Monday, June 24, 2013

The press coverage of the 'first Chasidic rebbe in America,' 1893

Rabbi Eliezer Chaim Rabinowitz, (1845-1916) of Jampol, progenitor of the Skolye Hasidic dynasty, and known as the 'first Hasidic rebbe in America' visited these shores in 1890.

By 1893 he had a congregation of some kind in New York, where visitors petitioned him for prayers, advice and remedies. The New York Herald discovered this and sent a reporter (and an artist) to investigate. Not surprisingly, it portrayed him as a fraud. (Even if it is too long to capture your interest to read, scroll down to see the sketches and the facsimile of one of his handwritten remedies.)

My thanks to Azriel Graber for identifying the rebbe in this piece for me, as well as for his fascinating historical research and conversations I have had with him.

Here is the story, with a follow-up in the Herald, and reaction in the Jewish press to follow in a separate post:


  1. Thanks, very interesting.

    Would be interesting to examine how much things have changed and how much they have remained the same since then.

    For starters, I would say that instead of giving prescriptions as above, as an alternative to the conventional medical system, various Chasidic Rebbe have changed course, and adopting a role of medical referral specialist, they recommend specific doctors or places of treatment instead.

  2. MiMedinat_HaYam1:56 PM, June 25, 2013

    he was buried here

    skolye actually doesnt do such games. they are very straight. when their yeshiva was going to close down, they just closed it, without incurring debts they would have had no intention of paying off.

    the congregation in 1893 was probably just some shul / meeting room he rented, for purposes of attracting chassidim.

  3. "skolye actually doesnt do such games. they are very straight.

    you're talking about someone like 6 generations later.

  4. the man who wrote this aticle was actually a reformed or nothing with judasim and shurely never saw in his life a hasidic rabbi espacillly not an authentinc so he comes from a point of anti and hate etc, so lets focus on this that in america in those days there was a holly hasidic rabbi making a tish on shabbos and nothing different from how he did it in russia and poland, and this looks very spooky for this writer who has no idia about this, like the blessing on rhe chala looks to him kabbala. so i was very impreesed from this rabbi and this tish, and all other stuff is bologney its the wriers agenda its easy to see. the story with the intercom was very common in those days against rabbis.

  5. It's apparent from the article, that it may be referring to the Tzemach Tzedek shul of chabad association (not Tzadik as spelled, which would imply Viznitz). As they were indeed many years in the US. I haven't done my research as to exactly when- but this detail seems to be about on the mark..

  6. They were known for these shtik, his son The Brownsviller Rebbe was in hiding for many years because the authorities were after him for prescribing remedies.

  7. I've had this same experience with the Pittsburgher Rebbe and I'm not Reform. My uncle is a prominent admo"r in Israel (and although we don't share the same hashkafa, he's no charlatan). A lot of rebbes are. Obviously some of the writing was over the top (why make fun of his dress without learning what's behind it), but selling remedies is just sad. One thing I'm unclear about is whether the rebbe was pretending he knew the man's personal information or whether he was just repeating what the shamash told him. It seems to me that he was just repeating what the shamash told him and the author was trying to make it seem devious. So yes, the author's biased and crooked, but so is the rebbe.

  8. His son became the "Brownsviller Rebbe"



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