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Torah Vodaath: America’s Fountainhead Of Torah

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World

By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

On this past Motzaei Shabbos, January 11, the annual melaveh malkah of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath (YTV) was celebrated at the Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyamin Hall in Brooklyn, serving as “An Evening of Chinuch and Chizuk.” The evening was dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Avrohom Kamenetsky, zt’l (1931–2013), youngest son of Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt’l (1891–1986), legendary rosh yeshiva of YTV. Rabbi Avrohom was remembered by his older brother, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, revered rosh yeshiva of Philadelphia, who also imparted an important message on “Raising a Family in Our Challenging Times.”

Yeshiva Torah Vodaath Chronicle

Amongst the impressive number of growing citadels of Torah learning today in America, YTV towers with its long distinguished history. YTV was established in September 1918 by a small group of dedicated observant immigrant parents in Brooklyn, led by Reb Binyamin Wilhelm, zt’l (1886–1974), who yearned for true Torah education for their children in their new host country. The United States was a true haven to the industrious, pioneering immigrants, offering every liberty and opportunity except that of a Torah education. The parent group intensely desired that their sons have the same opportunity to mature in traditional Torah learning as their counterparts in their old European hometowns and shtetls. The name Torah Vodaas was used, recalling the yeshiva founded in Lida in 1896 by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines, zt’l (1839–1915), which combined secular studies with Jewish studies and traditional Talmud study. Twenty students comprised the opening class. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, joining in 1920, served as the yeshiva’s first menahel and still, to this very day, serves as a guiding spirit of growth.

As Jewish immigration continued, Rabbi Shraga Feivel worked ever harder. The yeshiva quickly outgrew its temporary home at a small shul on Keap Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Other short-term housing too, were quickly outgrown until a new building was erected at 206 Wilson Street. Since then, the yeshiva has grown considerably. It now effectively occupies a campus on East Ninth Street in the Kensington area of Flatbush, a beis medrash facility in Monsey, an elementary school division in Marine Park, and two summer camps serving a student body, from nursery to post-graduate kollel, in excess of 2,000 students, kein yirbu.

YTV has had a profound effect on American Jewry. Its alumni have been, and continue to be, found in every facet of observant religious life as spiritual leaders of congregations, as teachers in yeshivas, and as officers of religious organizations. YTV alumni are found in the leadership of almost every observant Jewish organization in America.

Other YTV alumni are pious businessmen and professionals, fully participating, contributing members of the community. Some have also served, and continue to serve, as political statesmen, enhancing conditions for all yeshivas and for Jews throughout the world. YTV’s predisposition to serve all of Klal Yisrael is the direct result of Rabbi Shraga Feivel’s driving leadership. That dynamic continues to this very day.

Legendary Roshei Yeshiva

The succession of past roshei yeshiva who contributed to YTV’s Torah glory is as follows, in order of their association with YTV (note that some joined at the age of 12 and remained for the rest of their lives): 1920: Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanow, zt’l (1885–1960); 1920: Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt’l (1886–1948); 1922: Rabbi Nesanel Quinn, zt’l (1910–2007); 1926: Rabbi Dovid Lebowitz, zt’l (1889–1941), first rosh yeshiva; 1933: Rabbi Yaakov Kantrowitz, zt’l (d. 1945), second rosh yeshiva; 1930: Rabbi Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, zt’l (1895–1976); 1931: Rabbi Nosson Eliyahu Gertzulin, zt’l (1919–2005); 1931: Rabbi Gedalia Schorr, zt’l (1910–1979); 1935: Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, zt’l (1892–1945); 1938: Rabbi Mordechai Wulliger, zt’l (1895–1995); 1939: Rabbi Moshe Steinmetz (1912–2009), zt’l; 1939: Rabbi Avrohom Pam, zt’l (1913–2001); 1939: Rabbi Elazar Kahanow, zt’l (1917–2002); 1941: Rabbi Aaron Yeshaya Shapiro, zt’l (1910–1981); 1941: Rabbi Simcha Sheps, zt’l (1908–1999); 1944: Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, zt’l (1896–1956); 1945: Rabbi Elya Chazan, zt’l (1908–1982); 1945: Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt’l (1891–1986); 1946: Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Yoel Traube, zt’l (1918–2008); 1949: Rabbi Asher Katzman, zt’l (1916–2004); Rabbi Moshe Rosen, zt’l, (d. 1957); Rabbi Shmuel Kushelevitz, zt’l, (d. 1963); Rabbi Elya Moshe Shisgal, zt’l, (d. 1973); 1982: Rabbi Reuven Fain, zt’l, (1924–1993); Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Waintraub, zt’l. They were all preeminent roshei yeshiva whose names reverberate throughout the world whenever mentioned. Many authored important sefarim that are to be found today on the shtenders of roshei yeshiva and students of Talmud everywhere.

They were the predecessors to and colleagues of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky (grandson of Reb Binyamin Wilhelm), Rabbi Elya Katz, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rabbi Yosef Savitsky, Rabbi Yitzchok Sekula, and Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, princely names (in alphabetical order) of today’s roshei yeshiva of YTV.

Honoring The Worthy

Rabbi and Mrs. Yehuda Oelbaum were among the notable honorees. Rabbi Oelbaum received the Kesser Torah Award for his successful pioneering efforts in establishing Machon Bais Yaakov, a leading girls’ high school. The award was presented by State Senator Simcha Felder.

Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Blumenthal were acknowledged as Parents of the Year for their prominent support of the yeshiva, and Mr. and Mrs. Aryeh Brody were given the Young Leadership Parents Award for their outstanding work.

Yonah Blumenfrucht, greatly admired Torah activist, served as the melaveh malkah chairman.

YTV has, for the past nine decades, solidified the establishment of Torah education in America and stands in the forefront of innovation in chinuch. Yeshiva Torah Vodaath continues to nobly serve all of Klal Yisrael with its superlative Torah learning, led by gedolei Torah, as well as its superb elementary and high school departments of secular studies. v

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at

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Posted by on January 18, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.