Vien (Hasidic Community) - Transition To Hasidism

Transition To Hasidism

While the original Viener Kehilla strictly adhered to the customs of Ashkenazi and Yekkish Jews, during the past 30 years there has been a gradual "hasidishization" of Viener practices among the younger members of the group due to the proximity and political dominance of "mainstream" hasidim in their neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York.

Some of the most notable differences of the pre-hasidic Vien were:

  • Oberlander style of dress, with men wearing homburg hats or fedoras on weekdays as well as on the Sabbath and holidays. Married women generally wear wigs without kerchiefs. The usual style of dress is more yeshivish than hasidic in general. It has been remarked by very old members of the group that hasidic dress was not at all the norm for members of their group in Vienna before the war, and that it was considered foreign to their practice.
  • Stronger attention to secular studies in the Viener schools.
  • English speech is fluent among the vast majority of Vieners, although it is almost always an acquired second language (after Yiddish). This is in distinction to hasidic groups in general, where it may be as much as a point of pride that one is not fluent in English.
  • Vieners generally follow the centuries-old customs of the Viennese community, including the Ashkenaz nusach (liturgy) in Davening (prayer), in preference to the customs and nusach of the hasidim.
  • The head of the Viener community is termed the "Rov" (rabbi) rather than as the "Rebbe". This is a differentiation that was common in the European Jewish communities, where the Rov was the legal leader of a community, usually with outstanding educational credentials, and the Rebbe was the leader of the hasidim of the community, who usually acknowledged the Rov as his scholastic and legal superior.
  • There is no real Viener rabbinical dynasty, and rabbinical veneration is much more subdued than in hasidic communities in general.

Today, while there are still a few members left who follow the old viener way, the vast majority is like any other hasidic sect in every way. Other Hungarian hasidic sects that underwent very similar transitions include Nitra, Kashau, Tzehlim, Krasna and Pupa.

On the Saturday of Parashat Kedoshim, (May 2008), the Vienner Kehillah of Williamsburg switched from Nusach Ashkenaz to Nusach Sefard, although its affiliated Kehillot in Borough Park and Monsey, New York still maintain Nusach Ashkenaz.

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