יום שישי ה' בתשרי תשפ"ג 30/09/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Torah Revolution in America

A short history of Jews in the United States(on the occasion of the day of the inauguration of the first Shul in New York - ‘She’eris Yisrael’, in the year 5490 / 1730).

B. Wolff 16/04/2009 10:54
 The saintly Kotzker Rebbe zt’l was once heard to have made a remarkable statement, which back then sounded like a far-fetched prediction. His words were: ‘The Torah has wandered through many exiles - from Babylonia to Africa, Africa to Spain, Spain to France and Germany, and then to Poland… I now see that in the future the Torah will also be exiled to the land of America.’

In those far-off days over one hundred - thirty years ago, America was virtually desolate of Jews. The Jews that did live there were in most part Marannos, who had fled in fear of the infamous inquisition and were in need of a place to settle and return to a lifestyle where Judaism could be practiced openly. In the year 5424 (1664), this group of Jews established their own community in New Amsterdam, known today as New York. This was the very first Jewish community to be founded on the shores of America. A short while later another community sprang up, this time in New Port, Rhode Island.

The founding of these first communities drew additional Jews to the land of America from Spain, Portugal and other countries in Europe. Another cause for the influx of Jewish migration to America was the declaration of religious freedom that was to prevail over the newly created United States; and, paradoxically, the rise of anti-semitism in Europe which forced many Jews to flee to safer shores.

In the year 5562 (1802) the first Ashkenazi community was set up in America, as opposed to the older, Sephardic communities that had been there until then. This first community was founded in Philadelphia. At that time, the number of Jews in America amounted to a mere 250,000 people.

These Jews tried as best they could to safeguard their traditions, but due to lack of knowledge, lack of an organized community infrastructure and a severe dearth of Rabbanim to guide them, their children and eventually they themselves, slowly cast aside their Jewish garb. It is not for nothing that America has been coined ‘Ama Reika’ – a place empty and desolate of spirituality.

Despite this, there were a few lone individuals, strong of spirit, who arrived on these barren shores and began to sow seeds that sprouted into glorious Jewish communities around the continent. These communities were the cornerstone of Jewish America as we know it today. The first Jew famous as a pioneer in the deserts of America; a man who succeeded in actualizing his goal when all those around him predicted abject failure, was Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz zt’l.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel was neither a Rav nor a community leader; in fact he did not hold any official position at all. He simply saw the need, and acted. As Rabbi Moshe Feinstein described him, he was ‘the father of all Bnei Torah in America in this generation and in generations to come.’

Rabbi Shraga Feivel arrived in America in the year 5673 (1913) from Austria, to escape the army draft. On his arrival Rabbi Shraga Feivel was shocked at the spiritual desolation that prevailed, and immediately set about rectifying the situation and strengthening the G-dly presence in the ‘land of opportunity’.

At first the local Jews were indignant. ‘What do we need it for!’ they declared, ‘there is no hope of setting up a Yeshiva here in the style of the Old World!’ But Rabbi Shraga Feivel did not give up. With the blessings of leading Torah personalities of the generation, he continued in his efforts to cultivate the spiritual wasteland of America - and in the end he succeeded.

He was one of the founders of the Torah weekly newspaper ‘Dos Yiddishe Licht’, which he used as a forum to spread true Jewish ideals and demystify many distorted outlooks that abounded amongst the local Jews. He established the religious organization ‘Kesher Chizuk HaDas’ , under the leadership of Rabbanim and Admorim, whose goal was to strengthen the community infrastructure in all aspects of Torah life.

Around the year 5683 (1923), when the principal of the Yeshiva (or more correctly school) ‘Torah Vadaas’ resigned, the position fell to Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz. In those days the eighth grade was the graduating class, after which the boys would go on to public institutions to gain a higher education. Rabbi Shraga Feivel wished to strengthen the school and educate his students in the way of Torah and fear of Heaven, in the same way as it had been in the ‘old country’. He worked hard to convince the parents of his students to enroll their sons in the school for an additional year, and after that year he asked for another, and that is how the ‘Mesivta’ was founded; and subsequently the Yeshiva which brought forth a new generation of true Bnei Torah in America.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel received with great joy any news of Yeshivos that would be opened in America, and went to great lengths to strengthen and support them. When the Mesivta ‘Chaim Berlin’ opened in Brownsville, he himself sent bachurim who had applied to his Yeshiva. When Rabbi Aaron Kotler zt’l arrived in America during the Second World War and wished to open a Yeshiva in Lakewood, Rabbi Shraga Feivel sent him students in order to strengthen the Yeshiva. He did the same with Yeshivas Telz when it opened in Cleveland; Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Detroit and Novardok in Boro Park, and many more.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel worked tirelessly with regard to the financial aspects too, to ensure the continuity and stability of these Torah institutions. When the Satmar, Klausenberg and Bobover Rebbes, amongst others, arrived in America it was he who rose to the occasion, supported their efforts to build up Torah and assisted them in every way.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel searched for ways to prepare the younger generation to withstand the tempestuous winds of materialism that raged in America. He eventually hit upon the idea of the ‘Yeshiva Camp’, which until today is a powerful tool in Chinuch, used by many Torah institutions.

Rabbi Shraga Feivel had arrived in a spiritual wasteland, where he toiled indefatigably and merited to see the fruits of his labor – the blossoming of Judaism in America.

Aside from him there were many other valiant individuals who helped flower the plains of America – foremost amongst them Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman, who fortified the fences of Halacha and Kashrus and contributed in various ways to the spreading of spirituality in America.

There was also Rabbi Gedalia Shorr, who played a vital role in the education of the youth with his organization ‘Zeirei v’Pirchei Agudas Yisrael’. He also worked hard to promote Shabbos observance in the new country.

The revered Rebbetzin Fruma Rachel Mandel was the pioneer who set up the first girl’s school in America – ‘Beis Rachel’, with the encouragement and support of Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz. She also organized a study group in the evenings for older girls, to fortify them with spirituality as they faced the open world. Following her, came Rabbi Baruch and Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan who set up the Beis Yaakov seminary, in the model of Sara Schenirer’s seminary in Krakow.

Jewish America received a great boost with the establishment of a branch of Agudas Yisrael, by Torah leaders who arrived in America after the Second World War. Rabbi Shlomo Friedman of Boyan, who arrived in the year 5687 (1927) and set up his court in America, was one of the leaders of the Agudas Yisrael. Rabbi Aaron Kotler, who arrived during the years of the Holocaust and established the Yeshiva Gevoha of Lakewood, was also a prominent member of the Aguda; as was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the greatest Poskim of the generation who arrived in the year 5697 ( 1937) and headed the Yeshivas Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim. In addition, there was Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky and many more, who left their mark in the Torah world of America.

Today, America boasts countless glorious Jewish communities, Yeshivos and Torah centers, attracting Jews from around the world. It is also one of the foremost sources of financial support for Jewish causes worldwide.