Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Number One Son

The Times reported that Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, was made a general in the army, along with his aunt, Kim Kyuong-hui, whose husband, Jang Seong-taek, is “…often regarded by outside analysts as the No.2 man in the North and a potential caretaker for the government should Kim Jong-il, 68, who is in failing health, suddenly become incapacitated.” (“Kim’s Son is Elevated Before Meeting,” NYT, 9/27/10.) The Times went on to explain that Kim Jong-nam, 39, the brother of Kim Jong-un, had been the heir apparent until he went AWOL to Disneyland in Tokyo with forged papers. What does this have to do with Temple Israel, for which the Internet lists locations in Croton-on-Hudson, New Rochelle, Minneapolis, Memphis, Boston, Hollywood, and Miami, among others? The answer is, not very much, except if one speculates about what might have happened to the Kims and the leadership of North Korea if there had been a branch of Temple Israel in Pyongyang. This is not to say that Jewish communities are exempt from conflict regarding succession. The Satmar Hasidim went through a well-publicized upheaval after the death of the Grand Rebbe Moishe Teitelbaum. Teitelbaum’s oldest son, Aaron, like Kim Jong-nam, had originally been slated to lead the sect, but instead his younger brother, Zalman, began to play a significant role. Was there any political hanky panky? Was this a Jacob/Esau type situation? With Moses Teitelbam long dead, no one will ever know, and the Satmars are unlikely to receive the scrutiny by intelligence services that’s accorded the Northern Korean Politburo. One thing is sure—it’s unlikely that either Aaron or Zalman Teitelbaum played any part in the torpedoing of a South Korean naval boat in March.

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