Skver (Hasidic dynasty)

Skver (also Skvir or Skwere; Yiddish: סקווער‎) is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rebbe Yitzchok Twersky in the city of Skver (as known in Yiddish; or Skvyra, in present-day Ukraine) during the mid-19th century. Followers of the rebbes of Skver are called Skverer Hasidim.

The Skver synagogue in Skvyra, Ukraine, restored in 2004

The dynasty of Skver is a branch of the Chernobyl dynasty. Its founder, Rebbe Yitzchok, also known as Reb Itzikl, was one of the eight sons of Rabbi Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl.

There are currently two main offshoots of the Skverer dynasty. One is led by Grand Rabbi David Twersky, and is headquartered in New Square, New York. The other is led by Grand Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky, son of the late Grand Rabbi David Twersky of Skver, with headquarters in Borough Park.

Philosophy and lifestyleEdit

Skverer Hasidism stresses Torah study, prayer, and abstention from excessive earthly pleasures in order to achieve purity of heart and mind. To that end, the Village of New Square was established, where residents are sheltered from influences deemed decadent.

A central part of the lifestyle is the attachment to the rebbe. As with most Hasidic groups today, the Rebbe's position is generally attained through his lineage. However, to be accepted by the masses, the Rebbe is expected to display behaviors such as humility, love for fellow Jews, and general devotion to God's service. The rebbe, as tzadik or righteous person, is seen as a conduit to God for the masses.

Modes of dress for Skverer Hasidim are generally similar to those of other Hasidic groups, especially that of Vizhnitz, Belz, and Klausenberg. Weekday attire for men consists of long coats called rekels and velvet hats. On Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath), Jewish holidays, and special occasions, the men wear long black coats made of silk (or imitation silk made from polyester) called bekishes. Married men also wear fur hats called shtreimels, and knee-high leather boots known as shtievl.

Married women usually wear wigs, often with an additional covering over it, such as a scarf or hat, and wear modest clothing with long, conservative skirts, wrist-length sleeves, fully covered necklines, and stockings.

Although all Haredim and Hasidim stress fealty to established traditions, for Skverer Hasidism, it is stressed exceedingly, and is a cornerstone of their philosophy.[citation needed]


The first Skverer Rebbe was Rabbi Hershele of Skver (Reb Hershele Skverer), a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov. When Rabbi Hershele settled in Skver (Skvira) he was elected to become the town rabbi in the shtutishe shil (Yiddish: שטאטישע שול‎ = main shul in the city). Rabbi Hershele's daughter later married Yitzchok Twersky, called Reb Itzikl, the seventh son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl.

Reb Itzikl, founder of the dynastyEdit

After Reb Hershele died on Chol Hamoed Succos 5548 (1788), the townspeople chose Rabbi Itzikl, the seventh son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl and Reb Hershele's son-in-law, as the next rabbi of Skver. According to Hasidic legend, Reb Itzikl was given the honor of leading the Atoh Horeiso prayer on the night of Shemini Atzeres, and his prayers moved the townspeople so much that he was immediately chosen to be the next rabbi. The election of a successor to Reb Hershele as the town rabbi, which had been scheduled to take place after the Sukkot holiday, was canceled as the townspeople had already agreed on their rabbi.

Rabbi Itzikl was married three times. He married his first wife, who was a granddaughter of Rabbi Yitzchok of Radvil and the Apter Rov, in 1783. They had two sons, Avrohom Yehoshua Heshil of Makhnovka and Menachum Nochum of Shpikov. His second wife, Chaya Malka, was a daughter of Rabbi Yisroel Friedman of Ruzhin. His third wife, Chana Sima, was the daughter of Rabbi (Tsvi) Hershele of Skver.

Unlike his father, Itzikl was a reticent sort, and did not deliver public discourses, as was common among other Hasidic rebbes. His successors generally did the same. The philosophy of general reticence and understatement in devotional behavior characteristic of Skver can be traced to this practice.

While Reb Itzikl was not a preacher, people traveled from afar to discuss their personal matters privately with Reb Itzikl. He established his Hasidic court in the center of the city, occasionally traveling to other towns in Ukraine.

Reb Itzikl is known in Hasidic legend as the filozof eloki, the Godly philosopher. He is said to have studied the works of Maharal extensively. There is evidence that he also studied medieval and pre-medieval works of Jewish philosophy, in departure from the practice of some other Hasidic sects to shun philosophical studies of fundamental faith issues.

The Haskala movement (the Jewish Enlightenment, not to be confused with the more general Age of Enlightenment), was sweeping through Eastern Europe in the late eighteenth century, and Reb Itzikl frequently attempted to debate and confront the Maskilim. A well-known tale relates that Reb Itzikl engaged in a fierce debate with a Maskil, and won the debate after citing an argument from Sefer Haikarim.

There are no published works by Reb Itzikl himself, although a collection of oral teachings called "Yalkut Meorei Or" (among other books) has been published by Skverer Hasidim in recent years under the imprint of Mechon Mishkenos Yakov.

Reb DovidlEdit

Rabbi Itzikl's son by his third wife Chana Sima, Reb Dovidl, succeeded his father as Skverer Rebbe. He was known to be ascetic and exceedingly reticent. He once said, "Men shvagt un men shvagt, dernoch riet men abisl un men shvagt vater" ("We keep silent and we keep silent; then we rest a bit, and go on keeping silent").

In 1919, Rebbe Dovidl left Skvira for Kiev due to the Bolshevik revolution, which left smaller cities and towns unsafe. He stayed in Kiev until his death (on 15 Kislev 5680) later that year. He left no published works.

Skver in the U.S.: The New Square FactionEdit

Reb Yakov YosefEdit

Rebbe Dovidl's son, Rebbe Yakov Yosef (1899–1968), was revered as an exceptionally pious man. In 1925 he married Trana, the daughter of Rabbi Pinye of Ustilla and granddaughter of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach of Belz. As a young man he lived in Belz and later adopted some of the Belzer customs. A few years later he set up court in Kalarash, Romania (now Călăraşi, Moldova),[1] and later in Iaşi. After World War II he lived in Bucharest.

In 1948, after surviving the war in Romania, Rabbi Yakov Yosef came to the United States. Disappointed with American materialism and decadence, he was immediately overcome by a desire to create a rural community far from the hustle and bustle of New York life. It is said that soon after he arriving on American shores he said to his followers, "If I weren't so embarrassed, I'd turn around and head back immediately."

Building a shtetlEdit

After spending a few years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where his home and synagogue became a beacon for many who sought his counsel, he established a community in what was then rural Rockland County, New York, and named it New Square. Establishing the village and its institutions became his life's work. It was the first such Shtetl in America, and was later emulated by a number of other groups.

In 1956, with a handful of followers, Rabbi Yakov Yosef moved to New Square.

The present rebbe: Reb Duvid TwerskyEdit

Skverer Rebbe dancing with the Torah

After Reb Yakov Yosef's death in 1968, his son, Rabbi Duvid Twersky, took over the community's leadership. The community grew to new prominence under his guidance. To this day, Rabbi Twersky counts close to twenty thousand followers[citation needed], with institutions all over the world. Aside from its headquarters in New Square and its branches in New York City, the group maintains institutions in Canada, England and Israel. Its School in New Square counts close to five thousand students. Each Shabbos, he runs three tishn, and his Hasidim file past him five times.

Due to immense population growth in New Square (close to 1,300 families), the new village of Kiryas Square was planned in Spring Glen, New York.[2] The plans of expansion were later canceled.

Skver in the U.S.: Other BranchesEdit

Reb Itzikl Skverer HasheniEdit

Rebbe Dovidl's eldest son, Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, died in the same year as his father in Kiev. During those difficult times, many Jews fled Ukraine and came to America.

Rabbi Mordechai's son, Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, also left Bessarabia and came to America, arriving in 1923. Eventually, he settled in the Borough Park, Brooklyn and opened his shul on 47th Street between 13th and 14th Avenue.

Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky died while his son Rabbi Dovid Twersky was still young. Although there were not many vibrant Hasidic communities in America in those days, he was raised in a Hasidic atmosphere in his mother's house where he was guarded against what they considered the "harmful influences" of American culture. Later, when his uncle, the Grand Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky of Skver, came to America, he arranged all the paperwork and visas for the entire family for them to enter the United States while he got him a house and a shul in Borough Park from where Rabbi Yakov Yosef later moved to Williamsburg, and subsequently to New Square. When Rabbi Dovid grew older he took over the leadership of the shul of his late father, and devoted his life to help his fellow Jews. Rabbi Dovid Twersky was known for his expertise and influence with many in the medical field, and consequently, was often sought out for advice. He died in 2001 and was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky, the Skwerer Rebbe.

Family treeEdit

Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twerski of Chernobyl (1730–1797),
disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch,
and author of Me'or Einayim
Rabbi Aaron of Karlin,
disciple of
the Maggid of Mezritch
Rabbi Dovid Leikes,
disciple of
the Baal Shem Tov
Chayah Sarah
Rabbi Rabbi Mordechai Twersky,
Maggid of Chernobyl
Rabbi Aaron of Chernobyl
Rabbi Moshe of Karustshov
Rabbi Yakov Yisroel of Tcherkas
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Makarov
Rabbi Avraham, the Maggid of Turisk
Rabbi Dovid of Tolna
Rabbi Yitzchak of Skvira
Rabbi Yochanan of Rachmastrivka
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Makhnifke
Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Shpikov
Rabbi Yisroel
daughter of R' Shlomo Wertheim of Savran
Rabbi Dovid'l (1848–1919) of Skver
daughter of R' Elyokim Getz of Ostraha
Rabbi Mordechai Twerski
Rabbi Shlomo Twersky
Rabbi Nachum Twersky
Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky of Kishinev
Rabbi Yakov Yosef Twersky (1899–1968), previous rebbe of Skver and founder of New Square community
Rabbi Yitschok Twersky of Skver
Rabbi Mordechai Hager, rebbe of Viznitz-Monsey (died 2018)[3]
Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, rebbe of Rachmastrivka-Borough Park
Rabbi Duvid Twersky (born 1940), present rebbe of Skver and leader of New Square community
Rabbi Dovid Twersky of Skwer-Borough Park
Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky of Skwer-Borough Park

Institutions of Skwer-Borough ParkEdit

Institutions of Skwer-Borough Park include:

  • Bais Yitzchok boys' school. (named after Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky).
  • Tomer Devorah girls' school (Founded by the late Grand Rabbi Dovid Twersky around 1980, the school currently has an enrollment of about two-thousand girls).

There are also summer camps for the boys and girls where they enjoy a range of programs in the summer months.

Dynasty lineageEdit

  • Grand Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov — founder of Hasidism.
    • Grand Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl (1730–1797) — author of Meor Einayim and Yesamach Lev; disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.
      • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Twersky (1770–1837) — also known as the Chernobyler Magid (Preacher of Chernobyl); son of the Meor Einayim; author of Keser Torah.
        • Grand Rabbi Yitzchok (Itzikl) Twersky of Skver (1812–1885) — son of the Magid of Chernobyl; son-in-law of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Skver, a patrilineal descendant of the Baal Shem Tov;
          • Grand Rabbi David (Duvidl) Twersky of Skver (1848–1919) — son of Rebbe Itzikl.
            • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Twersky of Skver (1868–1919) — son of Rebbe Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky of Skver (1888–1941) — arrived in America in 1923, son of Rabbi Mordechai.
                • Grand Rabbi David Twersky of Skver-Borough Park (1922–2001) — son of Rabbi Yitzchak.
                  • Grand Rabbi Yechiel Michl Twersky — present Skverer Rebbe of Borough Park, son of Rabbi David.
            • Grand Rabbi Shlomo Twersky of Skver (1870–1921) — son of Rebbe Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Eluzar Twersky of Faltishan-Skver (1893–1976) — Rebbe of Faltishan (Fălticeni, Romania); son of Rabbi Shlomo; arrived in America in 1947.
                • Grand Rabbi Yisrael Avraham Stein of Faltishan (1915–1989) — Rabbi of Faltishan, and Faltishaner Rebbe in Brooklyn; son-in-law of Rabbi Elazar; arrived in America in 1946.
                  • Grand Rabbi Mordechai Stein of Faltishan — present Faltishaner Rabbe; son of Rabbi Yisrael Avraham.
                • Rabbi Avrom Twersky of Faltishan (ca. 1920-1985) — Rebbe of Faltishan Borough Park; son of Rabbi Eluzer.
                  • Grand Rabbi Shulem Meir Twersky — Present Faltishan Borough Park Rebbe; son of Rabbi Avrom.
            • Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twerski of Skver (1899–1968) — Rebbe of New Square; son of Rabbi Duvidl.
              • Grand Rabbi Duvid Twersky of Skver — present Rebbe of New Square and Grand Rabbi of the Skverer Hasidim worldwide; son of Rebbe Yaakov Yosef.

Important literatureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tamir, Noah. Sefer Kalarash, p. 35
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ BERGER, JOSEPH (March 16, 2018). "Rabbi Mordechai Hager, Leader of Large Hasidic Sect, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018. Rabbi Mordechai Hager, the reserved but strong-willed leader of one of the nation’s largest Hasidic sects, who settled many of his followers in a relatively bucolic upstate enclave to escape New York City’s temptations and decadence, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 95.

External linksEdit


  • Yachas Chernobyl V'Ruzhin, by David Aaron Twerski of Zhurik
  • Reb Itzikl Skverer, by Leibel Surkis, New Square, NY, 1997
  • Bikdusha Shel Ma'la, Biography of Rabbi Yakov Yosef (Twerski) of Skver, by Mechon Mishkenos Yakov, 2005