Ger or Gur (or Gerrer when used as an adjective) is a Hasidic dynasty originating from Góra Kalwaria (Yiddish: גער, romanized: Ger), a small town in Poland. The founder of the dynasty was Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798–1866), known as the Chiddushei HaRim after his primary scholarly work by that title. Before the Holocaust, followers of Ger were estimated to number in excess of 100,000, making it the largest and most influential Hasidic group in Poland. Today, the movement is based in Jerusalem, and its membership is estimated at 13,000 families, most of whom live in Israel, making Ger the largest Hasidic dynasty in Israel. However, there are also well-established Ger communities in Brooklyn, New York, and London, UK; and minor Ger communities in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Los Angeles, California.
After the death of the Kotzker Rebbe in 1859, the vast majority of his followers chose Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Kotzker Rebbe's closest disciple, as their new rebbe. At the time, Alter lived in Warsaw and led the main Kotzker shtiebel there (on ul. Zelazna). Shortly after accepting the role, Yitzchak Meir was appointed as Rav and Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court) of Góra Kalwaria (Ger). Relocating to Ger, he became the founding rebbe of the Gerrer dynasty. During his seven years of leadership, the group flourished, causing it to be known as the "seven years of plenty".
After Alter's death in 1866, his followers wanted his eighteen-year-old grandson, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, to succeed him. When Yehuda Aryeh Leib refused to accept this position, most of the Hasidim became followers of the elderly Hasid, Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin, formerly rabbi of Prushnits and Krushnevits and then retired to Alexander. After Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh died in 1870, Yehudah Aryeh Leib (who became known posthumously as the Sfas Emes) acceded to the request of the Hasidim to become their next rebbe.
The Gerrer movement flourished under the leadership of Yehudah Aryeh Leib and his eldest son and successor, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (known as the Imrei Emes). In 1926, in a bold departure for Polish Hasidim, Avraham Mordechai established a yeshiva in Jerusalem, naming it for his father, the Sfas Emes. The first rosh yeshiva was Rabbi Nechemiah Alter, a brother of the Imrei Emes. Today, the yeshiva remains the flagship of the Ger yeshivas.
Distribution of Gerrer Hasidim
Almost all Ger Hasidim living in pre-war Europe (approximately 100,000 Hasidim) were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Avraham Mordechai Alter, who managed to escape, set about the task of rebuilding the movement in the British Mandate of Palestine. It is generally accepted that he was released by the Nazis, and was then able to move to Palestine, because of a very large ransom paid by his followers to the Nazis.
Under its post-war leaders, the movement began to flourish again. Presently, on major occasions such as Rosh Hashana and Shavuos, more than 12,000 Hasidim may gather in the main Ger beth midrash.
Smaller communities with tens or hundreds of Hasidim have also been established in small towns in Israel, such as Arad in the Negev desert, Hatzor HaGlilit in the Galilee, Kiryat HaRim Levin in Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, and Kiryat Gat, and in major cities in the world, such as Lakewood, NJ, Los Angeles, CA, London, UK, Antwerp, Belgium, Zurich, Switzerland, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Ger maintains a well-developed educational network of Talmud Torahs, yeshivas, and kollels, as well as Beis Yaakov schools for girls. Its leaders dominate the Agudat Israel religious movement and political party in Israel.
The group's center is in Jerusalem, with 1,800 families of Gur Hasidim. During and after the British Mandate, the group's beth midrash was at the Sfas Emes Yeshiva, near Mahane Yehuda. Later on, the synagogue moved to Ralbach Street in the Geula neighborhood and in the 2000s, the Great Beit Midrash Gur was inaugurated on Yirmeyahu Street near the Schneller Orphanage complex. It is one of the largest synagogues in the world (nearly 30,000 sq. feet).
Its construction is not complete yet. In 2015, the plans were changed and construction of an extension to the building was begun. On Rosh Hashanah 2018 (5779), another wing of the Beth Medrash was inaugurated (together 80,000 sq. feet).
Beginning with the emigration of the Imrei Emes to Israel, the rebbes of Ger lived in Jerusalem, with the exception of the current Rebbe who moved to Jerusalem only in 2012. The group has "Shtieblach" in most ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the city. As other courts, Ger also expanded in Jerusalem following the immigration of young couples from Europe and the United States. Rabbi Meir Silberstein is the rabbi of Ger in Jerusalem.
Identifying features of Ger
The men are distinguished by their dark Hasidic garb, and by their pants tucked into their socks called hoyzn-zokn (not to be confused with the breeches, called halber-hoyzn, worn by men in some other Hasidic groups). They wear a round felt hat, and a high, almost-pointed kapel. They raise their sidelocks from the temples, and tuck them under the yarmulke, nearly hiding them. On Shabbos and Jewish holidays, married men wear the high circular fur hat of the Polish Hasidim, called a spodik by Galicianers (not to be confused with the much flatter shtreimel worn by married men in Hasidic groups which do not hail from Congress Poland).
Ger follows the way of Menachem Mendel of Kotzk in stressing service of God in a sharp and objective way, as opposed to the mystical and spiritual orientation of other Hasidic groups. Ger also places much emphasis on Talmud study.
Ger Hasidut produced one of the most prolific composers of Jewish liturgical music of all time, Yankel Talmud (1885-1965). Known as "the Beethoven of the Gerrer Rebbes", Talmud composed dozens of new melodies every year for the prayer services, including marches, waltzes, and dance tunes. Though he had no musical training, and could not even read music, Talmud composed over 1,500 melodies, most of them sung by him and his choir in the main Ger synagogue in Poland and in Israel. Several of Talmud's compositions are still widely sung today, including his rousing "Shir Hamaalos" march tune, performed at many weddings, and "Lo Sevoshi", sung in Hasidic shtiebels.
The 5th Gerrer Rebbe
Under the leadership of the fifth Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Alter, known as the Beis Yisrael, the Ichud Mosdos Gur (Union of Gerrer Institutions) was established as the responsible body for funding all the educational institutions affiliated with Ger in Israel. Currently there are about 100 such institutions.
The Beis Yisrael helped rebuild Ger after its virtual destruction in World War II.
Gerrer dynastic leadership
- Rebbe Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798 – March 10, 1866), also known as the Chiddushei HaRim. Notable student of the Kotzker Rebbe and a prominent contemporary posek. Assumed leadership of the Hasidim in 1859.
- Rebbe Chanoch Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander (1798 – March 21, 1870), colleague of Yitzchak Meir. Gerrer Rebbe from 1866 to 1870.
- Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847–1905), also known as the Sfas Emes. Born in Warsaw, Poland. Died in Góra Kalwaria. Wrote Talmudic works and Maharal-style Torah commentaries that are known within and outside Hasidic streams. Grandson of Rabbi Leib Alter. Gerrer Rebbe from 1870 to 1905.
- Rebbe Avraham Mordechai Alter (December 25, 1866 – June 3, 1948), also known as the Imrei Emes. Son of Rabbi Leib Alter. Gerrer Rebbe from 1905 to 1948.
- Rebbe Yisrael Alter (October 12, 1895 – February 20, 1977), also known as the Beis Yisroel. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1948 to 1977.
- Rebbe Simchah Bunim Alter (April 6, 1898 – August 6, 1992), also known as the Lev Simcha. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1977 to 1992.
- Rebbe Pinchas Menachem Alter (June 9, 1926 – March 7, 1996), also known as the Pnei Menachem. Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1992 to 1996.
- Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter (born 1939). The only son of Rabbi Simcha Bunim. Gerrer Rebbe from 1996 to the present.
- Estēr Farbšṭeyn (1 October 2007). Hidden in Thunder. Feldheim Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 978-965-7265-05-5. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
During this venerated rebbe's lifetime, the Ger court spread farther than ever before; some estimates of the number of his followers before the Holocaust exceed 100,000.
- Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica. 8. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-02-865936-7. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life: Before and During the Holocaust. NYU Press. p. 1430. ISBN 978-0-8147-9356-5. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Simeon D. Baumel (2006). Sacred Speakers: Language And Culture Among The Haredim In Israel. Berghahn Books. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-84545-062-5. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "Israel's Largest Synagogue Under Construction - World Center Of Gur Hasidism In Jerusalem".
- Bleich, Chanania. "Remembering Reb Yankel Talmud". Ami, 1 September 2013, pp. 128–132.
- Mandelbaum, Dovid Avrohom (2005). היכל הנגינה [The Chamber of Music] (PDF) (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Machon HM”Y. p. 213. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
- Werdyger, Duvid; Finkel, Avraham Yaakov (1993). Songs of Hope. CIS Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 1-56062-226-1.
- "Accompanying Notes by Cantor Moshe Haschel for Shabbat Shira" (PDF). pelorous.totallyplc.com. 3–4 February 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
- Mandelbaum (2005), p. 215.
- The State Archive in Lodz/Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi: "Jewish Civil Registry of Aleksandrow Lodzki", 1870, death (akt) #10, age: 76, marital status: widower, date: March 21
- Alfasi, Yitzchak (2005), בית גור The House of Ger (2 vols) (4th ed.), Bnei Brak: Moriah
- Leff, Nosson Chayim (2010), Personal Correspondence
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ger (Hasidic dynasty).|
- Alter family tree
- First Gerrer Rebbe, Biographie, Orthodox Union
- Abram Juda Goldrat, Gora Kalwaria. Gur Dynasty, Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 7. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pages 760-761 (subscription required)
- Gerszon Góra, The Gerer Shtibl — Memories about a little Ger synagogue in Poland
- Arthur Green, Ger Hasidic Dynasty, The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
- Tamar Rotem, Gur Hasidim and sexual separation first part Haaretz 3 February 2012 For members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Gur sect, sex is a sin second part Haaretz 10 February 2012.