Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka)

Coordinates: 54°54′38″N 23°53′12″E / 54.910623°N 23.886702°E / 54.910623; 23.886702

Portraits of rabbis and students of the Yeshiva of Vilijampolė (Slobodka), 1922

Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael was a yeshiva located in the Lithuanian town of Slabodka (Vilijampolė), adjacent to Kovno (Kaunas). It was known colloquially as the "mother of yeshivas" and was devoted to high-level study of the Talmud. 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, 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), introduced Musar ideals there. Headed by the rosh yeshiva, Moshe Mordechai Epstein, the Alter's yeshiva was known as the Slobodka yeshivah from 1881. Subsequently, there was opposition among the students to the Musar method, and in 1897 the yeshiva was divided into two. The followers of Musar established the Knesses Yisrael yeshivah, named after Yisroel Salanter, while its opponents founded the Knesset Beit Yitzchak yeshivah, named after Spektor.[1] The yeshiva ceased operation during the Holocaust.

Relocation to PalestineEdit

The Alter of Slabodka surrounded by students in Hebron.

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 Mandatory Palestine. The Alter of Slabodka sent Avraham Grodzinski to head this group and establish the yeshiva in Hebron.[2] Twenty-four students were murdered in the 1929 Hebron massacre, and the yeshiva was subsequently re-established in the Geula neighbourhood of Jerusalem. A branch was also established in Bnei Brak.

Prominent alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica
  2. ^ See Toras Avraham page 13

External linksEdit