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Yakov Yosele Twersky:
The Skverer Rebbe

The Kalarash yizkor book contains an article entitled "Rebbe Yakov Yosele and the Hasidim of the Town," written by the widow of Shlomo Trucker of Kalarash. In this article, Sarah Trucker tells of the time --- from 1927 to 1933 --- when Yakov Yosele Twersky, the venerated hasid later known as the Skverer Rebbe, was a rebbe in Kalarash.

A descendant of the Chernobyler rabbinic dynasty, Yakov Yosef (known as Yakov Yosele) Twersky was born around 1900 in the town of Skver, near Kiev. In 1925, he married Trana, a grandaughter of the Belzer Rebbe Yisachar Dov Rokeach. In the first years of their marriage, the young couple lived in Belz, as a result of which Rebbe Yakov Yosele adopted a number of Belzer customs.

After the death of his father, Rebbe Yakov Yosele moved to Kishinev with his extended family, which included his widowed mother, three brothers, and a sister. He was said to be uncomfortable living in Kishinev because he did not wish to appear to be in competition with his older brother Yitzchak. That may have been why he was receptive when the hasidim of Kalarash asked him to come to their town, to serve as their rebbe. The invitation had been extended at the urging of Shlomo Trucker who, with his father, had visited Rebbe Yakov Yosele’s father Rebbe Dovidl Twersky of Skver and had become acquainted with the Rebbe’s family.

In 1927, Rebbe Yakov Yosele set up his own hasidic court in Kalarash. He was very pious and was much loved by the local hasidim. He was especially close to the Trucker family and when his house was destroyed by fire one Shabbat eve, he spent seven weeks living with the Truckers. The Truckers eventually emigrated from Kalarash to Chile and lost contact with him.

In the winter of 1933-34, Rebbe Yakov Yosele moved to Iasi, Romania. He spent the war years in Bucharest. After the war, he emigrated to Williamsburg, New York. He was unhappy with big-city life and the materialism he saw around him so, in the mid-1950s, he and 20 families settled on a former dairy farm in the town of Ramapo, New York. This was the beginning of New Square (an anglicized version of Skver), a village that now is home to some 8,000 people, where a hasidic lifestyle governs everyday conduct and the predominant language is Yiddish. New Square has been described as the first hasidic shtetl in the United States.

Yakov Yosele Twersky, the Skverer Rebbe, died in 1968 and was succeeded as leader of New Square by his son, Rebbe David Twersky.


Credits: Text and page design copyright © 2007 by Helene Kenvin. The information in Sarah Trucker’s article in Sefer Kalarash was translated from Hebrew and extracted by Jerrold Landau. Page created by Helene Kenvin. All rights reserved.