Lomza Yeshiva

The Lomza Yeshiva (Hebrew: ישיבת לומזה) was an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva in Łomża, Poland, founded by Rabbi Eliezer Bentzion Shulevitz in 1883. Rabbi Yechiel Mordechai Gordon served as the yeshiva's rosh yeshiva for many years, and Rabbi Moshe Rosenstain served as the mashgiach. A branch of the yeshiva was established in Petach Tikvah, Palestine in 1926, where Rabbi Reuven Katz served as co-rosh yeshiva alongside Rabbi Gordon.

Lomza Yeshiva
ישיבת לומזה
PikiWiki Israel 12137 lomze yeshiva petakh- tikva.jpg
Location

Information
Religious affiliation(s)Orthodox Judaism
Established1883
FounderRabbi Leizer Shulevitz
Closed1940 (Lomza branch)
Faculty• Rabbi Yechiel Mordechai Gordon
• Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Ruch
• Rabbi Moshe Rosenstain
• Rabbi Reuven Katz

HistoryEdit

Rabbi Leizer ShulevitzEdit

 
Lomza, Poland in 1912

With the backing of Rabbi Chaim Leib Mishkovski (known as the Stavisker Tzaddik) and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the Chofetz Chaim), Rabbi Leizer Shulevitz, a student of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founded the Lomza Yeshiva[1] in 1883 in Lomza, Poland.[2] When Rabbi Shulevitz purchased the lot for the yeshiva building to be built on, he entered the deed under the Stavisker's name. The local Jewish community financially helped out in the establishing of the yeshiva; one wealthy widow donated her entire fortune to the yeshiva and moved into an old-age home while another Jewish couple donated 35,000 bricks each.

The Yeshiva grew exponentially and when Rabbi Shulevitz accepted its four hundredth student, the local Jewish community who been supporting the yeshiva felt that the financial burden became too large. When rumors began circulating that Rabbi Shulevitz was considering closing the yeshiva, the Stavisker came to Lomza and took a walk with him, during which he strongly encouraged him to keep the yeshiva opened. Leading rabbis of the generation, including the Chafetz Chaim, issued appeals for help from Jewish communities. Wealthy Jews, specifically from Königsberg, East Prussia and Germany, contributed, and although the money helped, it was not enough, and so Rabbi Shulevitz had to leave Lomza on a fundraising trip.[3]

When Rabbi Shulevitz asked Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka, who he should take as sons-in-law for his two daughters. The Alter suggested Rabbi Yechiel Mordechai Gordon, then known as the "Illuy (genius) of Trok" and later as the "Prince of all Roshei Yeshiva", for one of his daughters; and Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Ruch, who been known as the most diligent student in the yeshivos of Telshe and Slabodka, for the other. With his sons-in-law established on the yeshiva faculty in Poland, Rabbi Shulevitz emigrated to Palestine.

Model for other YeshivosEdit

Rabbi Shulevitz split the yeshiva into five levels of shiurim (classes) (with the third shir eventually split into two, called "gimmel alef" and "gimmel beis", the Hebrew equivalent of 3A and 3B). This approach to teaching became famous and the chassidic Rebbes of Ger, Alexander, and Sochatchov all reached out to him for advice so they can set up their own yeshivos. Rabbi Yosef Yoizel Hurwitz (the Alter of Novardok) spent time in Lomza before building the Beis Yosef yeshiva network, in the same style as Rabbi Shulevitz's.[3]

Rabbi Yechiel Mordechai GordonEdit

 
Rabbi Yechiel Mordechai Gordon

Rabbi Gordon joined his father-in-law as rosh yeshiva at the age of 24, in approximately 1907. While rosh yeshiva, there was a major threat of yeshiva students being drafted into the Polish army, which at the time was known to be anti-Semitic.[4] He therefore traveled to Warsaw and approached Noach Pryłucki, the dean of Jewish members of the Sejm (the Polish parliament) and an old maskil. Pryłucki told him that the only way his students would be exempt from the draft would be if they added secular studies to the curriculum. Rabbi Gordon didn't not automatically abandon the idea and said that he needed to ask the opinion of greater rabbis. This turned out to be impossible as all communication with Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky in Vilna was severed during the war. In the end, the mashgiach of the yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Rosenstain, together with a student, bribed the chairman of a local draft board with American dollars. Rabbi Rosenstain justified this seemingly illegal action, saying that the only reason the yeshiva students were drafted was because of anti-Semitism, as the Christian divinity students in Poland were exempt.[5]

In 1926, Rabbi Gordon sent fifty students to the Eretz Yisrael where another branch of the yeshiva would be established. Rabbi Lazer Shulevitz, who was living there already, chose to open the yeshiva in Petach Tikvah.[3] To support his two yeshivos, Rabbi Gordon had to travel throughout the world to collect funds.[4] Rabbi Reuven Katz, Petach Tikvah's chief rabbi, served as rosh yeshiva alongside Rabbi Gordon.

World War IIEdit

On September 7, 1939, the Nazi 21st Infantry Division invaded Lomza and the Battle of Łomża broke out. Three quarters of the city were destroyed but the yeshiva building, as well as the Talmud Torah and Rabbi Gordon's house next to the yeshiva, remained standing. Rabbi Gordon had been in America at the time and so Jewish families escaping the bombing in other parts of the city took refuge in his house.[6]

Notable studentsEdit

 
Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman

In PolandEdit

In IsraelEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Shapiro, Chaim (March 1974). "Lomza: A Yeshiva Grew in Poland" (PDF). The Jewish Observer. IX: 13. Yeshivos were flourishing in both, but Poland was still in the pre-Volozhin era.... Something had to be done. So the Chofetz Chaim took a trip to Stavisk to see how he could correct the situation.... [I]ts Rav, Reb Chaim Leib Mishkovski, known as the Stavisker Tzaddik, was a famous gaon and posek.... The two tzaddikim were sitting in the "Beis Din" room of Stavisk discussing the situation, when a knock on the door interrupted them: It was Reb Lazar Shulavitz.... Reb Lazar decided to build a yeshiva in Lomza....Just as one consults an experienced businessman before embarking on a new venture, when about to invest in Torah, whom does one consult but the Stavisker Tzaddik.
  2. ^ "Rabbi Moshe Rosenstain, זצ"ל: Mashgiach of the Yeshiva of Lomza". Artscroll Judaiscope Series / Torah Lives (First ed.). Mesorah Publications, Ltd. October 1995. p. 133. ISBN 0-89906-319-5.
  3. ^ a b c Shapiro, Chaim (March 1974). "Lomza: A Yeshiva Grew in Poland" (PDF). The Jewish Observer. IX.
  4. ^ a b Zakon, Rabbi Nachman (June 2003). The Jewish Experience: 2,000 Years: A Collection of Significant Events (Second ed.). Brooklyn, NY: Shaar Press. p. 168. ISBN 1-57819-496-2.
  5. ^ "Rabbi Moshe Rosenstain, זצ"ל: Mashgiach of the Yeshiva of Lomza". Artscroll Judaiscope Series / Torah Lives (First ed.). Mesorah Publications, Ltd. October 1995. pp. 138–140. ISBN 0-89906-319-5.
  6. ^ The Torah Personality (First ed.). 1969 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11223: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. November 1980.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ Wolpin, Nisson (May 1986). "Remembering Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky" (PDF). The Jewish Observer. XIX: 7.