Jewish History Soundbites

Crisis Management: The Great Crisis of the Chassidic Movement

September 3, 2021
Modern times brought a host of challenges to the Chassidic movement in the closing decades of the 19th century and intensified in the 20th. World War One and the havoc that it wreaked led to a full blown crisis. Demographically the chassidic movement began to decline in numbers for the first time in its history. Urbanization transformed the chassidic experience and the interaction between the Rebbe and his followers. The Russian Revolution left the chassidic heartland and birthplace of the movement behind the Iron Curtain. Immigration to the west and United States loosened the affiliation of the immigrants to the courts.
This crisis was met courageously by chassidic leaders in a variety of creative ways. A renewed focus on education led to the establishment of yeshivos, and even girls' education was encouraged for the first time. Spiritual renewal was seen in courts such as the Piacezna Rebbe Rav Klonymous Kalman Shapira. Involvement in politics and using the media became more common. And a stronger shift towards traditionalism became the most recognizable and long lasting effect on the movement across the entire chassidic society. Emphasis on a uniform form of dress to promote a collective identity, became perhaps the most recognizable manifestation of this new way of closing the ranks in a changing, increasingly urban society.
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