Chaya Chana Twersky, who helped her husband build a suburban haven for Skverer Hasidim, dies at 81


(JTA) — Thousands of followers of the Skverer Hasidic movement attended the funeral Monday of Chaya Chana Twersky, the wife of Rabbi David Twersky, the Grand Rabbi of the movement and spiritual leader of the all-Hasidic village of New Square, New York. She died Feb. 18 at age 81. 

Born in Deezh, Hungary, she was the daughter of Hasidic royalty: Her father, Moshe Yehoshua Hager, later of Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak, Israel, was known as the Vishnitzer Rebbe. Chaya Twersky was 18 when she married Twersky, a descendant of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty and son of the previous Skverer Grand Rabbi, Yakov Yosef Twersky.

In 1954, her father-in-law established a redoubt for his community in exurban New York in part to shield his followers from the corrupting influences of secular city life. When he died in 1968 and was succeeded by his son, Chaya assisted her husband in continuing the effort. 

“In New Square, she was a central figure who was very involved with the residents, connecting and caring for all the families in the town, never holding herself aloof,” according to VINnews, an Orthodox Jewish news site. “She was known as an extraordinary hostess for the hundreds of guests who visited Skver on a consistent basis.”

Thousands of followers of the Skverer Hasidic movement attend the funeral of Chaya Chana Twersky, the wife of the Grand Rabbi of the movement, in New Square, New York, Feb. 19, 2024. (Satmar Headquarters via X)

New Square, located about 40 miles north of New York City, was officially established in 1961 as “the prototype of a self-conscious, homogenous, and legally incorporated shtetl on American soil,” according to a recent history of American Hasidism. Like the movement, it took its name from the town of Skvira in Ukraine.

Often taking their cues from the Skverer rebbe and the kehilla, the body that supervises communal affairs, voters in the town of about 10,000 people are eagerly courted by politiciansReflecting the political influence of the community, tributes to the rebbetzin poured in from politicians, including NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who wrote that “she led the emergence of Hasidic Jewry throughout New York State.”

Chaya Twersky is survived by her husband; four sons, Rabbis Aaron Menachem Mendel Twersky, Yitzchok Twersky, Yakov Yosef Twersky and Chaim Meir Twersky; and two daughters, Hinda Heschl and Sima Mirl Yosefson. A daughter, Tzipporah Goldman, died in 2022.

A great-grandson, Yosef Goldman, died in a boating accident in 2019.

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