Bratslaver Hasidim Today

Most Hasidic groups choose a new spiritual leader (rebbe) when their founder or leader dies — often his son or another close relative. When Rebbe Nahman passed away, his followers found no one on his level worthy to replace him. Rather than appointing a new leader, they continued to look to him and his teachings for inspiration and guidance. Lacking a living rebbe, the Bratslaver Hasidim earned the nickname "the dead Hasidim." Although each passing generation of Bratslaver Hasidim since Rebbe Nahman's death has adopted leaders of great piety, none of them has ever been considered the sole leader or central authority of the movement.

It is difficult to give more than a rough estimate of the number of Bratslav Hasidim today. There are perhaps several thousand families in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak and several dozen in Safed, who may be identified as making up the core of the Bratslaver community. There are likewise many Bratslaver families in N. America.

Rebbe Nahman's influence in the Jewish world today goes beyond the individual communities. Many individuals and groups throughout the Jewish world who have no contact with the Bratslaver communities study his writings and are inspired by his tales and teachings.

The central communal gathering of the Bratslav Hasidim is the annual Rosh Hashanah gathering. In recent years, the city of Uman (where Rebbe Nahman is buried) has once again become the main gathering place for the Bratslaver Hasidim. In many Israeli cities, they have become a conspicuous part of the landscape, wearing large white skullcaps and dancing enthusiastically and with great joy on the street corners.


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