Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Different Tekufah

Guest Post by Prof. Yitzchak Levine

This past Shabbos my wife and I attended the 2008 Torah Umesorah Convention. One of the speakers at Seudah Shlishis was Rav Avraham Chaim Levin, Rosh Yeshiva, Telshe, Chicago. During his address he mentioned that "Forty years ago there were 8 boys in the eighth grade in Yeshiva Beth Yehuda in Detroit." Of these eight, he pointed out that five were not from Shomer Shabbos homes. He then went on to say, that all of these five boys eventually became outstanding Torah personalities.

There is no question that Torah Umesorah played a key role in the development of Yiddishkeit in Detroit, and Rav Levin had pointed to just one aspect of this.

Click here to read more"THE TRANSFORMATION OF DETROIT FROM A SMALL BACKWATER on the American Jewish map into a vibrant Orthodox community was largely fueled by Yeshivah Beth Yehudah, which became a full-day school in 1944. Thus Detroit demonstrates the impact that Torah Umesorah-sponsored day schools could have on communities throughout America. More, Beth Yehudah was built almost entirely by talmidim of Reb Shraga Feivel or those who had come under his sway. Nowhere was his inspiration more intensely felt than in the sense of mission his followers brought to Detroit." (From page 316 of Reb Shraga Feivel by Yonoson Rosenblum)

After Rav Levin had made his remarks about the 5 boys from non-religious homes who had become exceptional Torah personalities, I turned to the person sitting next to me and said, "You realize, I am sure, that today these 5 boys could not get into most of the yeshivas in Brooklyn." He replied, "It was a different tekufah [era] then. We are no longer concerned with parents who send their kids to public school. If someone wants to start a yeshiva for public school kids, then let him. It was a different tekufah."

To be honest, this reply did not sit well with me. However, I "saw" who I was talking to, and I let it go. Nonetheless, I have been thinking about this ever since I heard Rabbi Levin's remarks about these 5 boys.

My question is, "Forty years from now, what will a Rosh Yeshiva have to point to that occurred in places like Brooklyn that will serve as an example of the exceptional accomplishments of Torah Umesorah?"

Let me add the following, because I think that it is related. A friend of mine who has been going to Torah Umesorah Conventions for almost 30 years made the following remark. "When I started to go to these conventions, they were about 50% black hats and 50% knitted yarmulkas. Today you see almost no knitted yarmulkas."

Professor Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030
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