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Rebirth and Renewal

Most of the elderly residents in Kiryas Joel are survivors of the Holocaust, having escaped death at the hands of the Nazis. Some are also eyewitnesses of the 1956 Hungarian uprising when Soviet tanks crushed an attempt at democracy.

Having lost family members and having experienced the destruction of their homes and institutions, they made their way to these shores in pursuit of freedom and the opportunities that so many immigrants have successfully achieved in America. The memory of their spiritually rich communities still firmly etched in their minds, they set out to rebuild their lives in the environment of democratic America.

The late Grand Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of Satmar led his disciples and followers in this period of recovery. Like so many others, he had lost most of his family in the crematoria of Auschwitz. Through extraordinary vision and steadfast determination, the Rabbi managed to help the remnants of the European tragedy rebuild their shattered lives on these shores. In the process, he built an extraordinary network of institutions, first in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, then in cities around the world.

To accommodate the needs of his disciples to live in a more serene environment, away from the trials and tribulations of life in the inner city, the Rabbi directed the efforts to establish a community, which would later bear his sainted name, and where he was laid to rest. The move to Kiryas Joel could not have come too soon as the community continued to grow at a remarkable rate, creating a shortage in housing, jobs and services.

For the elderly survivors in Kiryas Joel, life in the village is reminiscent of the tranquility and peace of their old hometowns in Eastern Europe prior to their destruction. They recall the spirit of neighborly concern, benevolence, the values of respect, integrity, and honesty, and an unmatched placid lifestyle, a far cry from the dizzying pace of urban life.

Today, they and their children and grandchildren are part of the incredible story of Kiryas Joel, continuing their link to an age-old tradition while enjoying the virtues of modern living.

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