Kehal (community) Pupa (also “Puppa”; Hebrew/Yiddish: קהלת יעקב פאפא) is a Hasidic dynasty, named after the town of its origin (according to the Yiddish name), also known in Hungarian as Pápa. Before World War II, Pupa had an important yeshiva which produced many well-known ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Hungary. The whole community was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and only a few people came back. Currently, there are no Jews in Pápa.
The group is based in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, with branches in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, Monsey, New York, Los Angeles, and Ossining, New York. It is headed by the Pupa Rebbe, who has several thousand followers.
Pupa consists of a wide international network of educational institutions, with more than 7,000 students enrolled in its yeshivas, girls schools, summer camps, and kollelim in Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey, Westchester, Montreal, Jerusalem, and elsewhere. In Williamsburg, Pupa is second in size to the Satmar Hasidim, with whom they share many communal facilities.
Lineage of the Pupa Dynasty
Grand Rabbi Moshe Greenwald, the progenitor of the Pupa dynasty, was a disciple of Grand Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, the second Belzer Rebbe, son and disciple of Grand Rabbi Shalom Rokeach of Belz. The latter was a disciple of Rabbi Shlomo of Lutsk, a disciple of the Rebbe Dovber, the Maggid (Preacher) of Mezritch, who was the primary disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism.
- Grand Rabbi Moshe Greenwald of Chust (1853–1910) – author of Arugas HaBosem – disciple of Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz
- Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yechezkiah Greenwald I of Pupa (1882–1941) – author of Vayaged Yaakov – son of the Arugas HaBosem
- Grand Rabbi Yosef Greenwald of Pupa (1903–1984) – author of Vaychi Yosef – son of the Vayaged Yaakov
- Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yechezkiya Greenwald II of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (born 1948) – present Rebbe of Pupa – son of the Vayechi Yosef
Reb Yiddel Weber
Rav Yehuda (“Reb Yiddel”) Weber (1920–2006). Born in Vodkert, Hungary, to Rav Yisoscher (Berman) Weber, a descendant of the Bach, and Rebbetzin Chana, a niece of the Arugas HaBosem. After his Bar Mitzvah, Yehuda was sent to learn in Pupa under Rav Yaakov Yechezkiye Grunwald, the Vayaged Yaakov, the Pupa Rebbe, who was his rebbi muvhak for 7 years.
When he died at the age of 58, he was succeeded by his son, Rav Yosef Grunwald, the Vayechi Yosef. Rav Yehuda then served as mashgiach of Pupa. When the yeshiva was closed in 1944, Rav Yehuda spent 6 months in the local work camps before being deported to Bergen-Belsen. In 1946, his sister introduced him to his Rebbetzin, Batsheva.
A year later, his sister, Miriam, married the Pupa Rebbe. Both families settled in Antwerp, then moved to Williamsburg, New York, in 1950. In 1952, he was appointed as a Maggid Shiur in the newly established Pupa Yeshiva, first located in Queens, then in Ossining, Westchester County. Although his family stayed in Williamsburg, Reb Yiddel made the 40-mile drive for sixteen years.
Among the dozens of holy items that were passed from father to son in the Pupa dynasty is the pure silver menorah used by the Pupa Rebbes to kindle their Chanukah lights. The menorah is unusual in that it can be transformed into candlesticks for Shabbos and Yamim Tovim, which the Pupa tzaddikim used throughout the year. The Vayaged Yaakov had received the menorah from his students, which they had constructed especially for him. It was passed down to the Vayechi Yosef, and today is used by the current Pupa Rebbe. This menorah – a borderline antique – is especially tall and majestic, which is not always the case with older menorahs of previous generations. On its back are engraved the words: “Mishloach manos to the holy Rebbe, shlita, from his faithful students of Pupa, 5698 .”
In 1938, a number of the Pupa yeshivah bochurim decided to order a special, splendid menorah to be made by a silversmith in Pest. Each of the students contributed toward the expense of the valuable mishloach manos gift to their Rebbe, the Vayaged Yaakov. On Purim, some of the older bochurim, who served as gabbaim in the yeshivah, presented the Rebbe with the stunning menorah. Its size and beauty were unusual.
In 1941, with the passing of the Vayaged Yaakov, the menorah was left with the Rebbetzin. A year later, the menorah was transferred to her son in the following roundabout way: The Vayaged Yaakov’s father-in-law, the Brezhvitzer Rav, Rav Yisrael Menachem Braun, was living in Slovakia, where the occupation under the Nazis had already become intolerable. The widowed Pupa Rebbetzin decided to bring her father to Pest – where Jews still has some recourse – but needed a huge sum to smuggle him over the border. The yeshivah bochurim offered her a deal: They would obtain the sum she needed and buy the menorah off her, which they would then present to her son, the Vayechi Yosef, who was arriving in Puppa to fill his father’s place.
There was great anxiety about the fate of the many manuscripts and holy artifacts – would anything survive the Nazi onslaught? Rabbi Shmuel Webber, then learning in the Pupa Yeshivah, came up with the idea of burying them. The Rebbetzin gave him her large cholent pot, and he buried the manuscripts along with the holy menorah inside it in the courtyard.
As the war raged, and the community was ravaged, Rav Shmuel met the Rebbe, the Vayechi Yosef, in a labor camp as they were both being sent to Auschwitz. Neither knew if they would survive, and so, Rav Shmuel told the Rebbe what he had done, so that someone else should know the whereabouts of the manuscripts and the menorah. Both survived the war. After the liberation, they returned to Puppa, dug up the items, and found the menorah whole.
Having witnessed the murder of his family, the Vayechi Yosef wandered from place to place after the war, until he reached the United States. Meanwhile, he sent the menorah to Temishvar, Romania, to his surviving sister, the Temeshvarer Rebbetzin, tchya. She returned it to her brother in 1946, when he was living in Antwerp, and from there, it traveled with him to the United States, where it remains to this day. The accompanying little silver pitcher was a mishloach manos present to him from the students of the Pupa yeshivah in the United States on Purim 5725 (1965).
With the division of the inheritance of the Vayechi Yosef, his son Rav Aharon Greenwald – brother of the current Pupa Rebbe and dayan of the Kehillas Yaakov community of Pupa – received the menorah.