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Hasidic Rabbi’s Granddaughter Dies of Reported Overdose After Leaving Community

The granddaughter of one of Brooklyn’s most influential Hasidic rebbes, or rabbis, died of a reported drug overdose early this week, according to an Israeli newspaper, sending the tight-knit ultra-Orthodox community into mourning and raising alarms among advocates who warn of a crisis among young people on its margins.

Feige Greenwald’s death, first reported in English yesterday by the Israeli website Arutz Sheva, was the 60th drug-related death in the New York-area Orthodox community over the past year, according to the Orthodox social service group Amudim.

A spokesperson for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner told the Forward that the cause and manner of Greenwald’s death are still under investigation.

Greenwald was the granddaughter of Grand Rabbi Yaakov Chizkiah Greenwald, who leads the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based Puppa Hasidic group. Her father, Rabbi Pinchas Greenwald, leads the Puppa community in Monsey, New York. According to social media reports, Feige Greenwald, 22, had lived outside of the Hasidic community in the time before her death.

Puppa is a strictly traditional Hasidic sect, and one of the largest Hasidic groups in Brooklyn. The Puppa have a network of yeshivas throughout Brooklyn, plus a small outpost in northern Westchester.

A poem by Greenwald that circulated online after her death spoke of a girl “full of pain — but still full of passion and life … Amongst all the chaos in her world, she still smiles as bright as the moon, as glistening as the starry sky.”

A Puppa broadcasting service reported Greenwald’s death Tuesday, according to Arutz 7. “Our heartbreak is as big as the ocean,” the broadcaster said. “Blessed is the true Judge.”

The Puppa rebbe eulogized Greenwald in a funeral that filled a Williamsburg street Tuesday, calling her “a holy soul,” according to the website Matzav.com.

Advocates on the fringes of the Hasidic world portrayed Greenwald’s death as part of a phenomenon of youths who struggle on the fringes of the Hasidic community, or as they seek to leave Hasidic groups.

Greenwald “was shunned for her outlook on life,” one woman who said that she had been friends with Greenwald wrote in a public Facebook post. “Shunned for asking questions. Shunned for seeking help outside the community. She didn’t stand a chance.”

“We need more help, we need the community leaders to wake up and do what’s right,” activist Boorey Deutsch wrote on Facebook.

In a lengthy Facebook post Tuesday, Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, a distant cousin of Greenwald’s who left the Satmar Hasidic community and now teaches at the Open Orthodox Yeshiva Chovevei Torah, wrote that he hoped that Greenwald’s death would help others make easier transitions as they seek to leave the Hasidic community.

“Your legacy will hopefully inspire parents to arm their children with additional safety rafts, so that those who choose to embark on a similar journey of discovery are sufficiently fortified against the sharks and other dangers lurking after lonely sojourners like yourself,” Katz wrote.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter, @joshnathankazis

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