar Shapiro, father of the bride, makes a speech in Yiddish exhorting Jews in America to continue to keep Shabbes (to observe the sabbath day)...The marriage had been arranged six years earlier, though the bride and groom did not meet until their wedding day. Newspaper accounts indicate that some 20,000 people attended the celebrations.

By coincidence, I found this and read it all through:

The Bulletin’s Day Book, September 28, 1934
My own marital woes, which started because Svengali Hitler evil-eyed Mrs. H. W. into frowning on my anti-Nazi activities, have been completely adumbrated by something really big in the way of marital woes.

I have no reference, except incidentally, to the widely broadcast connubial troubles of that noble Chicago prizefighter who swings leather under the name of Kingfish Levinsky. I am using the Levinsky business merely as a springboard to toss me deep into the wilds of a place called Carpatho-Russia in Czechoslovakia where a keyhole snooper (Walter Winchell forgot to put him on his payroll, has just tipped me off to one of the juiciest divorce scandals that ever brightened a Broadway columnist’s day.

There’s a bit of similarity in the Carpatho-Russia divorce case I am about to unfold and the Kingfish Levinsky nuptial eruption. Just a tiny bit, but enough for me to use in the nature of what is known in newspaper offices as a news lead to a story which otherwise would be lacking in timeliness since it happened some time ago.

Levinsky, be it known, was married months ago to Roxanne Goldie Glickman, a fan-dancer. The wedding got its share of attention and ballyhoo. Now Roxanne is suing for divorce but the Kingfish is being very generous about the matter:

“It’s a nerve she got to use me for divorce,” he says, “and take my automobile in the bargain. But I still love her and if she wants to come back to me it’s okay by the King, but the mother and father must keep away.”

The Kingfish evidently was plagued with in-law trouble. So was the couple out in Carpatho-Russia. And right there the similarity between the two cases ends.

Permit me to introduce the principles in the divorce case that has rocked not only Carpatho-Russia and Czechoslovakia to its foundations but has caused violent temblors even in Poland and Palestine and has finally resulted in ripples that reached the sacrosanct precincts of the Day Book.

Exhibit one is the in-law, revealed to us in the semi-anonymity of the name “the Munkacevo Rebbe.” He is the Rebbe in the town of Munkacevo which is in Carpatho-Russia which is in Czechoslovakia. Hereafter he shall be referred to simply as Rebbe, or Reb.

Exhibit two is the daughter of the Rebbe, one Frumetl [
Frime Chaye Rivke Shapira]. She is the wife in the case. Aside from that she doesn’t play a very important role, being more in the nature of an innocent bystander to a finish battle between the Reb and his son-in-law. Incidentally, at the time of her wedding she was only seventeen years old.

And now for exhibit three, the second principal in the scandal. He is the least anonymous base of the triangle. Day Book fans, meet Boruchl Rabinovitch, a swashbuckling young modern thrown by some inscrutable fate into an ancient Chassidic land, somewhat in the manner of a Connecticut Yankee waking up in King Arthur’s Court. Only Boruchl was in the Rebbe’s Court, which in its own field was every bit as powerful and omniscient as King Arthur’s.

About a year and a half back there took place a wedding in Munkacevo that had the populace not only of the surrounding towns, but also the neighboring nations, by the ears. You can get a weak sort of idea about what sort of affair this was by recalling the wedding scene in The Dybbuk, the play put on some years ago by the Habima Art Theatre. It must have been delirious. It lasted two weeks. That is, the celebration did. Reporters from Poland, (Boruchl was born there), from Hungary, from the chief cities of Czechoslovakia were there to provide not only the Yiddish press but the general press as well with color stories of the most colorful nuptials in years. From Prague came a Fox Film Company representative who paid the Rebbe many thousands of Czechoslovakian kronen for the privilege of filming the celebration for posterity, if not for Broadway movie temples.

Then, even as the most beautiful of dreams and the wooliest of nightmares, the wedding was completed and the couple settled down to their life of bliss in Carpatho-Russia. Or, more properly, in the Munkacevo Rebbe’s court.

Now there is where Boruchl, the young modern, made his second mistake. His first, of course, mean old mysogenists will say, was getting married at all. But, having married, he should have known better than to live with his in-laws. Boruchl, back in Poland minus his Frumetl, is now probably a lot wiser, beside being a year and a half older.

It wasn’t long after the hills of the countryside had stopped echoing to the talk of the wedding that a sinister note began to creep into the conversations, back-fence and bridge party, about the couple. That a scandal was brewing, even the miller’s apprentice in Munkacevo sensed. It was in the air.

The Rebbe, the townsfolk said to one another, had better quit poking his nose into his son-in-law’s affairs, or there’ll surely be an explosion.

And there was an explosion.

It appears that the Reb was “dead sot agin,” as our hill-billies might say, Zionism and anything and anybody that advocated Zionism.

Boruchl was for Zionism.

The Rebbe tried by might and main to convert him. But Boruchl, having his roots in Poland which is strongly Zionist, was adamant. Despite everything the Rebbe and his court could do to him, he persisted in being a Zionist, in reading Zionist literature and Yiddish newspapers. The court established a strict espionage over Boruchl, but nevertheless the young modern in King Arthur’s Court got around to the Munkacevo meetings of the General Zionists and the Mizrachi or Orthodox Zionists.

Quarrels between the youth and the old man were bitter and were becoming increasingly so when a blessed event dropped in on the almost forgotten Frumetl. This, the Reb mistakenly thought, would bring peace. So did the court think. And so did the townspeople.  But Boruchl thought otherwise. He announced that his son would become, on growing up, a member of Betar, the Revisionist Scout organization.

That was too much for King Arthur. He exploded all over Munkacevo. He called his flock to the synagogue and laid down the law. Take, he said, your children out of the Hebrew High School here, take them out of the schools where they are brought up in a nationalistic spirit. And if the parents defied his order, he threatened to invoke upon them a boycott.

There is no need to enter into the ensuing legal difficulties that beset the Rebbe, aside from pointing out that there was a law suit brought against him in the town’s courts by the Jewish Party which charged him with spreading irresponsible gossip against the High School and with proclaiming unheard of boycott slogans.

This nice kettle of fish gave off an aroma that Boruchl’s sensitive nose couldn’t withstand. He quailed under it. It was, to mutilate the metaphor, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Boruchl fled, leaving Frumetl, Boruchl Junior and the Rebbe and a note flinging his militant father-in-law’s rabbinate, which had been profferred to him as a wedding gift, into his teeth.

And now, the old man, perhaps contrite, has made representations to the lad in Poland, asking for peace. But Boruchl is determined to get himself a divorce. More from the Rebbe, our spy assures us unnecessarily, than from Frumetl whom he probably still loves.

Prague has heard about the business, too. And the Fox Film man who filmed the wedding has hurried out to Munkacevo to offer the old man 20,000 kronen for the film rights to the divorce case.

Now there’s marital woes for you, H. W., and don’t ever let me hear you mention the slight difficulty you had with Mrs. H. W. over that Svengali Hitler business. At any rate, Svengali isn’t my father-in-law, which is something to be thankful for.

And post-1937, following the Rebbe's death, the new Rebbe, the son-in-law was:

...rudely disrupted by the beginning of World War II, when he was unceremoniously deported to Poland. He was miraculously released soon afterwards and he promptly moved with his family from Munkacs to Budapest, where he managed to obtain visas and escape to Palestine. There he endeavoured to rebuild his shattered life but, as well as having to deal with the tragedy of the Holocaust and the deaths and disruption it had caused, his wife - always of frail health - died in April 1945.

and afterwards:

 In 1946, Rabbi Boruch tried to become the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, but retired from the race, not wanting to compete against the other contenders. Shortly thereafter he moved to São Paulo, Brazil, together with his second wife, Yehudis, in this way totally cutting himself off from his surviving chasidim and from his position as head of one of pre-war Hungary's pre-eminent chasidic dynasties. In addition, as a result of a change of theological direction, Rabbi Boruch had become sympathetic to Zionism and the State of Israel, concepts that had been anathema to his father-in-law and most of pre-War Hungarian Haredi orthodoxy. The Munkatcher chasidim who had survived the war were devastated by his refusal to lead them and many of them never forgave him for turning his back on them and for diverging so dramatically from the philosophy espoused by his father-in-law.

Rabbi Boruch returned to Israel in 1963 to become Chief Rabbi of Holon. He later moved to Petah Tikva where he headed a small Beis Hamedrash until his death in 1997...he was also a gifted orator, although his relative obscurity and personal desire to remain out of the limelight meant that he rarely spoke outside of his own immediate vicinity. In 1996, he published his works entitled Divrei Nevonim and Binat Nevonim.

But who was HW?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ho, ho, ho - Merry.... oops. Sorry!

anyway, here I am, stuck at sea on Navy Active Duty on the biggest day of the year for the notzrim. Yep, christmas (I am not notzri).

Now, notwithstanding that there is ==no== "established religion" in the USA..... Armed Forces Network seems to be today broadcasting nothing but "christmas music" as performed by the various military bands and glee clubs of the service academies.

So what is the take-away lesson here? There are two.

First - for the leftists: if you make-over Israel into some sort of "country of all its citizens" which you imagine it ain't already.... you will still be stuck with a ccountry in which holidays of the majority of the sakhim are given great amounts of official attention. Correct- efforts to make-over Israelis will go just as far as did Lenin's efforts to make-over the Russian peasants. Yes - inertia (politely renamed as "tradition") is the strongest force in human culture.

Second lesson - for the nudniks and rent-seekers of the "Jewish Israel" wing of the chorus: having an "established religion" does NOT buy you true, inner moral/mental excitement amongst the "majority" population.

Judging by THIS ship - it really only buys you lots of bored talk about Turkey Dinners and eggnog.

PS: I advocate for the dis-establishment of the dat-Moshe clerical-hierarchy from official taxpayer-funded support by a Hebrew Republic.