Belz (Hasidic group)

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Belz is a Hasidic group originating in western Ukraine, and now based in Jerusalem.

The Rebbes of Belz, from the first until the present Rebbe:

  • Rebbe Sholom of Belz (1779-1855), the Sar Sholom - a disciple of the Seer of Lublin
    • Rebbe Yehoshua Rokeach (1855-1894)
      • Rebbe Yissochor Dov Rokeach (I) (1894-1926)
        • Rebbe Aharon Rokeach (1877-1957)
          • Rebbe Yissochor Dov Rokeach (1948-present)

The Sar Sholom was appointed as the rov (rabbi) of the town of Belz in 1817. He helped to build the city's impressive synagogue, which was dedicated in 1843. It resembled an ancient fortress, with three-foot thick walls, a castellated roof and battlements adorned with gilded copper balls. The sanctuary was large enough to provide seating for 5,000 people and had excellent aucoustics.

Upon the Sar Sholom's death in 1855, he was succeeded as Rebbe of Belz by his youngest son, Reb Yehoshua Rokeach. Under Reb Yehoshua's leadership, Belz grew into a sizable movement. Upon his death at the age of 59, in 1894, he was succeeded by his son, Reb Yissochor Dov, who led Belz until his death in 1926. The next rebbe, Reb Aharon, was 49 years old at the time. He led Belz through the Holocaust, a tenure during which, after the Germans had conquered Belz in 1939, the large and impressive synagogue built by the Sar Sholom was destroyed. Seeing that they could not destroy the building by fire nor by dynamite, they ordered Jewish forced laborers to take the building apart, brick by brick.

After the Holocaust, in which the vast majority of Belzer chassidim were killed, Reb Aharon went to the Land of Israel, where he settled in Tel Aviv. He quickly became a well-known leader, and re-established Belzer chassidus, founding numerous schools and yeshivos in Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. He had lost all of his family - his wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws and their families - except for his brother, Reb Mordechai, who died in 1949, a year after the birth of his son, Yissochor Dov, who from then on was treated like the Rebbe's son and would later take over the leadership of Belz.

In 1950, Reb Aharon moved the Belzer headquarters to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon, taking most of his chassidim with him. Soon, planning began for a new, larger yeshiva, to be built in the center of Jerusalem, close to the Machane Yehuda market. Building began in 1954 and was finished in 1957; however, Reb Aharon died a month later, not leaving behind any sons. At the time, his nephew Yissochor Dov, was only a 9-year old boy. From that moment onwards, the senior rabbinical leadership of Belz started intensively preparing the boy for the role of Rebbe, a role which he assumed in 1966 at the age of 19, a year after having gotten married to the daughter of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak, Rebbe Moshe Yehoshua Hager. For one year after his wedding, he lived in Bnei Brak.

Since assuming leadership of Belz, Reb Yissochor Dov has been highly successful in rebuilding Belz. Under his leadership, a new synagogue was built in Jerusalem. The new synagogue, which seats 6,000, was completed after having been under construction for 15 years.

In 1980, Reb Yissochor Dov decided to start accepting state funding for Belzer schools and yeshivos, and to let his chassidim participate in the elections. This signified a break-away from the Edah HaChareidis, with which Belz had previously been on positive terms.