Ger (Hasidic dynasty)

Ger (Hasidic dynasty)

Ger, or Gur (or Gerrer when used as an adjective) is a Hasidic dynasty originating from Ger, the Yiddish name of Góra Kalwaria, a small town in Poland.

Prior to the Holocaust, Ger was the largest and most important Hasidic group in Poland. Today it is regarded as one of the largest Hasidic dynasties in the world, along with the Satmar dynasty. It is now based in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. The Rebbes who lead the movement have the family name of Alter. The founder of this group was Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (he changed his name from Rotenberg) (1798-1866), known as the "Chiddushei HaRim" after his primary scholarly work by that title.


After the death of the Kotzker Rebbe in 1859, the vast majority of his Hasidim chose Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Kotzker Rebbe's brother-in-law and his closest disciple, as their new Rebbe. At the time, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir lived in Warsaw and led the main Kotzker shtiebel there (on ul. Zelazna). Shortly after accepting the leadership of the Kotzker Rebbe's Hasidim, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was appointed as Rav and Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court) of Ger. Relocating to Ger, he become the founding Rebbe of the Gerrer dynasty. During his seven years of leadership, the Chassidus flourished, causing it to be known as the "seven years of plenty". [B'reishith 41:47]

After Rabbi Yitzchak Meir's death in 1866, his Hasidim wanted his eighteen-year old grandson, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, to succeed him. When Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib refused to accept this position, most of the Hasidim became followers of the elderly Hasid, Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin, formerly rabbi of Prushnits and now retired to Alexander. After Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh died in 1870, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib (who became known as the "Sfas Emes") acceded to the request of the Hasidim to become their next rebbe. Despite his youth, he was quickly accepted amongst the rebbes of Poland as one of their own.

The Gerrer movement flourished under the leadership of Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib and his eldest son and successor, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (known as the "Imrei Emes"). In 1926, in a bold departure for Polish Hasidim, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai established a yeshiva in Jerusalem, naming it for his father, the "Sfas Emes". The first rosh yeshiva was Rabbi Nechemiah Alter, a brother of the "Imrei Emes". Today the yeshiva remains the flagship of the Gerrer yeshivas. A branch was set up in Tel Aviv, later to be called Yeshivat Chiddushei HaRim.

Distribution of Gerrer Hasidim

Almost all Gerrer Hasidim living in pre-war Europe (approximately 200,000 Hasidim) perished during the Holocaust. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, who managed to escape, set about the task of rebuilding the movement in the British Mandate of Palestine.

Under its post-war leaders, the movement began to flourish again. Presently, on major occasions such as Shavuos, 12,000 Hasidim may gather in the main Gerrer beth midrash.

Large communities of Gerrer Hasidim exist in Ashdod, Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, Israel, as well as in New York, London, and Antwerp. Several satellite communities have also been established in small towns in Israel, such as Arad in the Negev desert, Hatzor HaGlilit in the Galilee, Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat. Ger maintains a well-developed educational network of Talmud Torahs, yeshivas, and kollels, as well as Beis Yaakov schools for girls. Its leaders dominate the Agudat Israel religious movement and political party in Israel.

Gerrer institutions


*"Lev Simcha" (London)


* "Beis Yisroel" (Ashdod)
* "Pnei Menachem" (Beit Shemesh)
* "Meor Yisroel" (Bnei Brak)
* "Beir Re-em" (Bnei Brak)
* "Imrei Emes" (Bnei Brak)
* "Tiferes Moshe Betsalel" (Bnei Brak)
* "Sifsei Tsadik" (Hatsor)
* Yeshivat Sfas Emes (Jerusalem)
* "Ner Yisroel" (Jerusalem)
* "Tiferes Moshe Betzalel" (Jerusalem)
* "Neizer Yisroel" (Rishon LeZion)
* Yeshiva for gifted students (Rishon LeZion)
* Yeshivat Chiddushei HaRim (Tel Aviv)


* Mesivta "Beis Yisrael" (Borough Park)
* Yeshivas Yagdil Torah (Borough Park)
* Yeshiva Gevoha (Borough Park)

Identifying features of Ger

The men are distinguished by their dark Hasidic garb, and by their pants tucked into their socks called "hoyzn-zokn" (not to be confused with the breeches, called "halber-hoyzn", worn by some other Hasidic groups). They wear a round felt hat, and a high, almost-pointed kapel. On Shabbos and Jewish holidays, married men wear the high circular "shtraml" (fur hat) of the Polish Hasidim, sometimes called a "spodik" (not to be confused with the much flatter "shtreimel" a fur hat worn by married men in most other Hasidic groups).

Ger follows the way of the Kotzker Rebbe in stressing service of God in a sharp and objective way, as opposed to the mystical and spiritual orientation of other Hasidic groups. Ger also places much emphasis on Talmud study. During both Friday-night and Shabbos morning services, worshippers take a break — usually one hour long — which is devoted to Torah study.

Under the leadership of the fifth Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Alter (known as the "Beis Yisrael"), "Ichud Mosdos Gur" (Union of Gerrer Institutions) was established as the responsible body for funding all the educational institutions within the orbit of Ger in Israel. The "Ichud" is currently responsible for funding about 100 such institutions.

Emphasis on purity and holiness

The "Beis Yisrael" put great emphasis on purity and holiness, and will always be remembered as the Rebbe who rebuilt Ger after the terrible destruction of World War II.

He left a great impression on many people from all walks of life, and was highly respected in all Haredi circles. His ideal was to elevate every person to somehow become one level higher than his present state. There are countless stories from individuals (Hasidim and non-Hasidim) who met the Rebbe, which relate how he had a tremendous spiritual impact on them and how this strong impression will never leave them. What makes this even more impressive is that many of these encounters with the Rebbe were for a very short period of time.

Gerrer dynastic leadership

:"Note: The alternate name for each Rebbe (given in italics) is the name by which the Rebbe is known after his death. This sobriquet, traditionally bestowed by his successor upon his acceptance of the mantle of leadership, is used to refer to the Rebbe himself and as the title for his collected writings which are published posthumously. During his lifetime, the given name of the Rebbe is not used; he is simply referred to as "The Rebbe, "shlita" [may he live long] ".

# Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798 - March 10 1866), also known as the "Chiddushei HaRim". Notable student of the Kotzker Rebbe and a prominent contemporary posek. Assumed leadership of the Hasidim in 1859.
# Grand Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Alexander. Rebbe from 1866 to 1870. Often referred to as "The Rebbe, Reb Heynekh".
# Grand Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847 - 1905), also known as the "Sfas Emes". Born in Warsaw, Poland. Died in Góra Kalwaria. Wrote Talmudic works and Maharal-style Torah commentaries which are known within and outside Hasidic streams. Gerrer Rebbe from 1870 to 1905.
# Grand Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter (December 25 1866 - June 3 1948), also known as the "Imrei Emes". Gerrer rebbe from 1905 to 1948.
# Grand Rabbi Yisrael Alter (October 12 1895 - February 20 1977), also known as the "Beis Yisroel". Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1948 to 1977.
# Grand Rabbi Simchah Bunim Alter (April 6 1898 - August 6 1992), also known as the "Lev Simcha". Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1977 to 1992.
# Grand Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter (June 9 1926 - March 7 1996), also known as the "Pnei Menachem". Son of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai. Gerrer Rebbe from 1992 to 1996.
# Grand Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter (born 1939). Son of Rabbi Simcha Bunim. Gerrer Rebbe from 1996 to the present.


* Citation
last =Alfasi
first =Yitzchak
author-link =
title =בית גור The House of Ger (2 vols)
place=Bnei Brak
publisher =Moriah
year =2005
edition =4th

External links

* [ First Gerrer Rebbe]
* [ Sfas Emes]
* [ The Gerer Shtibl - Memories about a little Ger synagogue in Poland]
* [ Alter family tree]
* [ Buy books online]


* [ A huge Gerrer wedding in Israel attracts thousands of people]
* [ A video clip of the present Gerrer Rebbe, shlita]

ee also

*List of Hasidic dynasties

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