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Legacy of Many Threads

Aryeh Ehrlich

They wear kippot serugot under their shtreimels, gartels over jeans or army fatigues. They are chassidim of the Pashkaner Rebbe, a sixth-generation descendant of Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin and husband of Rebbetzin Tziporah — daughter of the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz. While Gilo isn’t exactly Bnei Brak, Rav Yisrael Friedman, who’s straddled many worlds in his 91 years, believes he’s been able to bridge major gaps in Klal Yisrael.

Monday, October 06, 2014

11 Elul Tish — Thursday night, 10 Elul 5774 That end-of-summer scent drifts through the evening air in the definitely un-chassidic southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. The large building at the bend in the road beckons with its light, as I step inside to a perfectly-set rebbishe table, two flames flickering atop a pair of silver candlesticks. A silver goblet with a rounded cup and slender leg stands prominently in the center of the table. The chassidim in their gartels focus on one person. At the head of the table sits the Rebbe, the son-in-law of the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz and a sixth-generation descendant of Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin. His eyes are closed and his right hand covers his forehead, in the customary posture of the dynasty. An elegant fur kolpik testifies to the dynasty of Ruzhin. Behind him sits his son, a brigadier general in the IDF, with a gartel wrapped around his waist. Alongside him are the Rebbe’s grandsons, students in various hesder yeshivos, with matching kolpiks. Absolute silence reigns in the room. Now Brigadier General Hoshea Friedman begins to hum “Kah zechus avos yagein aleinu.” The chassidim join in. The singing grows louder, the lyrics emerging in the clear, fluent Hebrew of native Israelis. The chassidim sway gently back and forth. The voices are like those of Bnei Brak chassidim, but their appearance marks them as religious Zionists from Gilo. Am I hallucinating? 

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