Rav Avraham Dov of Ovruch (yidd. Ovrutsch) (c.1765-1840) is known for his highly acclaimed chassidic work 'Bas Ayin'. As he has become something of a more popular figure in recent years, it's an opportunity to study his life and illustrious career. He was a follower of the Chernobyl chassidic dynasty, and served as a communal rabbi and chassidic leader in Ovruch and Zhitomir, Ukraine.
In his later years, he settled in the Land of Israel, where he became the leader of the chassidic community of Tzfas. During the ensuing decade of the 1830's, the community faced great upheavals with the Syrian Peasant Revolt, the great earthquake of 1837 and the Druze revolt. Through it all, the Bas Ayin was a responsible and charismatic leader, rebuilding the community through times of crisis.
Though he passed away in 1840 during a cholera epidemic, and left no descendents, his legacy lives on through his accomplishments and writings.

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More Episodes

From the Revolution to the Rothschilds: Emancipation & French Jewry

November 25, 2020

Though taken for granted today, one of the most fundamental changes experienced by the Jewish People in modern times was receiving emancipation - equal rights, citizenship, equality before the law, etc. Commencing with the French Revolution in 1789, the struggle for Emancipation and the challenges along the way became the story of the Jews in the 19th century.

Napoleon convened the Grand Sanhedrin in 1807 which asked French Jewry pointed questions about the relation of the Jew to the modern state. France produced notables like Adolphe Cremieux who would be involved in the founding of the first international Jewish organization in the form of the Alliance, as well as promulgating legislation which bestowed French citizenship on Algerian Jewry.
The Rothschild banking family became 19th century Jewish folk heroes as the ultimate expression of the success of emancipation. Though they achieved great wealth, prestige and power, they also were to be used as stereotypical tropes by anti-Semites, as well as raising questions about how emancipation may lead to assimilation.
 
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The Life of Rav Aharon Kotler Part II: Rebuilding Anew

November 21, 2020
Sponsored by 20 Minute Daf. Check out 20minutedaf.com for a clear and concise daily daf yomi shiur.
 
As the Yeshiva in Kletzk grew, a building was built and dedicated and Rav Aharon had to travel to the United States to fundraise. Aside from being the youngest and yet one of the most prominent Roshei Yeshiva at the time, he also rose to be among the leadership of the Polish Agudas Yisroel, participating in the third Knessia Gedolah in Marienbad in 1937. 
With the outbreak of the War, Kletzk fled to Vilna along with most other Yeshivas at the time. Ultimately settling in Yanova, with the Soviet takeover of the Baltic States in the summer of 1940 the Yeshiva dispersed to several Lithuanian shtetls with Rav Aharon and the largest group in Salock.
By the end of 1940 the Sovietization of Lithuania made it difficult to maintain the continuation of the Yeshiva. Rav Aharon felt that he'd be able to accomplish more from the outside headed out of the Soviet Union in February 1941, arriving in Penn Station in New York City in April of that year.
Though he threw himself full time into the rescue work of the Vaad Hatzalah, Rav Aharon emerged as an overall rabbinical leader on the American Orthodox scene. In 1942 Rav Nosson Wachtfogel along with a group of like minded friends, founded a kollel in White Plains, NY, eventually inviting Rav Aharon Kotler to serve as its head. With the move a year later to the resort town of Lakewood, New Jersey the American Torah world would be transformed forever.
 
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The Life of Rav Aharon Kotler Part I: Origins of Greatness

November 17, 2020
Though he came from an illustrious rabbinic family, Rav Aharon Kotler (1891-1962) was faced with the challenge of being orphaned from both parents as a child. After a brief stint in Krinik, he arrived in Minsk where he formed a lifelong friendship with Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rav Reuven Grozovsky. With his arrival in Slabodka, he enjoyed a closeness with the Alter of Slabodka, while also attending the shiurim of Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz in the other Slabodka Yeshiva.
His marriage to Rebbetzin Chana Perl, the daughter of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, firmly ensconced him in a career as a teacher of Torah. After an initial commencement as a Rebbi in Slutzk, the Soviet takeover and repression forced him to cross the border and reestablish the Yeshiva in Kletzk in 1921.
 
Sponsored by 20 Minute Daf. Check out 20minutedaf.com for a clear and concise daily daf yomi shiur.
 
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From Vilna to Rechavia: The Life of Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman

November 14, 2020

As the youngest dayan of the acclaimed Vilna rabbinical court, Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman (1908-1991) charted out a path to future greatness. He was both a close student of Rav Shimon Shkop during his days in Grodno, as well as a close confidante of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski on the Vilna Beis Din. 

He experienced the worst horrors of the Holocaust in the Vilna Ghetto. Surviving both the Ghetto and later as a partisan fighter in the surrounding forests, he then arrived in the United States. Following a short but fruitful stint as the Rosh Yeshiva of Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch, Rav Gustman opened his own Yeshiva in 1950 naming it for the Remailless Yeshiva in Vilna.

In 1971 he moved to Israel and transplanted his Yeshiva to the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. 
 
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Sisters of the Revolution Part V: Rebuilding in a New World

November 12, 2020

With the destruction of Polish Jewry during the Holocaust, Jewish traditional communal infrastructure had to be rebuilt on new continents. Already prior to the war, pioneers had laid the groundwork for Girls traditional education in both Mandatory Palestine and the United States.

In the Holy Land, Meir Sharansky opened the first Bais Yaakov in Tel Aviv in 1933. This was followed shortly thereafter by the Ger chassidim Hillel Lieberman and Pinchas Levine and Bais Yaakov arrived in Jerusalem. A German Jew named Yosef Avraham Wolff founded a groundbreaking Bais Yaakov in Bnei Brak in the 1950's. A confidante of the Chazon Ish, this institution was to play a decisive role in the formation of the Haredi community in Israel, then in its embryonic stages.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan was struggling to establish a Bais Yaakov in Williamsburg under the auspices of the movement in Poland. Eventually a Bais Yaakov elementary school got off the ground under the leadership of Rav Avraham Newhouse, while Rebbetzin Kaplan ran a high school and eventually a Teacher's Seminary as well.
 
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From Strength to Strength: The Life of Rav Dovid Feinstein

November 8, 2020

The passing of Rav Dovd Feinstein (1929-2020) is a great loss to the Jewish world. With his simplicity, able leadership and as a senior posek in all halachic matters, he will not be easily replaced.

Rav Dovid was born in Luban in the Soviet Union, where his father Rav Moshe was the Rabbi. Under communist rule, his parents maintained a strong Jewish home and he remained one of the last communal rabbis in all of Russia in ever trying conditions. By 1936 the future for his children's Torah education seemed quite bleak, and it was for that reason that Rav Moshe decided to leave Russia. 
With his eventual settlement on the Lower East Side, Rav Moshe and later Rav Dovid would ultimately become synonymous with the neighborhood, the Yeshiva MTJ and with the leadership of the American Torah community.
 
 
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Rebbe! The Life of Rav Nochum Partzovitz

November 5, 2020

Rav Nochum Partzovitz (1923-1986), was most known for his approach to Talmudic study, which gained renown within the Yeshiva world. Having grown up in the Vilna suburb of Trakai, he proceeded to study at the great Yeshivas of Baranovitch, Kamenitz and finally Mir, from which he never left.

Through the war years in Shanghai, where he studied together with Rav Leib Malin, through the post war years in New York, he established himself as the elite of the Mir Yeshiva student body. This reputation was cemented with his marriage to Rebbetzin Ettel, daughter of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, and Rav Nochum's subsequent appointment to the position as Rosh Yeshiva.
With his simplicity, modesty and his popular shiurim, Rav Nochum was a beloved Rebbi in the Mir Yeshiva and a beloved individual to all who knew him.
 
This yahrtzeit episode was originally recorded exclusively for Mir Yeshiva Yerushalayim. It is now being included for the benefit of Jewish History Soundbites listeners. If you enjoy this podcast and would like to donate to Mir Yeshiva Jerusalem, you can do so here: https://secure.themir.org/donate/
 
Thank you!
 
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The Civil War & American Jewry

November 2, 2020

American Jews served in the ranks of both the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. Several major events stand out as milestones in American Jewish History during that time period. The first was the appointment of the first Jewish chaplain in the United States armed forces, through the lobbying efforts of Rev. Arnold Fischel, with Jacob Frankel receiving the first commission.

Next came the infamous General Order No. 11, when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered and expulsion of "Jews as a class" from his military jurisdiction, due to their alleged involvement with illegal trade. Finally we have the story of Judah P. Benjamin. With Sephardic origins, he rose to prominence as a lawyer in New Orleans, then senator, and finally holding several cabinet positions for the Confederacy.
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A Guiding Light: The Life of the Chazon Ish Part I

November 1, 2020

Hidden from the public view by his own choice for the majority of his adult life, Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (1878-1953) - the Chazon Ish - nevertheless achieved immortality in the traditional Jewish world. As a unique Torah scholar who wrote on the entire gamut of Torah law, he left an impact as one of the greatest poskim in modern times.

Born into a rabbinical family in Kosava, Belarus, he resided in several towns across Lithuania and Belarus in the ensuing years before settling in Vilna. 
In his later years he resided in the Land of Israel, and it was there that he gradually gained renown. With the founding of the State of Israel, the Chazon Ish played a decisive role in formulating policy and trailblazing new societal direction for religious minority attempting to rebuild after the devastation of the Holocaust.
 
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Poles at the Polls: Jewish Political Factions in Interwar Poland

October 29, 2020

With the rise of the Second Polish Republic in the shadow of Versailles, the Jewish minority received citizenship, the right to vote and to politically organize. Jewish political parties became major forces in public life for the first time in the long exile, leaving their imprint on Jewish politics in Israel and worldwide till this very day.

The Zionist parties were primarily represented by the General Zionists and Yitzchak Greenbaum. On the left were the Marxist Poalei Zion and the Yiddishist Socialist Bund combatting anti-Semitism and struggling for the rights of Jewish laborers. Another populist party the Folkspartei, promoted Jewish cultural autonomy. Of course the Agudas Yisroel was established to represent the interests of the large religious communities across the country.
With local kahal and municipal elections, and national elections to the Sejm - the Polish parliament, interwar Jewish politics was fraught with tension and political struggle.
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Around the Maggid’s Table: The Disciples of Rav Dov Ber of Mezeritch

October 27, 2020
With the passing of the Baal Shem Tov in 1760, several of his students continued transmitting his teachings to groups of followers. After several years, Rav Dov Ber  the Maggid of Mezritch (1704-1772) emerged as the dominant chassidic leader in what seemed to be on the cusp of a mass movement. 
It was under his leadership that several distinctive features came to be identified with the growing movement, such as the pilgrimage to the "chatzer" the court of the tzadik. He attracted an elite group of outstanding individuals - known as the "Heilegeh Chavraya" or holy society - who went on to become leaders in their own right, spreading the light of Chassidus across Eastern Europe.
These included the the brothers Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk & Rav Zusha of Annapol, Rav Mendel of Vitebsk, Rav Avraham of Kalisk, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the brothers Rav Shmelke of Nikolsburg & Rav Pinchas of Frankfurt, Rav Aharon of Karlin and Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, to name just a few. Diverse in leadership style, in their promulgating the message of chassidus as well as in geographic dispersion, they each continued the legacy of the Maggid in their own way. 
 
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A Historic Vote: The 1935 Tel Aviv Rabbinate Elections

October 24, 2020

A seemingly local and insignificant event, the election for the Tel Aviv rabbinate in 1935 had an impact on the future of Jewish life in many ways and places.

The first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv was Rav Shlomo Ahronson. With his passing, three primary candidates arose over the summer of 1935 - Rav Moshe Avigdor Amiel, who was the ultimate winner, Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, at that time a young Rabbi in Boston.

The leaders of the Mizrachi backed Rav Amiel, though Rav Moshe Soloveitchik wrote a strong letter of support on behalf of his son. Rav Soloveitchik made his only visit to the Land of Israel that summer, and met the ailing Rav Kook. 

Meanwhile the nascent Tel Aviv based Poalei Agudath Israel was eager to participate in the upcoming elections. Wary of the official Agudah position of non participation with the Zionist establishment, the PAI leadership penned a letter to the Ger Rebbe the Imrei Emes asking his opinion about voting in the election.

The final result ensconced Rav Moshe Avigdor Amiel as the Chief Rabbi. He would go on to have a major impact on religious life in the first Hebrew city.

 

 

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Sisters of the Revolution Part IV: The Birth of a Movement

October 20, 2020
Sarah Schenirer (1883-1935) founded the first Bais Yaakov school upon her return to Krakow during the Great War. From its modest beginnings in her living room, it blossomed into a full blown movement and essentially a revolution in traditional Jewish education for girls. 
The local chapter of Agudas Yisroel soon threw its support behind the nascent movement, and was soon followed by the national Agudah. Though she had received a blessing from the Belz Rebbe at the outset, actual rabbinic support arrived a decade later. By the late 1920's it had become a huge network of schools across Poland, with thousands of students, a central office in Warsaw and journal produced in Lodz.
The schools got accreditation from the Polish government, while funding came from the Agudas Yisroel's Keren Hatorah, the Joint and others. With the exponential growth came a need for teachers, and the famed teachers seminary was established in Krakow with Sarah Schenirer at the helm, with additional seminaries established at other locations as well.
 
 
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The Birth of Proto-Zionism: The World of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer

October 17, 2020

As a student of both Rav Akiva Eiger and Rav Yaakov Loberbaum (author of the Nesivos Hamishpat), Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874) grew up in the world of the Polish rabbinate, eventually becoming the rabbi of Torun. Yet his life path would bring him to propound new ideas in regards to redemption, national settlement of the Land of Israel and even a radical idea to renew the bringing of korbanos on the Temple Mt.

A man of action more than just theory, he attempted to garner support from rabbis as well as the rising new class of wealthy influential Jews in emancipated western Europe such as Adolphe Cremieux and Moses Montefiore. In 1860 founded an organization to promote the settlement of the Land of Israel, and was successful at prevailing on the Paris based Alliance organization to build an agricultural school there.
Influenced by Messianism and modern nationalism, Rav Kalischer played a decisive role in the development of proto-Zionism.
 
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From Minsk to Monsey: The Life of Rav Reuven Grozovsky

October 14, 2020

As a sequel to the story of Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, it would be appropriate to profile the activities of his illustrious son in law and successor Rav Reuven Grozovsky (1886-1958). Growing up in Minsk, he convinced several of the youth to join him in the famed Slabodka Yeshiva. He'd eventually marry the daughter of Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, assisting him in the running of the Kamenitz Yeshiva.

Escaping the war to the United States, Rav Reuven assumed a position as Rosh Yeshiva in both Torah Vodaath as well as the nascent Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey. At the national level, he was first an activist in the wartime Vaad Hatzalah, then the chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudas Yisroel, as well as heading the new Torah Umesorah efforts in Jewish education. 
As a true leader in tune with the times, he voiced his clear opinion on all issues and challenges facing the Jewish people. In 1952 he sustained a tragic car accident under mysterious circumstances. This greatly inhibited his activities and he passed away six years later.
 
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From Warsaw to Selma: The Complicated Life of Abraham Joshua Heschel

October 11, 2020

One of the most complex characters of the 20th century, Abraham J. Heschel's (1907-1972) life experience in many ways mirrored the Jewish search for identity in modern times. Born into an aristocratic Polish chassidic family, he shifted over to academic studies in Berlin. Escaping the Nazi regime, he settled in the United States, eventually receiving a position in the Jewish Theological Seminary. 

He lectured and wrote on Jewish mysticism, philosophy and chassidic thought. Leaving the ivory tower in his later years, he became an activist in the Civil Rights Movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr. In all probability, Heschel has the distinction of being the only one to have marched in both the Rabbi's march on Washington in 1943, as well as the third Selma Civil Rights march in Alabama in 1965.
 
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Unfathomable Greatness: The Life & Times of Rav Boruch Ber Part III

October 7, 2020

His impact on the Yeshiva world was immense. His learning approach continues to have immeasurable influence. His holiness was legendary and his greatness uncontested. Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz (1870-1940) in many ways seemed larger than life. 
Yet the story of his life and the stories about his life, bring out the humanity, the world that he lived and acted in and the context of the times, to bring this great personality alive and paint a fuller picture of his achievements.
From his days in Volozhin to a young Rabbi in Halusk. From Slabodka to Kremenchuk to Vilna to Kamenitz. Rav Baruch Ber had many stops and it also included a long fundraising journey to the United States. As a teacher, as a lover of his fellow Jew, as a fighter for tradition and in many other ways, Rav Baruch Ber's spirit reverberates within the Jewish world to this very day.

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Unfathomable Greatness: The Life & Times of Rav Boruch Ber Part II

October 4, 2020

Part II in the Rav Boruch Ber mini-series.

His impact on the Yeshiva world was immense. His learning approach continues to have immeasurable influence. His holiness was legendary and his greatness uncontested. Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz (1870-1940) in many ways seemed larger than life. 
Yet the story of his life and the stories about his life, bring out the humanity, the world that he lived and acted in and the context of the times, to bring this great personality alive and paint a fuller picture of his achievements.
From his days in Volozhin to a young Rabbi in Halusk. From Slabodka to Kremenchuk to Vilna to Kamenitz. Rav Baruch Ber had many stops and it also included a long fundraising journey to the United States. As a teacher, as a lover of his fellow Jew, as a fighter for tradition and in many other ways, Rav Baruch Ber's spirit reverberates within the Jewish world to this very day.
 
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Unfathomable Greatness: The Life & Times of Rav Boruch Ber Part I

October 1, 2020
His impact on the Yeshiva world was immense. His learning approach continues to have immeasurable influence. His holiness was legendary and his greatness uncontested. Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz (1870-1940) in many ways seemed larger than life. 
Yet the story of his life and the stories about his life, bring out the humanity, the world that he lived and acted in and the context of the times, to bring this great personality alive and paint a fuller picture of his achievements.
From his days in Volozhin to a young Rabbi in Halusk. From Slabodka to Kremenchuk to Vilna to Kamenitz. Rav Baruch Ber had many stops and it also included a long fundraising journey to the United States. As a teacher, as a lover of his fellow Jew, as a fighter for tradition and in many other ways, Rav Baruch Ber's spirit reverberates within the Jewish world to this very day.
 
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Sisters of the Revolution Part III: The Pioneers : Separating Fact from Fiction

September 30, 2020

For lectures, episode sponsorships and virtual tours, contact Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com

 

The first World War was to bring sweeping change to Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and one of the manifestations of that change was girls' education. With the German occupation came a new civil administration, and attempts at educational reform. Rabbis and educators serving in the German Army or civil authorities were key players in this turn of events. Rabbis Drs. Emmanuel Carlebach and Pinchos Kohn in Warsaw and Dr. Leo Deutschlander in Lithuania both founded the first formal Torah education schools for girls, as Chavatzeles and Yavneh respectively. 
Further south however, it was to be a native of chassidic Galicia that was influenced and inspired by the world of German Neo-Orthodoxy who would go on to found what would eventually become the most successful network of them all. Her name was Sarah Schenirer. 
In newly independent Poland and Lithuania, formal Torah education for girls slowly became a reality. Initially facing opposition, it slowly gained rabbinic adherents. In other parts of Europe and around the world, the idea slowly caught on as well, as schools began to open up in other locales during the interwar period.
 
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Chassidic Symphony: The Modzitz Dynasty

September 23, 2020
Renowned in the Chassidic world and beyond for their legacy of song, Modzhitz was a large and important dynasty in the heart of pre war Polish Jewry. Founded by Rav Yechezkal of Kuzmir, it would be his grandson Rav Yisrael of Modzhitz who would give the dynasty its name, as well as developing song as its trademark. 
Rav Shaul Yedidya Taub further expanded the court, moving to Otwock outside of Warsaw. With the arrival of the Second World War, he escaped to Vilna then Japan, before arriving in the United States. He attempted to rebuild his decimated court, passing away a few years later. This was continued by his descendants in Tel Aviv, and later in Bnei Brak and in Brooklyn. 
Read more about the topic in a captivating book by a scion of the Modzhitz dynasty: https://www.amazon.com/Perilous-Escape-Journey-Europe-Freedom/dp/160280351X
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #18: Boro Park Part II

September 20, 2020
The most Jewish place outside of Israel? The center of the universe? Boro Park seems to be the epicenter of Jewish life in many ways. As it developed pre war, it was an out of town upscale neighborhood for those distancing themselves from Manhattan and Williamsburg. The original shuls like Shomrei Emunah, Temple Beth-El, Anshe Sfard, Bnei Yehuda and others grew at the time. Eitz Chaim Yeshiva and the Shulamis school for girls were the first schools of its kind in the neighborhood, and in the case of the latter in the entire country.
Slowly the neighborhood attracted different kind of crowd. The Chernobyl Rebbe established the first chassidic shtiebel in the 1930's. After the war, Rav Avraham Joffen opened the Novardok Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler became a neighborhood resident and a group of Mir students from Shanghai established the Mir Minyan on 16th Ave & 54th St. Moshe Koussevitzky was the Chazzan at Beth-El during this time. 
It wasn't long before the Chassidim began arriving in ever greater numbers. The Munkatch court was revived there, and the Bobover Rebbe arrived in the late '60's from Crown Heights. Novominsk, Sighet, Ger, Belz, Spinka and dozens of other dynasties had their headquarters, the Rebbe or at least a shtibel in the neighborhood. 
Mendelssohn's Pizza, Biegeleisen's sforim store, Maimonides Hospital and the shopping of 13th Ave all became fixtures of Boro Park and into the realm of legend. Rav Moshe Sherer's efforts to rehabilitate the neighborhood in the late 1970's led to further growth and expansion. Great poskim like Rav Menashe Klein, Rav Moshe Bick, the Debrecen Rov and many others called Boro Park home. A comprehensive list of the people and places in Boro Park's storied history would be too vast, and a small peek into the sights and sounds of the neighborhood will suffice.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #18: Boro Park Part I

September 15, 2020
The most Jewish place outside of Israel? The center of the universe? Boro Park seems to be the epicenter of Jewish life in many ways. As it developed pre war, it was an out of town upscale neighborhood for those distancing themselves from Manhattan and Williamsburg. The original shuls like Shomrei Emunah, Temple Beth-El, Anshe Sfard, Bnei Yehuda and others grew at the time. Eitz Chaim Yeshiva and the Shulamis school for girls were the first schools of its kind in the neighborhood, and in the case of the latter in the entire country.
Slowly the neighborhood attracted different kind of crowd. The Chernobyl Rebbe established the first chassidic shtiebel in the 1930's. After the war, Rav Avraham Joffen opened the Novardok Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler became a neighborhood resident and a group of Mir students from Shanghai established the Mir Minyan on 16th Ave & 54th St. Moshe Koussevitzky was the Chazzan at Beth-El during this time. 
It wasn't long before the Chassidim began arriving in ever greater numbers. The Munkatch court was revived there, and the Bobover Rebbe arrived in the late '60's from Crown Heights. Novominsk, Sighet, Ger, Belz, Spinka and dozens of other dynasties had their headquarters, the Rebbe or at least a shtibel in the neighborhood. 
Mendelssohn's Pizza, Biegeleisen's sforim store, Maimonides Hospital and the shopping of 13th Ave all became fixtures of Boro Park and into the realm of legend. Rav Moshe Sherer's efforts to rehabilitate the neighborhood in the late 1970's led to further growth and expansion. Great poskim like Rav Menashe Klein, Rav Moshe Bick, the Debrecen Rov and many others called Boro Park home. A comprehensive list of the people and places in Boro Park's storied history would be too vast, and a small peek into the sights and sounds of the neighborhood will suffice.
 
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The Life of the Chofetz Chaim: Part IV Personalities & Publications

September 12, 2020
The Chafetz Chaim influenced the Jewish People in many ways, among them through his Yeshiva in Radin and through the many popular books which he authored. Through his Yeshiva he influenced generations of students, while hiring a staff of Roshei Yeshiva par excellence. Rav Moshe Londinski, Rav Naftali Trop, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, the Chafetz Chaim's own sons in law Rav Hirsh Levinson and Rav Mendel Zaks, to mention a few. Though the Yeshiva experience a bit of downturn with passing of the old generation, the name lived on in other Yeshivas founded to carry his memory.
The Mishna Berura was the Chafetz Chaim's famous work, which had an impact on halacha across the Jewish world and increased in influence over time. The impetus of his writing was to fill a need and reflected on the great responsibility he felt towards his people. Such was his work Machaneh Yisrael geared towards Jewish soldiers in the Czar's army. Nidchei Yisroel was a companion for the Jewish immigrant, while other pamphlets were geared towards Jewish women.
 
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Sisters of the Revolution Part II: To Teach or not to Teach?

September 8, 2020
Facing the various challenges presented by modern times, education for girls loomed as a viable solution. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch promulgated traditional education for Jewish women early on in his career, and later implemented it in his Realschule in Frankfurt in 1853. Formal Torah education for girls was thus a reality and could be copied by other communities facing similar challenges.
The Chafetz Chaim decried the state of traditional Jewish life in many of his writings, and declared that Torah education for girls is imperative at this juncture of history in light of the challenges of modernity. 
The context of the time saw much reformation of the Jewish educational system in general and in regards to girls in particular. With the rise of the Cheder Metukan in the Russian Empire, many of these new schools opened their doors to girls as well. This was followed a generation later by the Zionist Tarbut schools and the Yiddishist Tzisha schools, both of which included girls within their educational system. In addition to public schools, by this time girls education was happening everywhere. It was only a matter of time that it would spread further.
 
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The Revenge of the Yekkes: The Story of the Ritchie Boys

September 5, 2020
With the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, here is a return to the story that Jews played in winning the war. The Ritchie Boys were a group of German speaking Americans, of whom some were recent German Jewish refugees, recruited by the US military. They were needed for their language skills, translations, interrogations and some espionage too.
Following the D-Day invasion, the Ritchie Boys were attached to front line units where they interrogated recently captured German soldiers. The information obtained was used on the battlefield, defining strategy and saving lives.
With their return to their native Germany, they participated in the liberation of concentration camps while confronting the knowledge that their own close relatives had been among the victims. The feeling that their contribution to the war effort had made a significant difference to the outcome, was in a certain way a sense of closure and even triumph.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #17: The Catskills

September 2, 2020
The Mountains, the Catskills, the Borscht Belt, upstate, the country. Monticello, Liberty, Woodridge, Swan Lake, Woodbourne, Fallsburg. A place of many names with one thing in common: a place rich in Jewish history and lore.
As a summer destination, the Catskills would be home to countless bungalow colonies as city Jews organized their communities for a mountain air getaway. Generations of children attended the many summer camps that dotted Sullivan County. Camps included Mesivta, Agudah, Munk, HILI, Kol Rinah, Torah Vodaath, Ohr Shraga, Sternberg and many more including the Betar Jewish self defense camp where Vladimir Jabotinsky died in 1940.
It was also famously known as the Borscht Belt, and the legendary hotels/resorts/country clubs like Grossinger's, Kutscher's and the Concord made their mark as vacation sites. Most Jewish comedians of the time commenced their careers there.
In addition to the summer crowd, the Catskills were home to many year round Jewish communities over the years. These towns built shuls, mikvas, hired Rabbis and even Jewish owned farms burgeoned for a time. This included Yeshivas as well such as the Mountaindale Yeshiva of Rav Yehuda Davis and the famous Yeshiva of South Fallsburg.
 
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Tradition & Change: Rav Reines & the Lida Yeshiva

August 29, 2020
Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Reines (1839-1915) was a leading rabbinical leader who attempted to confront the challenges of his day with innovative solutions. Seeking to refresh the rabbinate as well save the youth, he incorporated secular studies in the Yeshiva he founded in Shvintzian and later in Lida. Having studied in Volozhin and Aishishok, he embarked on a rabbinic career while promulgating his innovative ideas in learning style, education and even language.
The Yeshiva in Lida was ultimately successful, reaching and enrollment of over 300 under the able leadership of Rav Shlomo Poliachek, the Meitcheter Iluy. Rav Reiness also founded the Mizrachi, the religious Zionist faction of the Zionist movement.
 
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Sisters of the Revolution Part I: Emancipation & Assimilation

August 26, 2020
Jewish History Soundbites celebrates our 200th episode with the launch of a new series, about the changes in the roles of traditional Jewish women and women's education in modern Jewish history.
 
The 19th century brought sweeping changes to the world in general and to the Jewish population in particular. By the end of the century, Jews in most countries had achieved emancipation. Even in places like the Russian Empire where they hadn't yet, the winds of change were still blowing.
Though this affected all facets of Jewish life and community, it is with regard to the status and the future of the Jewish woman that is the focus of our story. With new opportunities in education and society, many Jewish women began to struggle with the traditional gender roles within Jewish society. Many chose to leave traditional Jewish life altogether.
At the rabbinical conference in Krakow in 1903, the challenges facing Jewish women were hotly debated, as Jewish education for girls was proposed as a possible solution. In the meantime, Jewish feminism was on the rise as Bertha Pappenheim challenged norms and demanded change. It was a time of upheaval for all, and the Jewish woman was no exception.
 
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The Ruzhin Dynasty & the Age of Succession

August 22, 2020
With Sadigura in the news, here's an overview of the Ruzhin dynasty and which branches are still active today. Some like Shtefanesht, Husyatin and Chrotkov are pretty much gone. Boyan is here but without the Friedman name. Buhush and of course Sadigura are still around with the direct Friedman link.
Interestingly enough, there have been young successors to positions of power throughout history. Rav Chaim Brisker, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the Ben Ish Chai, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, the Yenuka of Stolin, the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Nachman of Breslov, the Ruzhiner himself, King Hussein of Jordan, Michael Dell and many, many others, have risen to leadership at a young age, with each once being another unique piece of history.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #16: Los Angeles

August 19, 2020
The rich Jewish past of Tinseltown is worth at least a full length feature. The architects of Hollywood were Jewish immigrants, who were joined by many talented Jews heading west, who created an entire industry and cultural revolution.
Orthodox Judaism took a bit longer to strike roots, but Rabbi Simon Dolgin and other intrepid pioneers planted the first seeds which blossomed with the arrival of many survivors in the post war era. From Beth Jacob to YICC, from Toras Emes to YULA, from Venice Beach to Pico Robertson, LA has a Jewish story to tell.
Rav Simcha Wasserman built a Yeshiva named for his illustrious father, Rabbi Marvin Heir built the Wiesenthal Center, and philanthropists from Sam Menlo to Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz funded one initiative after another. One of the first community Kollels in the United States had a great impact on the community's growth as well.
 
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A Fatherly Warrior: The Satmar Rav Part II

August 15, 2020
Scion of the Sighet Chassidic dynasty, Rav Yoelish Teitelbaum continued the legacy of his illustrious forbears on all fronts. As a Rosh Yeshiva, communal Rabbi, Chassidic leader and fiery warrior against the various modernist trends of his time. With his escape from Hungary on the Kastner Train and subsequent settlement in Williamsburg following a brief stint in Israel, he focused his energies on rebuilding.
As a visionary and at the same time a very practical realist, he created the infrastructure of full "kehilla" - community, which went beyond the realm of a chassidic court. In that capacity, he served as the inspiration of numerous chessed organizations including the lifesaving Hatzalah emergency medical service. 
Known for his uncompromising stance on modernity in general and Zionism in particular, he refused to back down even when it seemed that he was the lone fighter in ideological stance.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #15: The Five Towns

August 12, 2020
Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hewlett, Inwood. Somehow the individual names come together to form the larger Jewish community of the Five Towns. Historically an upscale suburban area that boasted country clubs and golf courses that didn't welcome Jews, the demographics began to change in the post war. 
Shuls like Beth Shalom, Young Israel of Woodmere, Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst were formed over time. They were led by pioneering Rabbis like Rabbis Gil Klaperman, Shya Lebor, Nochum Tzvi Kornmehl and many others. With the arrival of Rav Binyamin Kamenetsky in 1956 and the founding of the Yeshiva of South Shore, Jewish education was ensured a future in the Five Towns. 
Of course eating is an important component of Jewish life in the region, and Central Avenue would become the home of a variety of famous eateries. Colorful personalities, philanthropists, politicians and activists all called the Five Towns home, and we'll meet some of them on this Jewish history journey into Long Island.
 
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Echoes of Novardok on the Streets of Bnei Brak: The Steipler Story

August 8, 2020
Born into a chassidic home in Ukraine, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899-1985) subsequently studied in the Novardok Yeshiva later becoming a Rebbi at the Pinsk branch of the network. Upon his move to Israel in 1934, he joined his famed brother in law the Chazon Ish and also assumed a position in the Novardok branch in Bnei Brak.
In his later years he assumed a position of leadership in the Torah world alongside Rav Shach. At the same time he authored his magnum opus Kehillas Yaakov, while also becoming renowned for his sage advice in all contemporary matters in the Jewish world.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #14: Miami

August 5, 2020
Original home to the Miami Boys Choir and to the Jewish owned Miami Heat, Palm Beach County also has the largest concentrated Jewish population in the world outside of Israel.
Though attractive as the sunny alternative to the harsh New York winter, the Miami Jewish community developed independently building infrastructure and institutions. It was in the post war era that things began to take off. The visionary Rabbi Alexander Gross was one of the great architects of the community's growth. Other early leaders of the community included Rabbis Aryeh Rottman, Berel Wein, along with the early shluchim Rav Avraham & Rivka Korf and later the Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Leibel Schapiro. The Yeshiva with Rabbi Yochanan Zweig at the helm has greatly impacted the community as well. 
Yet through the decades Miami had been famous for hosting great Jewish leaders who vacationed there during the winter months. This phenomenon would have a long lasting and unique impact on the community's growth along with the exposure to the diversity of the entire Jewish people.
With Larry King, Myer Lansky and Ron Dermer all making appearances as well, the story of the Jews of South Florida is another glorious chapter in American Jewish History.
 
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Brisk in the Holy Land Part I

August 2, 2020
Escaping from war torn Europe, Rav Yitzchok Zev (Velvalleh) Soloveitchik known to posterity as the Brisker Rov, arrived in the Holy Land in the spring of 1941. Though tragically his wife and three of his children weren't able to make it out, the Rov and his seven remaining children continued the Soloveitchik dynasty in Israel.
His oldest son Rav Berel became Rosh Yeshiva, while his daughter Lifsheh ran the house and eventually married Rav Michel Feinstein. Rav Rephoel was his father's dedicated right hand man and became legendary for his communal activism. Rav Meir and ybl"ch Rav Dovid launched successful Yeshivas of their own. Each branch of the family added their own to the enduring Soloveitchik aristocratic legacy.
 
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Treacherous Brothers: The Yevsektsia Destryoys Jewish Life in Russia

July 29, 2020
Few stories among the many tragedies of Jewish history are as heartbreaking as the destruction of Jewish life in Russia by the Yevsektsia. While the majority of these occurrences were perpetrated from enemies on the outside, the Yevsektsia was an entirely Jewish organization. It's a story of Jews waging war on traditional Jewish life. 
Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Yevsektsia was established as a Jewish section of the Communist party, with the mandate to galvanize the Jewish workers in support of the Revolution and communism. At their own initiative, these primarily young Jewish revolutionaries extended their mandate to suppress all that was perceived to be counter revolutionary activity. The Kehillas, Cheders, Yeshivas, Shuls, Rabbinical leadership, Zionism, culture, Hebrew language, Jewish political parties and any other vestige of Jewish life was brutally suppressed and wiped out. By 1929 they were disbanded, but the damage was done. Once the world center of world Jewry, Russian Jewish traditional life was obliterated. It's 3 million Jews stuck behind the Iron Curtain.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #13: Cleveland Part II

July 27, 2020
This great city of the Midwest hosted some impressive events, institutions and personalities throughout its Jewish community's long history. Once a center of Reform Judaism with Abba Hillel Silver, it was also home to one of the earliest short lived Yeshivas in the United States when Rav Yehuda Levenberg moved his New Haven Yeshiva to Cleveland.
Rabbi Israel Porath was the long time Rabbinic leader, but it was Telz Yeshiva and its great leadership that really transformed the town. Rav Elya Meir Bloch, Rav Mottel Katz, Rav Mordechai Gifter, Rav Baruch Sorotzkin and many more transformed Cleveland and the Yeshiva world at large with the aristocracy of Telz. The Telz impact was felt with the founding of the Hebrew Academy by the Dessler Family and the Yavneh Girls school. The great philanthropists of Cleveland included Irving Stone, the Spero brothers and Mendy Klein. 
Chassidus struck roots in Cleveland with the Cleveland dynasty, Chabad and even Kaliv. 
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #13: Cleveland Part I

July 26, 2020

This great city of the Midwest hosted some impressive events, institutions and personalities throughout its Jewish community's long history. Once a center of Reform Judaism with Abba Hillel Silver, it was also home to one of the earliest short lived Yeshivas in the United States when Rav Yehuda Levenberg moved his New Haven Yeshiva to Cleveland.

Rabbi Israel Porath was the long time Rabbinic leader, but it was Telz Yeshiva and its great leadership that really transformed the town. Rav Elya Meir Bloch, Rav Mottel Katz, Rav Mordechai Gifter, Rav Baruch Sorotzkin and many more transformed Cleveland and the Yeshiva world at large with the aristocracy of Telz. The Telz impact was felt with the founding of the Hebrew Academy by the Dessler Family and the Yavneh Girls school. The great philanthropists of Cleveland included Irving Stone, the Spero brothers and Mendy Klein. 
Chassidus struck roots in Cleveland with the Cleveland dynasty, Chabad and even Kaliv. 
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #12: The Lower East Side Part II

July 23, 2020
The cradle of civilization. The melting pot. The place where it all began. The ghetto, tenement buildings, overcrowded sweatshops. Romantic memories of a picturesque neighborhood, with beautiful shuls and a rich culture. Great rabbis, active socialists and the Jewish mob. The first Yeshivas, labor unions and delicatessens. Huddled masses pushcart sellers and the Yiddish Theatre. 
The descriptions of this unforgettable neighborhood can go on forever, and we wouldn't even scratch the surface. When at its peak, the density was the highest in the entire world, with the largest Jewish population in the world. The constant stream of immigrants created a diversity of Jewish life that is unmatched anywhere else. 
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #12: The Lower East Side

July 21, 2020
The cradle of civilization. The melting pot. The place where it all began. The ghetto, tenement buildings, overcrowded sweatshops. Romantic memories of a picturesque neighborhood, with beautiful shuls and a rich culture. Great rabbis, active socialists and the Jewish mob. The first Yeshivas, labor unions and delicatessens. Huddled masses pushcart sellers and the Yiddish Theatre. 
The descriptions of this unforgettable neighborhood can go on forever, and we wouldn't even scratch the surface. When at its peak, the density was the highest in the entire world, with the largest Jewish population in the world. The constant stream of immigrants created a diversity of Jewish life that is unmatched anywhere else. 
 
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Maharam Brisk & the Hungarian Yeshiva World

July 18, 2020
The title "Yeshiva World" usually conjures images of the great citadels of Torah of Lithuania, but parallel to that development was the Yeshiva world in Hungary. Large in size and unique in style, the Hungarian Yeshiva world provided generations of Hungarian communities with Rabbis, teachers and a rich traditional life. 
One of the most prominent of these Yeshivas in the generation before the war was that of the Maharam Brisk in Toshnad (Tasnad), Transylvania. As one of the leading Rabbis of his day, he did much to strengthen Jewish life in the entire district. His Yeshiva became one of the largest - over 300 students - and from the most prestigious in the entire country. 
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A Lithuanian Mystic: Rav Shlomo Elyashiv

July 16, 2020
Rav Shlomo Elyashiv was one of the greatest Kabbalists in recent Jewish history. Settling in the town of Shavl, he proceeded to author his magnum opus the Leshem Shevo Veachlama, and influencing young Rabbis like Rav Kook in kabbalistic teachings.
In 1924, he moved to Eretz Yisroel together with his daughter and son in law Rav Avraham Levinson who changed his name to Elyashiv at this time. They were accompanied by their Bar Mitzvah age son, the future Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, they became an influential family, with Rav Avraham Elyashiv founding the Tiferes Bachurim organization, which provided a framework for Torah study for the young working men of the Old Yishuv.
 
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Great American Jewish Cities #11: The American South Part I

July 14, 2020

With a foray into the south, we examine the stories of some great Jewish communities south of the Mason-Dixon line. Charleston, South Carolina is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities stretching back to colonial times. In the Antebellum South, it achieved renown as the largest Jewish community in the United States for many years. Charleston has the distinction of being the home of the oldest continuous Orthodox Ashkenazi Shul in America, along with being the home of the origins of Reform Judaism on that side of the Atlantic. The city was to play a central role in the Civil War, which was a war which had far reaching ramifications for Jews in other areas of the south as well. Nearby Savannah has a colonial era history as well with Sephardic Jews arriving in the 18th century. Polish Jews established an Orthodox community before the Civil War, and generations of the Garfunkel family played a role in the community's development with some impressive Rabbinical figures having served there. We wrap up with Memphis, where we meet Rabbis Efraim & Nota Greenblatt, Refael Grossman, Meir Belsky and many others. Elvis makes an appearance as well on this journey down south.

 

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A Historic Campaign: The Chofetz Chaim Sefer Torah

July 11, 2020

The Lithuanian Yeshiva world in interwar Poland was facing financial crisis. The Vaad Hayeshivas was the umbrella organization which sought to alleviate the financial burden from the Yeshivas. With the passing of the Chofetz Chaim, the beloved leader, as well as founder and head of the Vaad Hayeshivas in September 1933, the Jewish People was plunged into mourning. The Vaad Hayeshivas embarked on a campaign to write a Sefer Torah in memory of the Chofetz Chaim. Each letter would be sold, and the proceeds would go toward funding the Yeshivas which were in ever desperate straits. This would be a world wide campaign, in which it was hoped that all would desire to partake in this special endeavor. The Sefer Torah was duly written, with individuals from Jewish communities around the world having bought letters and receiving a special certificate as acknowledgement of their participation. Amid great festivities, the Torah was dedicated in honor of the 2nd yahrtzeit of the Chofetz Chaim in Elul 1935, where it was brought from Vilna to Radin.

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Stories of Ner Israel Part II

July 9, 2020

In the annals of the Yeshiva movement, the story of Ner Israel Rabbinical College occupies a position of its own. Named for founder of the Mussar movement Rav Yisrael Salanter on the foundations of the world of Slabodka, it then pioneered a vision adaptable to the world of the American Yeshiva student. Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman as founder, Rosh Yeshiva, educator and personification of greatness in Torah scholarship, led generations of students, molding and guiding on the path of Torah greatness. Aided by his brother in law the legendary activist Rabbi Herman Neuberger, together built up the Yeshiva into a veritable empire. Luminaries such as the Mashgiach Rav Dovid Kronglas, the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, and many more graced the Yeshiva with the presence and their incalculable influence is very much felt till today. As a premier Torah institution, Ner Israel has influenced and continues to influence Jewish life in the greater Yeshiva world, the Baltimore Jewish community, across the United States and beyond, down to this very day. In honor of Rav Ruderman's recent yahrtzeit, presented here is but a small sampling of anecdotes of the Yeshiva's gloried past. 

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Great American Jewish Cities #10: Philadelphia

July 7, 2020

Perhaps no other city in the United States can boast of such a long, rich and consistent Jewish history narrative as the City of Brotherly Love. Historic synagogues like Mikveh Israel - which at one point received funding from Benjamin Franklin, and Rodeph Shalom which was the first Ashkenazi shul in the Western Hemisphere are symbols of the colonial era Jewish community. The 19th century saw Isaac Leeser, Sabato Morias, Marcus Jastrow and others make their mark on the development of Philadelphia Jewish life and their influence on the wider American Jewish community. The interwar period brought Chassidic Rebbes, great philanthropists and even the Lubavitcher Rebbe - who visited the Liberty Bell - to Philadelphia. Led by a succession of great rabbinical leaders like Rabbis Bernard Levinthal, Ephraim Eliezer Yolles, Baruch Leizerowski, Sholom Shneiderman, Moshe Lifshitz and many others including the contemporary Rabbi Avraham Shemtov. The Philadelphia Yeshiva was founded by Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky and together with Rav Elya Svei, Rav Mendel Kaplan and other greats have made it one of the premier Torah institutions in the United States. Philadelphia personalities as diverse as Benjamin Guggenheim, Uriah Phillips Levy and Binyamin Netanyahu make their appearance as well in this city rich with Jewish history. Subscribe To Our Podcast on: Apple: tinyurl.com/yy8gaody Google Play: tinyurl.com/yxwv8tpc Spotify: tinyurl.com/y54wemxs Stitcher: bit.ly/2GxiKTJ Follow us on Twitter or Instagram at @Jsoundbites You can email Yehuda at yehuda@yehudageberer.com

Stories of Ner Israel Part I

July 4, 2020

In the annals of the Yeshiva movement, the story of Ner Israel Rabbinical College occupies a position of its own. Named for founder of the Mussar movement Rav Yisrael Salanter on the foundations of the world of Slabodka, it then pioneered a vision adaptable to the world of the American Yeshiva student. Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman as founder, Rosh Yeshiva, educator and personification of greatness in Torah scholarship, led generations of students, molding and guiding on the path of Torah greatness. Aided by his brother in law the legendary activist Rabbi Herman Neuberger, together built up the Yeshiva into a veritable empire. Luminaries such as the Mashgiach Rav Dovid Kronglas, the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, and many more graced the Yeshiva with the presence and their incalculable influence is very much felt till today. As a premier Torah institution, Ner Israel has influenced and continues to influence Jewish life in the greater Yeshiva world, the Baltimore Jewish community, across the United States and beyond, down to this very day.

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Great American Jewish Cities #9: Seattle

June 30, 2020

Out in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle boasts a rich Jewish past. As the last stop coming from the east, the first stop when arriving from Vladivostok and a destination during the Klondike gold rush, Seattle's Jewish community grew immensely at the turn of the century. Rabbinical leaders like Rabbi Baruch & Rebbetzin Hinda Shapiro, Rabbi Solomon Maimon, Rav Chaim Yaakov Levin, even a short stint of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky plus many more. Personalities like Samuel, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, along with native sons Rabbis Nisson Wolpin, Yissachar Frand, Marc Angel and others. We share the story of Seattle’s Business Leaders, Jewish Music Legends and some regular folks. Seattle emerges as a diverse and fascinating story.

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