While the Holocaust destroyed numerous chassidic communities, some of the surviving sects maintained their significance and impact after the war. Such was the case of the Ger Chassidim.
The first rebbe of Ger (aka Gur) was the Chiddushei Ha’rim* (Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter – Poland, 1799-1866), a disciple and brother-in-law of the Kotzker Rebbe, (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern – 1787-1859). When the Kotzker Rebbe died, in 1859, his followers asked the Chiddushei Ha’rim to become their new spiritual leader. Shortly after accepting the position of Rebbe, the Chiddushei Ha’rim was appointed the Rav and Av Beit Din (head of the religious court) of the town of Góra Kalwaria (known in Yiddish as Ger).
Ger chassidut is known for its focus on Torah learning and self-development. This exceptional scholarliness is reflected in the succession of Rebbes of the Ger Rabbinic dynasty. Each Rebbe in the Alter family is considered an intellectual giant.
The Chiddushei Ha’rim was succeeded by his grandson, the Sfas Emes (Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter, 1847 – 1905). He was succeeded by the Imrei Emes (Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, 1866 – 1948), who opened a Yeshiva (named Sfas Emes after his father) in Jerusalem in 1926. The presence of this school turned out to be fortuitous, for the Ger yeshivot in Israel helped to revive the community after it was decimated in the Holocaust. (The Imrei Emes survived.)
The Imrei Emes was succeeded by : (1) the Beis Yisrael (Rabbi Yisrael Alter 1895 – 1977), (2) Lev Simcha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Alter 1898 – 1992), (3) Pnei Menachem (Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter, 1926 – 1996), and (4) the current Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter (born 1939).
Through their many schools and yeshivot, the Ger Chassidim have not only succeeded in revitalizing their community, but gained a reputation for excellence in Torah learning.
*The Rebbes are referred to by the names by which they were best known, which was usually by the name of their most popular published works.
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