About Rbzn. Pessel Leah Teitelbaum [Satmar 2nd wife] (Teitelbaum-Volovo)
In 1936, Leah Meir married her cousin Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum. She was daughter of Rabbi Hanoch Heinoch Meir of Karecska, where Moshe held the position of Rosh Yeshiva (Dean). In 1939 they moved to Zenta (Senta), where Rabbi Moshe was appointed Rabbi of Zenta, Yugoslavia (now Serbia).
In late spring 1944, the Hungarian government, assisted by Nazi forces led by Adolf Eichmann, began deporting Jews en-masse. Rabbi Moshe and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, where Leah and their three children died (gassed). Moshe was then transferred to Traglitz and after that to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, where he was liberated in 1945.
Rbzn. Pessel Leah Teitelbaum, the daughter of Aaron Teitelbaum (of Volova, Russia) was Rabbi Moshe second wife. They were married in Volova, Russia in 1946 after Rabbi Moshe survived his captivity by the Nazis at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, where his first wife and their three little children died, and Theresienstadt, during the Holocaust in WWII.
The Satmar Rebbitzen, Rebitzen Pesil Leah Teitelbaum, A’H was the daughter of the holy Volover Rav, and a descendent of the Yismach Moshe.
She was born in Europe to Rav Aharon Teitelbaum and his wife Chaya z”l, and lived through the evil of Nazi-occupied Europe. She had not married before the war. Her second cousin, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, the future Satmar Rav had lost his wife and three children during the holocaust at Auschwitz. Rebbitzen Pesil Leah married him after his release from Theresienstadt. This was her first marriage – his second. Rebbitzen Pesil Leah was his right hand during her entire life, and encouraged him in all he did.
After the war, they moved back to Sighet which was now in Communist Rumania. Sighet was where his father Rav Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum zatzal had been the Rav. His father had passed away when he was an eleven year old child, and now, with his new wife at his side, he took the mantle of Rabbinic leadership of the town. For a short time they were successful . After the war Jews had begun to resettle in Rumania.
But soon the persecutions began anew. Not from Nazis, this time, but from the Communists. On November 19, 1946, the Communists held a general election trying to become a Soviet bloc and an attempt to overthrow the monarchy. The election was filled with fraud and intimidation, and both Rav Moshe and Rebbitzen Pesil Leah knew that the persecutions would be devastating if the Communists were to win.
They decided that a future no longer remained for them in Communist Romania, especially after the communists began to persecute Rav Moshe. They would have to rebuild all their efforts once again. They soon emigrated to New York City where his uncle the Satmar Rebbe had re-established himself in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Reb Moshe and his Rebbitzen established the Atzei Chaim Sighet Shul in Williamsburg on 153 Hewes Street, and they slowly built the Sighet Chassidus. He was very close to his uncle the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel zatzal.
There was some tension that they felt in light of the fact that the Satmar Rebbe had no children himself, and the decision was made in 1966 to relocate to Boro Park.
Boro Park was initially a litvisha Jewish enclave and more and more people were moving there. Soon, in large part to their efforts, it became a Chassidisha enclave too.
In 1979, after the death of his uncle Reb Yoel, Rav Moshe took over the Chassidus and Rebbitzen Pesil Leah became the Rebbitzen to all of Satmar Chassidus. The sheer piety and Ahavas Yisroel of both the Rebbe and his Rebbitzen won the hearts of the overwhelming majority of the Chassidim – even though at first there was some opposition.
Her husband wrote his magnum opus the Berech Moshe in the 1980’s and 1990’s and she encouraged him. She had no expectations of anyone – and never used her position as Rebbitzen to push an issue. Her humility was such that very few knew of what she accomplished. She watched her husband so very carefully. She made sure that his health was intact and that he would eat properly.
“She was not like other Rebbitzens – she did everything on her own – never relying on the Chassidus,” said one Mekurav. “She was not a big talker. She never worked politics – everything was straight to the bone.”
When elderly Chassidim would go to the Rebbe for a Kvittel, they would ask for her bracha as well. Her eidelkeit, her Tznius, her heartfelt Tefillos and reciting of Tehillim were well-known throughout the Kehillah.
She would never allow the politics of the Chassidus to enter into the house. The health and well-being of her husband and her children was of her utmost concern. And she succeeded immensely in this.
VeRachok Mipninim Michrah. She took a leading role in Bikkur Cholim, helping to build it into a model for what Mitzvah observance is all about. From food, to transportation, to apartments for family members of the sick – Rebbitzen Pesil Leah spearheaded it all.
She would accompany her husband in Sharon Springs near Albany off the 87. Those that were there with her for the summers remember her absolute kindness – especially to older people.
Another remarkable aspect of the Rebbitzen was her appreciation for Limud HaTorah. She raised funds each year by having a Kollel luncheon that raised significant funds for the Kollel yungerleit. She encouraged others to join her in this support of Torah.
Kamu Vaneha vayeshruha. A woman’s family praises her by becoming outstanding in Torah. And the Rebbitzen raised a remarkable family as well.
Her two sons, Rav Aharon and Rav Zalman, each became Rebbes in Satmar themselves. Rav Aharon and Rav Zalman - both have Chassidim around the world.
Another son, Reb Lipa became the Zenta Rav in Brooklyn. Zenta was the shteller of Rav Moshe prior to the second world war.
Another son, Shulem Eliezer, heads the Satmar shul of 15th Avenue.
The Rebbitzen has two daughters who are chashuva Rebbitzen as well – Rebbitzen Meislish from Montreal and Rebbitzen Halberstam from Monsey.
Her brother was the original Nirbater Rav, father of the current Nirbater.
The Rebbe and his Rebbitzen suffered a terrible tragedy with the loss of their daughter Chaya – aleha HaShalom, on the 18th of Shvat 5753 (1993), whom she had named after her mother. The pasuk says, “Vayidom Aharon” and Aharon was silent upon the death of his holy sons. The Rebbitzen’s reaction was no different. She took her daughter’s tragic death with emunah, bitachon and courage.
“I was able to face a loss in my mishpacha too, only because I saw the emunah of the Rebbitzen. I would not have had the strength,” was a sentiment expressed by many others who witnessed her loss. The Rebbitzen sought to memorialize her daughter and she founded a remarkable Tzedakah – Keren Chaya which provides the ability for needy melamdim to marry off their children.
What insight! The term has a double meaning – a living fund. Her appreciation for Torah and for those who teach it was a remarkable statement that had its impact throughout Satmar and beyond.
She had a difficult life. In year 2000 The Rebbitzen also lost a grandchild and a great-grand child, Sarah Blima and Chaya Esther Halberstam from Montreal, in a tragic fire on Shavuos recently. She had also suffered from an illness akin to Alzheimer’s for the past eleven years.
Rebbitzen Pesil Leah was being treated in Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan.