Tens of thousands of Hassidim and members of other Jewish denominations celebrated the recent marriage of Shalom Rokeach, the grandson of the rebbe of Belz, to Hannah Batya Penet, the daughter of one of the community’s noble
The 18-year-old groom is the rebbe’s eldest grandson and the son of his only son, and is therefore expected to be appointed rebbe himself one day. The Belz dynasty was almost completely annihilated during the Holocaust and now represents one of the biggest Hassidic movements in Israel. The wedding was feted as a joyful event for the Rokeach family and also the foundation for the continuation of the Hassidic dynasty — a symbol of the victory over the Nazis.
Hassidim from Israel and abroad flocked to Jerusalem for “pre-wedding” events, including the aufruf, when the groom was called to recite the blessing over the Torah in shul on the Shabbat before the wedding.
The couple were married May 21 under a glorious canopy installed on the main traffic island in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Belz. Afterwards, the men were directed to a huge tent near the Hassidic movement’s house of study, while the women celebrated with the bride at Jerusalem’s International Con-vention Center.
It was likely the largest haredi wedding ever held in Israel, both in the number of participants and in the list of dignitaries who accepted the rebbe’s invitation to attend. Rabbis and public figures from a wide spectrum of the haredi and national religious sectors arrived to pay their respects to the Belz rebbe, who maintains close relations with the different circles. Attendance was estimated at 25,000, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Ger rebbe, head of Israel’s largest Hassidic movement, and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a leader of the Ashkenazi Lithuanian community, received a special welcome from the rebbe and his followers, but the highlight was the entry of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Sephardic leader arrived in spite of his advanced age and medical condition; in response thousands of Hassidim cheered enthusiastically and the dancing grew more and more frenzied.
“The uniqueness of this celebration is in the fact that there has not been a wedding for the grandson of the Belz rebbe since before the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Aharon Vind, who attended the event. “This wedding, for this public, for the tens of thousands of people here, marks the victory over the German Nazis, damn them.
“Showing what God did, the victory over them, that they wanted to destroy the entire nation, and thank God — the more [the Jews] were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The wedding celebration continued until dawn, in expectation of another highlight — the “mitzvah tantz,” the dance between the rebbe and the bride as each held the end of a sash, followed by the groom himself and his new wife, hand in hand.