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|Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael|
הישיבה הקדושה כנסת ישראל
|Other name||Slabodka Yeshiva|
|Religious affiliation(s)||Orthodox Judaism|
|Founder||Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel|
|Dean||Rabbi Moshe M. Epstein|
Rabbi Yitzcak Isaac Sher
|Staff||Rabbi Dov Tzvi Heller|
Rabbi Avraham Grodzinski
Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael was a yeshiva located in the town of Sloboda Vilyampolskaya in Kovno Governorate of Russian Empire (now Vilijampolė in Kaunas, Lithuania). It functioned from the late 19th century until World War II.
From the second half of the 19th century, Kovno became a center of Jewish cultural activity in Lithuania. Prominent there were Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (the "Kovner Rav"; officiated 1864-96); Abraham Mapu, one of the first modern Hebrew writers; and Israel Isidor Elyashev, the "Ba'al Makhshoves", the first Yiddish literary critic. The yeshivot of Slobodka, in particular the Or HaChaim yeshivah founded by Tzvi Levitan about 1863 (also known as Yeshivas R' Hirschel), attracted students from other countries and were headed by noted scholars. Nosson Tzvi Finkel, also known as "Der Alter fun Slabodka" (The Elder of Slabodka), who had also founded several kollelim in the area, served as mashgiach ruchani and introduced Musar ideals there.
In 1882, he combined his kollelim and the Ohr Hachaim yeshiva into a new yeshiva, thus forming the "Slabodka Yeshiva".[a] While Rabbi Finkel oversaw the institution, Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Rabinowitz was appointed rosh yeshiva, a position he held until 1893. After his departure, Rabbi Finkel appointed two brothers-in-law, Rabbis Moshe Mordechai Epstein and Isser Zalman Meltzer as rosh yeshivas. Rabbi Meltzer left three years later to head the Slutsk Yeshiva of the Ridvaz.
In 1897, there was opposition among the students to the Musar method, and the yeshiva was divided into two. The followers of the mussar movement had to move to a separate building, while its opponents founded the Knesses Beis Yitzchak yeshivah, named after Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor. Rabbi Finkel, a great proponent of the mussar movement, led the Knesses Yisrael faction, and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein remained loyal to him, maintaining his post at Knesses Yisrael, despite being offered the position of rosh yeshiva in Knesses Beis Yitzchak.
Despite the rivalry between the two institutions at the time of the division, they ended up achieving a peaceful coexistence, largely due to Rabbi Epstein becoming a posek in Slabodka under Rabbi Moshe Danishevky, who served as Knesses Beis Yitzchak's rosh yeshiva, hence a cooperation becoming possible between the two rosh yeshivas.
World War I edit
Shortly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, some of the yeshiva, including Rabbi Finkel, Rabbi Epstein, and the mashgiach ruchani Rabbi Ber Hirsch Heller, fled Slabodka to Minsk, which was farther from the front lines. When the Germans began bombing Minsk, most of the yeshiva fled to Kremenchug, while a small group remained in Minsk under the leadership of Rabbi Finkel's son, Rabbi Moshe Finkel. The yeshiva in Kremenchug numbered approximately 40 to 50 students, in addition to the teachers and their families. In 1920, the yeshiva was ready to return to Slabodka. They traveled to Minsk and Vilnius before reaching Slabodka, which involved paying smugglers to smuggle them over the Russian-Lithuanian border.
Relocation to Israel edit
A 1924 edict requiring enlistment in the military or supplementary secular studies in the yeshiva led a large number of students in the Slabodka yeshiva to relocate to Israel. The Alter of Slabodka sent Rabbis Avraham Grodzinski and Yechezkel Sarna to Israel to find a location for the yeshiva, and they decided on Hebron. The staff of the yeshiva in Lithuania was divided between the original Lithuanian yeshiva and the new Hebron branch, known as the Hebron Yeshiva. Rabbi Epstein would serve as rosh yeshiva in Hebron and Rabbi Finkel would serve as mashgiach together with Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman. In Lithuania, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Sher, son-in-law of Rabbi Finkel, would serve as rosh yeshiva, while Rabbi Ber Hirsch Heller and Rabbi Avraham Grodzenski would serve as mashgiachs. In the 1929 Hebron massacre, twenty-four students were murdered, and the yeshiva was subsequently re-established in the Geula neighbourhood of Jerusalem.
The original yeshiva building is in Lithuania. Its unique design, in the shape of a sefer torah can still be seen today. The building was confiscated by the communists. Slabodka yeshiva Bnei Brak was reestablished by Rabbi Sher in Bnei Brak.
Prominent alumni edit
- David Cohen, rabbi, talmudist, philosopher and kabbalist
- Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, rabbi in Soho, London
- Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Mir yeshiva in both Poland and Jerusalem
- Tzvi Pesach Frank, halakhic scholar and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem
- Avraham Grodzinski, mashgiach ruchani, Slabodka yeshiva
- Reuven Grozovsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
- Yosef Zvi HaLevy, Israeli rabbi and head of the rabbinical court for Tel Aviv-Yafo
- Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin
- Meyer Juzint, American Talmudic scholar
- Avraham Kalmanowitz, rosh yeshiva, Mir yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York
- Yaakov Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
- Avraham Elya Kaplan, rosh yeshiva, Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary
- Aharon Kotler, rosh yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha
- Dovid Leibowitz, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen
- Yehuda Levenberg, chief rabbi and rosh yeshiva in New Haven, CT
- Yeruchom Levovitz, mashgiach ruchani, Mir yeshiva (Belarus)
- Avigdor Miller, mashgiach ruchani, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and community rabbi
- Ephraim Oshry, Lithuanian-born posek, rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol and Holocaust survivor
- Eliezer Palchinsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Beis Aryeh, Jerusalem
- Shlomo Polachek, Talmudic scholar and one of the earliest rosh yeshivas in America
- Pesach Pruskin, rabbi and rosh yeshiva in Kobrin
- Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Baltimore
- Yechezkel Sarna, rosh yeshiva, Hebron yeshiva
- Elazar Shach, rosh yeshiva, Ponovezh yeshiva
- Moshe Shatzkes, Polish-born rabbi and rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Grodno
- Zalman Sorotzkin, Polish-born rabbi
- Isaac Stollman, rabbi, author and religious Zionist leader
- Naftoli Trop, rosh yeshiva, Raduń Yeshiva
- Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, rosh yeshiva, Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary
- Gedaliah Alon, Israeli historian
- Pessah Bar-Adon, Israeli archaeologist and writer
- Ezriel Carlebach, journalist and editorial writer
- Ben-Zion Dinur, Zionist activist, educator, historian and Israeli politician
- Lazarus Goldschmidt, writer and translator of the Babylonian Talmud into German
- Saul Lieberman, professor of Talmud, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
- Harry Austryn Wolfson, Harvard University scholar
- Moshe Zilberg, Israeli jurist