21 Kislev in Satmar

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satmar-rebbeThis year’s 69th annual 21 Kislev celebration of the miraculous Holocaust rescue of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav  Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l (1886-1979), founding Satmar Rebbe and author of Divrei Yoel, will be celebrated all over the world today. On this day in history, 21 Kislev, December 4, 1944, the Satmar Rebbe was aboard a train that crossed the border into Switzerland and to freedom. The deliverance was made possible by Dr. Rudolf Kastner, who bribed the Nazis and thus saved 1,685 Jewish souls.

Throughout the years, the 21 Kislev event was always a unifying occasion as Satmar chassidim from around the world sat together and held hands singing and dancing. However, with Satmar currently divided, two separate celebrations are held. Each half of Satmar is led by a son of the Beirach Moshe and represents an independent network of communities, shuls, yeshivas, girls’ schools, meat stores, matzah bakeries, and cemeteries throughout the world.

The followers of Rav Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and oldest son of the Beirach Moshe, will be conducting their central 21 Kislev event at the The Williamsburg Marcy Armory. The followers of Rav Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and third son of the Beirach Moshe, will be marking the event at New York State National Guard Armory.

National Guard (Troop C) Armory

The event two years ago was held at the Pulaski Port Complex, near the Pulaski Bridge, not far from Williamsburg. The Pulaski Complex proved too small for the huge gathering, forcing the search for a larger facility. The New York State National Guard Troop C Armory represents an additional 2,000 seats to help accommodate the tens of thousands of Satmar chassidim who joined Rav Zalman Leib in the special celebration.

The facility, at 1579 Bedford Avenue between Union and President Streets, was built between 1903 until 1907. It was designed by the renowned architects Pilcher and Tachau, who also designed the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx as well as the Jewett House of Vassar College. Interestingly, the National Guard/Troop C Armory building is not yet landmarked. Presently, offices at the facility provide military support services, military food service, military customer service, military legal services and military employment services.

The Troop C Armory in Crown Heights South is the last of the great castellated armories in Brooklyn. It was built for Squadron C, a cavalry unit. The special needs of a horse and equipment unit necessitated some of the important differences between the Troop C armory and many of the others in Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods. Troop C was established in 1895, saw action in the Spanish American War in 1888, and became part of the 101st Cavalry in 1921.

Lewis Pilcher, one of the armory’s architects, was a Columbia University graduate. He became a professor of art at Vassar College, and later served as an architect for the state of New York. While at Vassar, he designed Jewett House in 1907, a large dormitory building that actually resembles an armory.

The Troop C Armory was one of the first of its kind to emphasize structural and engineering components as much as more decorative and stylistic features. The enormous space used for drilling soldiers towers over the administrative parts of the building. Compared to the nearby 23rd Regiment Armory, on Bedford and Atlantic Avenue, where that building’s tall fortress tower dominates the skyline, this armory’s design and space primarily served for drilling cavalry soldiers and their horses.

The armory, in addition to the usual component of administration and dormitory space, also had room for stabling hundreds of horses, as well as heavy equipment such as cannon and wagons. As the military modernized in the 20th century, horse-drawn equipment was replaced by tanks and trucks. The tanks became familiar sights at parades and training exercises when tanks actually rolled down Bedford Avenue often. There is still a National Guard unit here, and now Hummers have replaced tanks.

In addition to the National Guard, the building has been used for many other functions. The building’s facilities have served as community rooms used by local communities, including Lubavitch. In February 2001, the International Conference of Shluchos held its 23rd International Kinus-Conference Gala Banquet at the Armory, attended by more than 3,000 Lubavitcher women.

Williamsburg Marcy Armory

The booking of the Williamsburg Marcy Armory by Rav Aharon’s followers is considered a triumph. Many major Satmar events were held at the Marcy Armory, beginning with the 21 Kislev commemoration in 1978, when the celebration included the Divrei Yoel, and again in 1979, the last celebration in which the Divrei Yoel participated before his passing on 26 Av (August 19), 1979. The 1978 celebration included the establishment of Keren Hatzolah, the fund-raising organization that finances yeshivas that do not accept any monies from the Israeli government.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. The names of the architects that built these armories I’m sure is of great interest to all the readers! It really makes the article interesting!

  2. At the general article about the day at http://matzav.com/todays-yahrtzeits-history-21-kislev-3, I pointed out that in 1941, 21 Kislev was December 11, which was the day when Germany and Italy formally declared war on the United States and the U.S. in turn formally declared war back on them. This day thus marked the FULL entry of the United States into World War II. The process had begun four days earlier on December 7, with the very famous attack by Japan on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and the U.S. formal Declaration of War on Japan the next day.

    So the day of December 11, 1941/21 Kislev 5702, marked a gigantic turning point in WWII. Until now, even though Japan had brutally conquered most of far eastern Asia and Germany had brutally conquered most of Europe — with plans of sadistic genocide, R’L, for Klall Yisroel and numerous other “inferior” peoples — the attitude of most Americans was that of “isolationism.” This was a severely callous complete indifference to the troubles in other parts of the world.

    Then though, came this sudden heavy “kick in the back” of Japan’s massive PH bombing; understandably, this totally wiped out all isolationist ideas.

    However, this was only with Japan! Regarding Germany though, there was wide perception that it had no part* in Pearl Harbour, and, anyway, there had all along been numerous pockets of outright Nazi admiration.

    (* The real truth is that the Nazis had sent their spies to the U.S. to gather information on Pearl Harbour that they would then pass to the Japanese.)

    Then though, on December 11, in a long rambling speech to the Reichstag, Hitler openly and proudly declares his full support of Japan’s PH treachery and thus announces that, together with Japan, Germany and Italy were at war with the United States. As the historians write: “Hitler answered the question!”

    So now that the U.S. was fully in the war, it was only a matter of time until its military forces were suficiantly built up, and then came and delivered on the wicked German-Italian-Japanese Axis blows of crushing defeat. Then with the end of Hitler’s imagined “1000 Year Reich,” Boruch Hashem, there was finally a stop to the horrific sadistic harrowing bloodbath of genocide of Klall Yisroel.

    Therefore, it is greatly significant that three years later on the anniversary of this crucial turning point, the Satmer Rebbe, ZT’L, and other major Gedolei Torah, ZT’L, were released from the death machines and thus able to begin the long task of rebuilding the destroyed Torah communities.


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