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Rebbe is a title that may be given to a rabbi in Orthodox Judaism, particularly in Hasidic Judaism. It is a Hebrew word denoting "my teacher". It is also used by non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews when they talk of a teacher of Torah or Talmud and in the world of the yeshivas (Talmudical schools) the teachers, such as the Rosh yeshiva, are called Rebbe or Rebbi by their own students.
The first and greatest Rebbe according to Hasidism was its founder Israel ben Eliezer known as the Ba'al Shem Tov ("Master [of the] Good Name"). His disciples who rose up or were selected for positions of leadership and their successors have thereafter been honored with the same title, Rebbe, which gradually came to imply of itself a higher spiritual status.
Orthodox Jews use the term to denote someone that they perceive not only as the religious leader of their congregation, but as their spiritual advisor and mentor. A rebbe is someone whose views are accepted not just on issues of religious dogma and practice, but in all arenas of life, such as politics and social issues.
As an example, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch hasidim; referred to as "The Rebbe" by Lubavitch Hasidim, as well as by many non-Lubavitchers who speak of him. According to some interpretations, the word Rebbe is an acrostic that stands for Rosh Bnei Yisrael - "head [of the] Children [of] Israel."
Each Hasidic group refers to their leader as "The Rebbe". A Hasidic leader is also known as an AdMoR (an acrostic for ''Ad[oneinu] Mo[reinu] R[abeinu]'', "[Our] Master, Teacher, Rabbi").
In Israel, the best known Hasidic groups are the Ger, Nadvorna, Vizhnitz and Belz Hasidim, each having their own rebbes. In the United States of America there are the Satmar (founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum), Puppa, Skulen , Skver , Czernobyl , Bobov, and Lubavitch Hasidim (whose Rebbe passed away and was not replaced).
Some Hasidic rebbes have thousands of followers, or disciples called Hasidim, (meaning "righteous ones"), whilst others may have only a few hundred. Some only have a title, but don't have a following beyond their own family members and a few congregants in their synagogues.
Some Hasidim, such as those who are Breslov follow their deceased Rebbe Nachman of Breslav. Similarly, the Lubavitchers remain loyal to the deceased Rabbi Schneerson, who died childless, and his followers continue to follow and venerate him after his passing.
Rebbes of Ger
- Yitzchak Meir Alter (1798(?)-1866)
- Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847-1905)
- Avraham Mordechai Alter (1866-1948)
- Yisrael Alter (1895-1977)
- Simchah Bunim Alter (1898-1992)
- Pinchas Menachem Alter (1926-1996)
- Yakov Aryeh Alter (b. 1936-present)
Rebbes of Lubavitch
- Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)
- Dovber Schneersohn (1773-1827)
- Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1789-1866)
- Shmuel Schneersohn (1834-1882)
- Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1860-1920)
- Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (1880-1950)
- Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)
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