Monday, August 5, 2013

Murder plot against previous Satmar Rebbe Rav Yoel Z"TL revealed in Der Blatt newspaper

 The following story of a Murder plot against the previous Satmar Rebbe by the heads of state, appeared in Yiddish in the Satmar newspaper Der Blatt. The article was published in the weekend edition commemorating the 34th Yartzheit of the Previous Satmar Rebbe Rav Yoel Teitelbaum Z'Tl. The story is told over by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Grenberg who is one of the last living witness to the affair.

The year was 1958 a decade after the establishment of the state of Israel, in the Mea Shearim neighborhood on Salant Street the city began operating a mixed swimming facility serving the secular population of Jerusalem. Indeed, residents began demonstrations and protests to eliminate the  spiritual decline and have the pool shut indefinitely. The  Satmar Rebbe, decided to help the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and asked to make a big demonstration in front of Israeli diplomatic missions in New - York. At the same time, Abba Eban - who was at that time the Israeli ambassador to the UN, and later served as Foreign Minister in the governments of Israel was planning an impressive gala ceremony on Independence day, near UN headquarters in Manhattan, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the State of Israel. Abba Eban worked for 6 months on various logistical details of the event. When the Rebbe learned  that Abba Eban planed  to conduct a ceremony at the United Nations, he decided to sabotage the joy. The plan was to counter it and hold a large demonstration against the state opposite the United Nations, at theexact time as Ebban's ceremony, throwing a negative light on the state. The demonstration was intended to send a message to the world, that the State of Israel persecutes religion and deny the rights of the minority. 

 Abba Eban, who heard about it - knew the media spotlight may be directed to the thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrating, called the Rebbe's residence and asked to speak with him urgently. He was told by the Gabboim that he would not be able to speak directly with the Satmar Rebbe. Instead, he was directed to Rabbi Lipa Friedman - who served as Rosh hakohol of Satmar. Abba Eban, swore he is willing to commit that the pool will be closed immediately and begged that the Rebbe cancel the demonstration, it can be harmful to us. He promised to do all in his power and connections to get the pool closed. Friedman Repeated over the conversation to the Rebbe, the rebbe responded that he does not trust Abba Eban, he is certain that after the cessation of the festivities - if the demonstration is canceled, He would not lift a finger to keep his promise. Still, I'm willing to grant the request and to consider favorably, so nobody could say then, that the Satmar Rebbe is guilty in not closing down the pool because he was offered a swap, eliminating a demonstration for the pool, and he refused the offer. 

Three days  passed since the  ceremony marking the day of Independence. Abba Eban contacted Friedman and apologized to him for not keeping the deal. "I assure you that I spoke with Prime Minister Ben Gurion and anyone who could speak on the issue - but all of them sealed their ears from hearing." When the Rebbe heard that ebben did not keep the deal, he was furious he said "I knew". He would not let Ebben or the zionists get away with it and promised a larger demonstration to humiliate the state. The next demonstration will be double the quantity and we will look at every avenue to bring to the attention of the world the exploits of Zionism, persecuting the Orthodox Jews in Israel. The next demonstration was impressive, it took place in front of the White House in Washington. The President at the time was Dwight Eisenhower. The President agreed to meet with meet the representatives of thousands of protesters, including the late Rabbi Lipa Friedman, the late Rabbi Sender Deutsch, and Rabbi Joel Klein  all Satmar community leaders. They conveyed to the President the cause of the demonstration and the fact that the Zionists  were persecuting Orthodox Jews at every opportunity. The President promised to convey the message to the heads of state and ask them to consider the needs of Orthodox Jews.

  The mixed pool eventually closed. However the ire of the Zionists burned within. They could not bear the humiliation of mass demonstrations organized by satmar and the media coverage it received. Apparently, within the Israeli Mossad they devised a plot. it was decided to eliminate and kill the  enemy which is the Rebbe  rav Yoel Teitelbaum Zatzal, who continued attacking and demonstrating against them.
Somehow, the plot came to the Rebbes attention. Only few in the inner circle were notified and were told to keep quiet. Rabbi Mendel greenberg, rushed to buy a gun and served as a bodyguard to the Rebbe. Being single at the time, allowed him to provide security to the Rebbe around the clock. Meanwhile, the Gabboim summoned an urgent meeting with the secret service and told them about the information received. A plan of action was formulated to provide security. The secret service had 5 members dress up as orthodox Jews. Three of them sat in an unmarked car in front of the rebbes home,  two were stationed in the rebbes house.They were on the lookout for a hit man or suspicious activity. The system worked like this: one of the yeshiva students, dressed in a hat and suit and wearing sunglasses, sat in the reception room of the Rebbe, and recorded all those entering and leaving the house. On the roof of the  five-story building stood another guard, who was equipped with a radio and he too kept track of all those coming and going.Late every day, the 2 guards would  cross check between the lists making sure the number of outgoing and incoming were identical. On the third day, when  Rabbi Yosef Ashkenazi the main gabbai, announced that kabolas kahal was over for the day, the guards compared notes and discovered that one person entered the building and has not yet emerged. The signal was given to close and search the building. Members of the Secret Service arrived as reinforcements  to prevent the escape of the suspect hiding in the building. Guards entered with guns drawn the building, and began to search the five-story, trying to find the assassin. They initially, visited the fifth floor,  and searched house to house. Following a strict and thorough scan they found the assassin hiding in a tank in the boiler room which was located below the basement floor. The assassin was waiting to carry out the mission assigned to him by his handlers. He was arrested and handed  over to the FBI, for questioning. A total news blackout was imposed on the details of this  story, and the Rebbes circle were not informed of any follow up details of the arrest. The secret service personnel informed the Rebbe that life can return to normal. All they were told was that the Israeli Government had a hand in the attempt and were issued a stern warning by Washington. Beyond that, no more details were given that could shed light on the event. Forty-four years later, when all those involved have passed onto the next world,  the last witness, Reb Mendel Greenberg, decided to share one of the darkest episodes of Zionism. 


  1. The President at the time was David Eisenhower.


  2. Don't believe the story. Sounds too amateur.

  3. How convenient nobody other than him is alive to tell the story
    I remember as a kid hearing his stories it use to always be as dramatic as this one

  4. how convenient he is the only One alive to tell the story
    I remember as a kid hearing his stories it always use to be as dramatic.

  5. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 5, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    I agree with the prior comments.

    Besides for the convenient aspect of this guy being the only one alive to tell the tale (it's unclear for what other reason he couldn't tell this while the others "involved" were alive), a lot of the story sounds like something that conforms more to a Satmar chosid's alternative view of reality than to the real world. Such as:

    That Dwight Eisenhower met with Satmar representatives to discuss persecution of the Orthodox in Israel.

    That the Mossad decided to assasinate the Rebbe out of anger.

    All details of what transpired, including the Rebbe "somehow" finding out about the plot, being guarded by a gun-wielding Satmar bochur, and detecting the "assassin" by some cutesy "chap".

    Chazal say every sheker that has no emes at all in it has no kiyum. I'm not sure if something being published in Der Blatt is enough of a kiyum so that we need to assume that there was some emes in this story. But FWIW, I know there were big tummuls over mixed swimming pools in Yerushalayim (though I don't know if this issue got as far as NY) and of course the Satmars have made demonstrations in America against the Zionists (I don't know about outside the White House). If I had to bet one way or the other, I would bet that Abba Eban never called Satmar about anything, but I wouldn't be shocked if something like that happened. But I'm sure everything else is fantasy, or worse.

  6. The story is very plausible. In an earlier generation, Poalei Tziyon (y"sh) actually shot at the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, but fortunately missed. During that period he carried a gun for his own protection.

    1. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 8, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      There's a huge difference between some individual hothead taking a shot at someone and a professional spy agency deciding to bump off a prominent rabbi out of anger over their humiliation.

      [That's even assuming the story you cite is true. Wouldn't surprise me - other than the rebbe carrying a gun part - but wouldn't surprise me if it's bogus either.]

    2. I could believe some nut job taking a shot at the Rebbe, quite easily. I could even believe that some in the Mosad of that era would want to "take him out". But, it's HIGHLY implausible that they would have actually moved ahead with something like this. They had bigger fish to fry, and there was too much risk for too little return.

      As for the rest of the story? It sounds like something out of a bad cartoon. A Satmar Yeshiva Bochur sitting with sunglasses? The "assassin" hiding in a tank in the boiler room, beneath the basement?

  7. Would somebody explain to me how having a mixed swimming pool, which is not run according to halacha, is equivalent to "persecuting the religious in Israel"? Were religious Jews forced at gunpoint to go swimming there? How would complaining that Israel is not religious enough persuade American public opinion and the American President to turn against Israel, considering that most American Jews are not Orthodox/religious and American non-Jews wouldn't understand the whole issue? I am really confused.

  8. I'm sure they brought up other issues as well, such as giyus banos. The US is frequently concerned, to some extent or another, about minority rights abroad, so this would have resonated well. Are you saying they cried wolf at that time, so that now they're facing a "real" crisis?

    1. I believe that the giyus banot issue had been solved by 1958. The main complaint of anti-Zionist religious Jews is that the state does not impose religious norms on the non-religious population, plus those who say that the Jews should not have a state before the Mashiach comes, which, of course, is a completely incomprehensible problem for the vast majority of Jews and non-Jews today. Today, there is no anti-religious coercion in Israel (there was back in the 1950's but that is ancient history). Even the argument that Haredim should serve in the army can not be considered anti-religous coercion because conscription applies to all sectors of the Jewish community and many religious Jews do comply with it, so the Haredim are not being singled out for military service.

      In any event, the article above says the mixed swimming pool was the catalyst for the supposed planned mass anti-Israel demonstration. In fact, in the 1950's, the main Jewish anti-Zionist movement in the US was not the Satmars, but rather the American Council for Judaism which was made up primarily of Reform Jews. I don't know if the Satmars would have cooperated with them, although they may have shared an anti-Zionist world view, but there were major differences on religious issues....e.g. I doubt the Council would have condemned Israel simply for allowing mixed swimming pools.

    2. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 8, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      More broadly, even Eisenhower meeting with these people altogether is something of an anachronism.

      Nowadays Satmar is a pretty big movement. Not big in the national scheme of things, but pretty big in the Jewish scene and semi-important to local NY politics. Maybe their people could get an audience with the president. Maybe.

      But in 1958? Hard to imagine. Satmar back then was a fraction of its current size and influence. Even if you add in all the satelite kehillos they were still a tiny insignificant speck, from the perspective of anational politician like Eisenhower.

      I think this guy's story reflects both the contemoporary situation - and even today it would be a big stretch - and also a viewpoint of the Rebbe and Satmar generally as having loomed a lot larger and had a lot more prominance than they actually had.

      Similarly, I think the idea that the Rebbe "somehow" found out about the secret Mossad plot is something along those lines. The Rebbe and/or Satmar had contacts and sources within the Mossad ...

  9. I suspect people don't remember the 1950s too well. When the SOI was established, they didn't have the legitimacy they enjoy today and they were struggling to establish themselves as the voice of Jews in the world. They agreed to a status quo with the Orthodox because of their desperate search for legitimacy. Satmar was a thorn in their side, despite their relatively low numbers, because they were the first unabashedly orthodox jews in the tri-state area. They wore shtreimlach and ignored the world around them. Many feared them because of their supposed authenticity. Rabbis all over the tri-state area constantly condemned them from the pulpit. It is not inconceivable that the Mossad would have him in their gunsights.
    Remember in the 60s they placed the whole weight of the Mossad behind finding Yossele. Why did they care so much for one child? It may look funny today, but they were deathly scared of Satmar. They elevated them to the status of serious contenders.
    Apologies to those who believed the Mosad were omnipotent, it seems they had their fair share of fools.

  10. A bobbe maiseh, m'techilah v'ad soif.

  11. The entire story goes against the profile given in the popular Meisels bio, that the Rebbe was against public demonstrations against Israel.