Chaim Meisels, the great-grandson of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the world’s largest hassidic sect’s leader, graduated from IDF Officer School today and will become a platoon commander in the IDF’s Golani Brigade.
Meisels grandmother was a daughter of the 2nd Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, known as the Berach Moshe. Satmar
Chaim Meisels was drafted into the IDF in 2014 after moving to Israel from the United States at the age of 19. He arrived alone and without knowing a lot of Hebrew or English. His mother tongue being Yiddish.
Today Meisels graduated the IDF’s Officer School and became a platoon commander in the Golani Brigade.
In a Facebook post entitled “Where there is a will, there is a way”, that has gone viral, Meisels wrote about the long journey that took him from the insular Satmar community of his youth to the IDF.
“I grew up as a haredi child in Brooklyn, United States,” he began. “I had the feeling that something was missing, but I didn’t know what. My first visit to Israel was at the age of 11. I discovered the State of Israel, a Jewish state. I did not yet know how it would affect me, but I felt that I had come home.
“When we returned to Brooklyn a few days later, I felt like another person,” Meisels continued. “Suddenly there was something I connect to, the State of Israel. Because I am the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe, and the community in which I grew up does not support Israel, I had no one to talk about it with.
“I came to Israel again at the age of 15, this time to study in a yeshiva in Bnei Brak. The only language I spoke at the time was Yiddish, and I could not communicate with the outside world like I wanted to. When I returned to the United States a year later, I bought a phone with Internet (we were not allowed to own one in a yeshiva), decided to learn English, learn about Israel and a little about the world.”
Meisels added that “at the age of 17, I realized that I wanted to leave the haredi world, but most of the people I knew who had left didn’t succeed. The social gap and the language made it difficult for them to cope with a different kind of lifestyle. I decided to turn to the Rebbe, to tell him that for years I was no longer Shabbat-observant.
“His answer was that I got where I was because I wasn’t yet married, that once I had a wife of my own, I wouldn’t want to leave anymore because the girl would no longer be happy. He explained that when I was married I could do more to help outside the yeshiva; I would be a freer person.
“Two weeks later I’m meeting with the girl’s parents who asked me questions about the Talmud. I passed the test and had a meeting with the girl while our parents were in the next room. I agreed to marry her after speaking to her for 50 minutes. We got engaged that night,” Meisels recalled.
“A few months later the wedding came. Right after the wedding, I realized that I was not really connecting with her. I would think about the State of Israel while she would think about what the Rebbe said,” Meisel continued.
“Six weeks later, I arrived home and my wife told me she was pregnant. I was happy, I was very excited, until slowly I began to think about what I had done. How I was going to raise a haredi child in a world that I disagree with?
“I knew it was too late, that in another moment a girl would come to the world, that in another second I would be a father.
“I couldn’t stay any longer,” Meisels continued. “I thought about it a lot, I tried to talk to outsiders, both friends who left and those who remained. In the end, I left. I parted from my wife and the community and most of my family left me.
“I found a good job. I started life from scratch and like a little child I learned how to dress (in clothes that weren’t black and white), and how to talk to people.
“A few months before 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, almost a year after I left the community where I grew up, I decided that I wanted to enlist in the IDF. I registered to immigrate to Israel, but after two meetings they told me that because I was 19, divorced plus one, I wasn’t suitable for the army,” wrote Meisels.
“Everyone told me I wouldn’t succeed in the army. They said that I had no chance,” Meisels added.
“I bought a plane ticket and arrived in Israel. At first, a friend connected me to the Chayal El Chayal lone soldier support organization, and to the Michael Levine Lone Soldier Center, who helped me out tremendously.
“In August 2014, I joined a Hebrew course at the IDF’s Alon base. After 3 months of basic training and the Hebrew course, I reached the Golani Brigade. I made it into the Egoz (special forces) unit. I didn’t tell anyone my story.
“At the beginning of the course, I wasn’t among the top two members of my unit and they didn’t let me go to squad commanders course. After consulting with Rabbi Hosea Friedman, who is both the rabbi of Pashkan and IDF’s reserve commander, I chose to leave Egoz and transfer to the Golani Brigade so I could become a commander.
“I went to commander’s school and after being on extensive sick leave I became a squad commander in Golani’s 13th Battalion. I was deployed for a few months and went to IDF Officer School, where I learned for eight months how to be a professional officer.
“Rivka, my daughter, is already four years old,” Meisels revealed. “Her family doesn’t let us be in touch because I’m not haredi. I hope one day when she grows up, I’ll be able to renew the relationship with her and explain to her why I had to leave her and immigrate to Israel. To explain to her that I chose a different way from what she knows.
“I love my family, who simply don’t understand or accept how I view the world. I chose a way in Judaism that is different from them – a Judaism in which establishing and defending the Jewish State is just as important as learning Torah,” Meisels continued.
“Today I finish IDF Officer School. Next week, I’ll be the platoon commander, and I’ll invest everything I have in my soldiers.
“The reason I tell you this is for you to learn that if there is a will there is a way. No matter what you say or who tells you – if you really want to be successful and willing to invest, you will eventually succeed,” concluded Meisels.
“We have the best army in the world, and it doesn’t matter where you come from and what you’ve done until now; if you give your 100 percent, you’ll find the way.”
Watch a video of Meisels interview:
Translated by Arutz 7