Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Named After American Cities!"

(Picture courtesy of youshouldown.com)

Gandalin commenting on Clevelander Chassidus:

Do you think Pittsburgher, Clevelander, and Bostoner are any more grotesque than Tchernobler, Satmarer, or Munkatcher?

The Rebbes bring great kavod to the cities fortunate enough to be named for their courts!

In our brilliant and illustrious Jewish history, think of how the towns of Kovno, Vilno, Berditchev, Pumbeditha, Carpentras, and so on and so forth, resonate with the glory of the Torah that was learned and expounded in locations that otherwise would be rather barren of more than local interest.

Even were European culture and its American extension to disappear, the names of these cities would not be forgotten in the annals of the eternal people.


At November 13, 2007 at 12:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Tal Moshe Zwecker said...

My Rebbe once told me in the name of the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz that every European town and city is really named after an idol of avoda zara, which is why the Jews usually have a slightly different name for a city than the non-Jews for example Vilna is Vilnius and Lyzhansk or Lizensk is Lesjasko etc.

I don't think that would apply to all American cities, some are renamed for European cities like "New" York and "New" Jersey and "New" Orleans etc. others are Indian names like Chicago and some are Hispanic La Jolla, San Francisco and San Jose. The Saint's names would be an issue so Satu Mare or Saint Mary became Satmar if my Hungarian is correct. Maybe we should then have more Jewish names for American cities? Interesting thought byte.

At November 13, 2007 at 1:24:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

It's really a silly topic, but since were talking about it already...

R' Chaim Tzanzer was known not to use city names - for example, it is said that he directed someone one to "der groiser shtodt," and it took them quite some time to figure out that he meant London.

Also, Satu Mare, also called Satmar, doesn't have any connection to Saints. It means Large (Mare) Village (Satu) -- Or something like that.

And I think there were other Rebbes with names originating with American cities as well (not to mention that Stolin has Stoliner Rebbes called the “Detroiter” or the “Frankfurter” based on their places of burial), but the underlying oddness of seeing a Chassidic dynasty with an American name isn’t entirely without legitimacy. America was not a Chassidic land, and has no tradition of Chassidic villages. Therefore, since the Chassidic dynasties are all rooted in Eastern Europe, we can see why an American name would be out of place. For example, Boston doesn’t really come from Boston in spirit, as it’s really pretty-much based on Lelov, as Cleveland is from Nadvorne.

It’s understandably an odd connection to make: clothing, customs and a worldview that reflects Jewish Europe 300 years ago, but with an American name? So, I can understand why people find it strange. But if we change the way we identify Chassidic groups as not so much reflecting dynasties, but with more pragmatic uses – such as clarifying a specific address or individual, American – or any - names would make more sense. However, the common trend is to avoid useful definitions and instead give us multiple Rebbes with the same group name. But rather than to state my opinions on the matter I’ll leave that for others…

At November 13, 2007 at 1:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

The original Hungarian name of the town was Szatmár. The name appeared at first in a document written in 1213 in the form "Zotmar". Originally it was derived from a personal name. The Romanian name was first Sǎtmar, differing only in orthography from the Hungarian one but in 1925 was officially changed to Satu Mare. That version means "large village," with the Romanian Satu ("village") deriving from the Latin fossatum, while Mare means "large" in Romanian.

There is a folk etymology, repeated both among members of Satmar itself, as well in outside literature about the group, that Satu Mare actually meant "Saint Mary." Some Hasidim - even Satmar Hasidim - called the town "Sakmer" so as not to use its allegedly "pagan" name. This folk story is however slowly disappearing, and the vast majority of people now use the name "Satmar".

At November 13, 2007 at 2:28:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Large parts of Eastern Europe were at one time or other under Austrian or Prussian rule, so some towns and cities had a name in the local language plus a name in German. In at least some of these cases, the Yiddish name was the same as or similar to the German name.

An example of dual naming was my paternal grandfather's childhood town of Bardejov (Hungary, now Slovakia); its German name was Bardfeld, with the first "d" pronounced as "t".

At November 13, 2007 at 2:29:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Actually, both these "d"s would have been pronounced as "t" in German.

At November 13, 2007 at 10:00:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

every European town and city is really named after an idol of avoda zara

I don't think this is correct at all in many cases. In some cases yes, but not in all for sure.

For example Mezhbuzh means "between [2] Bug [rivers]. Zlatipolia means "golden field" and so on.

At November 14, 2007 at 7:01:00 AM EST, Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Simple,

Thank you for noticing my comment.


I hope you won't think it impertinent of me to suggest that there once was a time, and not so very, very long ago, when Eastern Europe had no tradition of Chassidic villages, either! (And through violence and tyranny, there are surely not very many Chassidic villages in Eastern Europe, today, either.)

At November 14, 2007 at 10:51:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...


Obviously true. However, we should be able to agree that Chassidus was an Eastern Europeon movement, and that it was very modern and progressive movement at that. The ideas, the minhagim, dress, etc, weren't foreign or imported - rather, it originated in those locations and was quite “in-place” and contemporary.
So, over a hundred years later, when transporting the derech overseas, one could see why some may find something odd about the clash. For example, imagine a mekubal in full Sfardic regalia called Chacham Getzel Jackson…there’s nothing technically wrong with it, but as the saying goes, “it beeps when it’s supposed to bop.”

At November 14, 2007 at 1:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

In the mid-1990's, I was on a company business trip to Lausanne, Switzerland and spent Shabbos in Geneva. My Shabbos host, a Sephardic Jew, introduced me to his jolly Teimani friend who was dressed in full Satmar regalia (he was learning at a Satmar Yeshiva in Israel, Yerushalayim I think).


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