Meshulim Feish Lowy

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Meshulim Feish Lowy II
Rebbe tosh.jpg
Born (1921-04-11)11 April 1921
Nyírtass, Kingdom of Hungary
Died 12 August 2015(2015-08-12) (aged 94)
Kiryas Tosh, Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada
Resting place Kiryas Tosh Cemetery
Occupation Grand Rebbe of the Tosh Hasidim
Spouse(s) Chavah Weingarten (1946–1996)
Malka Haas (1996–2015)

Meshulim Feish Segal Lowy II (Hebrew: משולם פייש סג"ל לאווי‎‎, Magyarized: Lőwy Ferencz; 11 April 1921 – 12 August 2015) was the fourth Grand Rebbe of the Tosh Hasidic dynasty.

Biography

Early life

Meshulim Feish Lowy was born in Nyírtass, northeastern Hungary. His father Mordecai Márton[1] was the oldest son of Grand Rebbe Elimelech, leader of the native Tosh Hasidim, and his mother Cirel (née Fekete) had been daughter to the chief rabbi of Nyírbátor. He was named after his great-grandfather Meshulim Feish Lowy I (1821 – 1875), the founder of the sect. In 1930, Mordecai was appointed rabbi of Demecser. Upon reaching the age of twelve, the boy was sent to study at the yeshiva of his uncle, Ascher Adolf Lőwy, in Nagykálló. On 2 December 1942 his grandfather died, and Mordecai succeeded him as Grand Rebbe.

In 1943, the young Lowy was drafted into the Labour Service, to which ethnic minorities and "politically unreliable elements" were recruited in lieu of regular military service. He was sent to a labour camp in Kassa, where the inspectors regarded him as insane due to his extreme piety, largely ignoring his conduct and allowing him to maintain a fairly observant lifestyle. Later on he was reassigned to a camp in Margitta. As a Labor Serviceman, he was saved from deportation when German forces entered Hungary on 19 March 1944, while most of his extended family was murdered in Auschwitz during the summer.

In October 1944, Lowy's camp was liberated by the Red Army. He wandered across the country, seeking survivors in Kisvárda, Makó and other cities. In 1946, he married Chava Weingarten. Eventually, the remnants of his father's Hasidim crowned him Rebbe at Nyíregyháza in 1948. Rabbi Lowy remained in Hungary for a further two-and-a-half years, until the growing threat of the Communist regime motivated him to instruct his followers to leave their country.[2]

Canada

In spring 1951, Lowy arrived in Montreal, Canada, where his surviving older brother Chaim Joseph was already settled. After Passover, the Grand Rebbe established a study hall named "Ohel Elimelech" (Elimelech's Tent) in the city.[3] On 3 October 1952, the "Tasher Congrégation" was officially incorporated. After a decade in Montreal, Lowy began seeking a secluded location in which his Hasidim could be isolated from the influences of society; a model Jewish Ultra-Orthodox enclave, New Square, was built by the Skverer dynasty already in 1956. In 1963 the Tosh community was granted a C$500,000 loan with which Lowy financed the purchase of a small compound in Boisbriand, Quebec, named "Kiryas Tosh". Eighteen families moved in.[4] By 2015, some 300-400 households numbering over 3,000 members resided in the enclave. As part of his duties as spiritual leader, he also headed the local yeshiva. In addition to his followers in Canada, Tosh communities were established in Brooklyn, London, Antwerp and other cities around the world. By 1999, an estimated 6,000 people lived in those, apart from the Rebbe's own town.[5]

In 1979, Rabbi Lowy led an attempt to grant Kiryas Tosh an independent municipal status, separating it from Boisbriand. The mayor and local authorities were keen to agree, due to the low tax revenues and high welfare expenditures in the area. Press and public opinion, however, were concerned by the possibility that the sect would codify and enforce laws on religious grounds, and the scheme was scrapped.[6]

Rabbi Lowy held extreme Ultra-Orthodox positions, common among Eastern Hungarian rabbis, and was close to the Satmar dynasty and the Central Rabbinical Congress. In 1981, when the Rebbe of Belz withdrew from the Congregation of God-Fearers in Jerusalem and announced that his Hasidim should vote for the Knesset and receive Israeli state funds, the Tosher Rabbi stated that "it is forbidden to receive any support from the Zionist heretics... Heaven hath mercy upon us and gave us Joel Teitelbaum, who shined against the darkness wrought by the Zionists, the holy flame which burned all the weeds and pests spreading into the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts."[7]

The Grand Rebbe took an exceptional stance before the Quebec referendum, 1995. While virtually all non-French citizens opposed secession, a Tosh representative voiced full support in the name of Lowy, stating he had taken a favourable approach toward the Parti Québécois already in 1976, when they first formed government. His pro-French attitude engendered much criticism in the wider Jewish public. Two weeks before the vote, Premiere Jacques Parizeau paid a celebratory visit to Kiryas Tosh. Eventually, wary not to antagonize the Federal Government, Lowy's Hasidim split their votes.[8]

Rabbi Lowy became famous for his piety and the ecstatic manner in which he his prayers, which took many hours to complete, and benedictions. His court became a site of pilgrimage for Hasidim from other sects, and Orthodox Jews seeking blessing in general. Between 1993 and 2009, his collected writings were compiled and published in a book series named Avodas Avodah ("service of the ministry"; from Numbers 4:47). Ethnographer William Shaffir, who studied the Toshers, commented that the Rebbe's books contained the general concepts of Hasidism, stressing mystical and ecstatic approach to religion and the need for communion with God, without specifically innovative ideas. Publishing in print was necessitated as the Rebbe's health declined, preventing him from regularly appearing in public.[9]

On 5 September 1996, his first wife Chava died. On 16 January 1997, his firstborn and heir presumptive Mordecai suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. He remarried in 2007 with Malka Haas. A severe case of Pneumonia had him hospitalized for a month, in October–November 2010.

Rabbi Lowy died on 12 August 2015 in Quebec at the age of 94. He was succeeded by his second son and youngest offspring, Rabbi Elimelech Lowy. He also had four daughters: Cirel Fisch, Bracha Hanna Meyer, Fraidl Sarah Katz and Malka Kahana.[10]

References

  1. ^ All Magyar names are cited in: Shlomo J. Spitzer, Die Rabbiner Ungarns, 1944: die orthodoxen Gemeinden. MTA Judaisztikai Kutatócsoport (1999). p. 38
  2. ^ Meir Amsel, Encyclopedia haMaor, Balshon, New York (1974). OCLC 16567139. pp. 217-221.
  3. ^ Yitzchok Cohen, Tosh: A Chassidic Oasis in Quebec, HaModia, September 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Jewish Life, Volume 37, September–October 1969. ISSN 0021-6577. p. 41.
  5. ^ Joshua Hammer, Chosen by God: A Brother's Journey. Hyperion Books (1999). p. 165.
  6. ^ Janet S. Belcove-Shalin, New World Hasidim: Ethnographic Studies of Hasidic Jews in America. SUNY Press (1995). pp. 56-57.
  7. ^ Otsrot Yerushalayim, Volume 43 (295), 1982. OCLC 6669318. p. 1520.
  8. ^ Lori G. Beaman, Religion and Canadian Society: Contexts, Identities, and Strategies. Canadian Scholars’ Press (2012). pp. 163-166
  9. ^ Justin Jaron Lewis and William Shaffir, Tosh, Between Earth and Moon:A Hasidic Rebbe’s Followers and his Teachings. Candadian Jewish Studies, Cambridge Scholars 2011.
  10. ^ Agence QMI. "La communauté juive rend hommage à un rabbin de Boisbriand". Le Journal de Montréal (in French). 

External links

  • William Shaffir, The Tasher Rebbe.
  • La communauté juive rend hommage à un rabbin de Boisbriand, Le Journal de Montréal, 13 August 2015.
  • Rabbi Seeks Municipal Status for His 300 Member Community in Quebec, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 16 May 1979.
  • Gil Kezwer, Shalom/Bonjour, Canadian Geographic 114:4 (July 1994), 54-63.
  • Brittany Wallman, Rabbi's Stay a Blessing, Curse, Sun Sentinel, 3 April 2009.
  • Brittany Wallman, City Manager Pays Personal Visit to Tosh Sect in Victoria Park, Sun Sentinel, 3 April 2009.
  • Émilie Dubreuil, Le saint et ses taxes non payées, Le Journal de Montréal, 11 April 2012.
  • Ex-Hasidic Man Sues for $1.25M Over Poor Education, Jewish Daily Forward, 19 November 2014.
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