Chasidim of Belz

[Yiddish, Belzer chasidim] - A Chasidic group founded by Shalom Rokeach (1789-1855). Rokeach was known as the "Belzer Rebe" and studied under many leading tzaddikim, including Yaakov Yitzchak Ha-Levi Horovitz of Lublin. Shalom Rokeach settled in Belz [in present-day Ukraine] in approximately 1815. Among his followers he was regarded as a miracle-worker-it was believed for example that he could free human souls that had been imprisoned within animals and exorcise dybbuks from the bodies of the possessed. He put great emphasis on observing religious laws and doing good deeds, which he considered more important than competence in Talmudic studies. He opposed the Haskalah, and was famous for discussing many things with his wife, Malka. His followers also emulated his attitude towards women, which differed from that of traditional Judaism.
Rokeach had five sons, all of whom became well-known scholars. His youngest son, Joshua (1825-1894) succeeded him, and was esteemed for his breadth of knowledge. He was one of the first Chasidic tzaddikim to be involved in politics. In 1878, he founded the group Machtsikei Ha-dat [Hebrew, "Upholding the Faith"]. He was recognized as the informal leader of the Orthodox Jews of Galicia, and strove to maintain the principles of traditional Judaism. He was succeeded by another son, Isachar Dov (1854-1927), who became famous in Chernobyl, where he lived for several years. Like his father, he was involved in politics, and supported the organization of religious schools for girls known as Beys Yakov schools. His son and successor, Aron (1880-1957), also actively participated in society. For example, he intervened with the Prime Minister, K. Bartel, for subsidies to schools run by Orthodox organizations.
During the Second World War, Aron was in several ghettos, where he hid using assumed names. In 1944, he managed to leave for Palestine, where he settled in Tel Aviv. Because all his children perished in the Holocaust, after 1965 he was succeeded by his nephew Isachar Dov (born in 1948), whom he had adopted. He expanded a yeshiva that had been founded by Aron in Jerusalem, and funded a nearby synagogue. He remains one of the most influential tzaddikim to this day.

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