Jewish Studies Kiryas Joel and Satmar
David N. Myers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0234


Hasidism was the powerful Jewish pietist movement that took rise in eastern Europe in the late 18th century and spread widely throughout the region in the 19th century. Among the places where Hasidism found a particularly receptive audience was Hungary, especially the northeast quadrant known as the Unterland. It was there that the Teitelbaum family of rabbis emerged as purveyors of a stringent form of religious Orthodoxy that came to be known as haredi. A scion of the family, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (b. 1887–d. 1979), was appointed rabbi of the city of Satu Mare, Romania (formerly Szatmár, Hungary) in 1928; after six years of opposition in the city, he assumed his new job in 1934, thereby inaugurating the Satmar movement of Hasidism. Unlike most of his followers (and for some, quite controversially), Teitelbaum survived World War II, and eventually made his way to the United States in 1946. There he settled in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and began the work of rebuilding the Satmar community. Over the course of the past seventy years, the Satmars have grown into the largest Hasidic group in the world with some 150,000 estimated members in North America, Europe, Israel, South America, and Australia. One of Rabbi Teitelbaum’s goals upon settling in the United States was to create, alongside the home base in Williamsburg, an enclave outside of the city where members of the Satmar flock could lead their traditional lives without interference. It took decades to find an appropriate site at a remove from New York City, but still close enough to commute for employment. In the early 1970s, Rabbi Teitelbaum’s advisors, to whom he entrusted the task of finding a venue, purchased land in the town of Monroe in Orange County, New York. In the summer of 1974, the first Satmar settlers began arriving from Brooklyn to the newly built neighborhood in Monroe that was called “Kiryas Joel,” the village of Joel. In 1977, after several years of conflict with town officials, the Satmar community was officially incorporated as the village of Kiryas Joel within the town of Monroe. The community has grown from the first hundred residents in 1974 to over thirty thousand residents today, almost all of whom are Satmar Hasidim. In 2019, Kiryas Joel residents ended decades of acrimony by exiting the town of Monroe altogether to create the new town of Palm Tree (the English for Teitelbaum).

Haredi Judaism

Friedman 1991 and Heilman 1992 laid important ethnographic and theoretical foundations for the study of Haredi Judaism in both the United States and Israel. Katz 2005 traced the origins of an especially important strain of Haredi Judaism in mid-19th-century Hungary, while his student Michael Silber (Silber 1992) offered an essential account of how Haredi, or ultra-Orthodoxy, is an “invented tradition.” Biale, et al. 2018 offered a sweeping synthesis of the history of Hasidism, while Wodziński 2018 mapped out the growth of Hasidic groups over time and place in an historical atlas. Seidman 2019 contributed to rewriting the experience of women into Haredi Judaism by exploring an important 20th-century woman and the educational movement she started. Raucher 2020 cast Haredi women as agents of their own making in exercising reproductive decisions, and Fader 2020 unearthed the fascinating world of Haredi “double lifers” through online channels. Ben-Ami 2020 analyzed the emergence of a new, revolutionary activism among Israeli Haredim, who are intent on transforming the society in which they live.

  • Ben-Ami, Itamar. “Mabat mehudash `al ha-Haredim ha-hadashim.” Ha-zeman ha-zeh 2 (2020).

    (A new look at the New Haredim). Online essay that argues that the advent of a group known as “the New Haredim” does not augur a weakening of the Haredi world, but rather a process of radicalization by which the New Haredim exit a narrow “society of learners” and enter mainstream Israeli society, albeit with a commitment to preserve and expand, not dilute, their Haredi outlook.

  • Biale, David, David Assaf, Benjamin Brown, et al. Hasidism: A New History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400889198

    Multi-authored volume that offers a deep analysis of the historical roots and evolution, as well as core theological concepts, of the Hasidic movement, whose diverse branches have been a key source of sustenance for Haredi Judaism.

  • Fader, Ayala. Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020.

    DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691169903.001.0001

    Illuminating ethnographic study of the lives of men and women in the strictly observant Haredi world of New York who find themselves doubting their faith or the value of the ritual practices associated with it—and live double lives online as they make their way to digital communities of fellow “hidden heretics.”

  • Friedman, Menachem. Ha-hevrah Ha-haredit: mekorot, megamot ve-tahalikhim. Jerusalem: Mekhon Yerushalayim le-ḥeḳer Yiśraʼel, 1991.

    (Haredi Society: Sources, tendencies, and processes). Major study by Israeli sociologist of the surprising growth of Haredi society in Israel. Friedman focuses in particular on the emergence of a “society of learners” (hevrat lomdim), referring to the steep rise in the number of Haredi boys and men who devoted their days to Torah study in the state of Israel in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Heilman, Samuel C. Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. New York: Schocken, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1525/9780520354494

    Work by sociologist of Orthodoxy on ultra-Orthodox or Haredi life in Israel based on year-long ethnographic labor that sheds light on core ideology, lifestyle, and ritual, social, and sexual practices.

  • Katz, Jacob. A House Divided: Orthodoxy and Schism in Nineteenth-Century Central European Jewry. Translated by Zipporah Brody. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2005.

    Exhaustive account by a leading historian of the deep schism between progressive and conservative Jewish religious camps in Hungary in the late 1860s, which prompted the emergence of a distinctive form of Hungarian Haredi Judaism.

  • Raucher, Michal S. Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2020.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv15kxgmp

    Ethnographic study that revises the view of Haredi women as passive actors whose lives are completely controlled by men, especially their husbands. Through in-depth interviews, Raucher demonstrates the way in which Haredi women conceive of their reproductive choices as choices that they, rather than their husbands, rabbis, or doctors, make.

  • Seidman, Naomi. Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement: A Revolution in the Name of Tradition. London: Littman, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv1198tfk

    Revealing biography of the founder of the Bais Yaakov girls’ school system in Poland. Schnenirer navigated between strong Haredi resistance to or lack of interest in girls’ education, on one hand, and the powerful forces of assimilation in Polish society in the early 20th century, on the other.

  • Silber, Michael K. “The Emergence of Ultra-Orthodoxy: The Invention of a Tradition.” In The Uses of Tradition: Jewish Continuity in the Modern Age. Edited by Jack Wertheimer, 23–84. New York and Jerusalem: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992.

    Monographic essay by leading student of Jacob Katz that builds on Katz’s thesis that ultra-Orthodoxy, or haredi Judaism, is a decidedly modern project notwithstanding its clearly anti-modernist instincts. Following Ranger and Hobsbawm, Silber explores the way in which strictly observant Jews invented a new Haredi tradition in the formative Hungarian context in the last third of the 19th century.

  • Wodziński, Marcin. Historical Atlas of Hasidism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvc774g4

    Wide-ranging atlas that charts the birth and growth of Hasidism from the late 18th century to the present, with helpful information about distinctive courts, demography, religious leadership, and spiritual practices. Cartography by Waldemar Spallek.

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