Jewish History Soundbites

Radical Mussarites: The School of Novardok

June 3, 2021

The Novardok Yeshiva was both a mussar philosophy as well as a movement. Founded by Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz (1850-1919), the Alter of Novardok, in 1896, it soon grew into tens of branches across Russia. Known for its rather radical approach to mussar, educational philosophy and growth, it was seemingly influenced by the general revolutionary zeitgeist in the Russian Empire at the turn of the century.

Exiled during World War One, the entire movement would eventually make a daring border crossing into Poland in order to escape from Soviet Russia. The flagship yeshiva was established in Bialystok under the leadership of the Alter's son in law Rav Avraham Joffen. Several other primary branches were established in other cities, with tens of smaller branches across the country. Often it was chassidic students who were recruited to join its ranks. Decimated during the war, attempts were made at rebuilding in Israel through several pre war branches that had been established there, as well as the United States, with limited success. In France however, Rav Gershon Leibman succeeded in reestablishing the Novardok network with his Ohr Yosef schools, which primarily served Moroccan students.
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