On a dreary, rain-soaked weekend, Woodmere was glowing with a shining radiance, as the Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns entered its majestic new home and celebrated its long-anticipated chanukas habayis.
Late erev Shabbos, streams of people poured into the towering edifice on the corner of Mosher and North Central avenues, eager to experience the first tefillos in this new mikdash me’at. The prepared seating was no match for the more than 300 mispallelim who overwhelmed the beis medrash and the hanhalah in a massive demonstration of support and kavod haTorah.
The euphoria reached a peak as the rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Zev Katzenstein, shlita, led the assembled crowd with the blessing of “hatov v’hameitiv”—calling attention to the incredible chesed Hashem bestowed upon the yeshiva. Indeed, a major theme of the entire weekend’s events was recognition of the Divine Providence that guided every step of the yeshiva’s journey.
The rosh kollel, Rav Yitzchak Knobel, shlita, spoke passionately about the ability of the lomdei Torah to infuse life into the bricks and mortar of the new building, in the same way their kol Torah penetrated the walls of the previous, more humble location.
Shabbos morning followed with another standing-room-only assemblage of mispallelim who joined the rosh kollel in his heartfelt blessing of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Many in the crowd marveled at the beautiful yet tactful simplicity of the yeshiva building. It was in keeping with the explicit wishes of the roshei yeshiva that the material aspects of the building be constrained so that the dignity of the Torah within can shine through.
The yeshiva was also quite fortunate to hear divrei Torah, machshavah, and mussar from Rav Elya Brudny, shlita, maggid shiur at the Mir in Brooklyn, and Rav Reuven Leuchter, shlita, a talmid of Rav Shlomo Volbe, zt’l. Both rabbanim beautifully elucidated and contrasted the role of a bachur in a yeshiva and the role of a yeshiva in a community. For the boy engrossed in limud haTorah, the surroundings and environment are largely immaterial. For those on the outside, however, the prominence of the yeshiva is of paramount importance.
Finally, on Sunday morning, the crowning moment arrived, as hundreds of men, women, and children gathered at the old yeshiva storefront, to dance with the sifrei Torah to their new home. With a cool mist in the air, joyous music and singing filled the streets of Woodmere. For nearly 60 minutes, the bachurim danced around their roshei yeshiva and maggidei shiurim and many local rabbanim, who held the sifrei Torah with a firm embrace. Elated spectators lined the sidewalk, encouraging the yeshiva as it made its final path to its beautiful new surroundings.
At the entrance of the new building, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, the rosh yeshiva from Philadelphia, was awaiting along with his brother Rav Binyamin Kamenetzky, shlita, who laid the foundation for Torah in Woodmere over a half-century ago, triggering one last dance in recognition of the gedolei Torah’s presence. Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino joined the celebration as well.
While the children were entertained in an adjacent location, over 600 people packed into the main beis medrash, including dozens of local roshei yeshiva and rabbanim. Adam Goller, the president of the board, shared words of deep hakaras hatov to the innumerable people who played a role in achieving this milestone. Due to the grassroots nature of the fundraising initiative and the central function of the community in the project, it was difficult to ensure everyone was appropriately thanked, but Adam’s sincerity left all in attendance assured that their contributions were recognized. Special appreciation was shared for Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita, and his kehillah, Aish Kodesh, who generously assisted Yeshiva Gedolah throughout all stages of its growth.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, provided meaningful divrei berachah to the yeshiva and explained that although both a beis knesses and beis medrash are of critical functions, the beis medrash, where divrei Torah are studied, is held in the highest regard.
Rav Knobel and Rav Katzenstein were overcome with emotion and gratitude to see the incredible fruits of their many years of joint labor. The roshei yeshiva echoed the themes they had been inculcating in their yeshiva for the last decade, including focusing on one’s personal avodah, recognizing the siyata d’Shmaya in everything, and passing along the mesorah from the prior generations.
The final hakaras hatov was reserved for Burry Moskowitz. As the executive director of Yeshiva Gedolah, Burry managed every last detail of the yeshiva design to ensure it would be in good taste and befitting a makom Torah. His tireless efforts down to the late hours of the last night before the chanukas habayis were largely responsible for the success of the building and the event.
May Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns, along with the entire community, be zocheh to bring out greater kavod shamayim in the community, l’hagdil Torah u’lehadirah. v