Monday, July 30, 2007

Reb Shimon at YU

To be clear, here is the timeline:

  • December 2, 1923: Yeshiva announces its plan to create a Jewish college and begins raising funds for the project through widely publicized campaign

  • September 25, 1928: The first day of classes at Yeshiva College

  • December 1928: R. Shimon Shkop, on a fundraising trip from Europe, comes to visit Yeshiva and deliver a lecture

  • March 1929: Reb Shimon agrees to become Yeshiva's rosh yeshiva (R. Shlomo Polachek having passed away the previous summer)

  • Summer 1929: R. Shimon Shkop complies with the requests of the Chafetz Chaim and R. Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, that he return to the yeshiva in Europe that he had left.
From R. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy, pp. 119-120:
In accordance with Revel's custom of inviting the leading rabbinical visitors to America to deliver guest lectures at the Yeshiva, Rabbi Shkop also gave a shiur which was highly praised. After this lecture Rabbis Revel and Margolies pleaded with Reb Shimon to remain with the Yeshiva as the senior rosh yeshiva. After much hesitancy Rabbi Shkop agreed, and during March 1929, he officially became its rosh yeshiva. In his press release announcing Rabbi Shkop's appointment, Rabi Revel stated:
The coming of the Gaon, Rabbi Shimon Shkop to the Yeshiva is not only a matter of great importance to the Yeshiva... but it is an important event for all American Jewry. He will, with the help of God, aid in planting the seeds of Torah in this land, just as he propagated the study of Torah in our old home.
Reb Shimon's acceptance of the Yeshiva position was greeted with hope and expectation. He was known to be a rosh yeshiva whose influence would spread far beyond the confines of the Yeshiva, with which he was now associated. The students warmly welcomed him, for they knew that they were once again privileged to have an accomplished rosh yeshiva. In the December 30, 1928, issue of the student publication, Hedenu, a student described his emotions and thoughts when Rabbi Shkop entered to lecture:
"Reb Shimon" is walking slowly. An electric current seems to pass through those assembled, and all eyes focus upon Rabbi Shkop. One thought seems to be uppermost in everyone's mind: this elderly man--who possesses keen eyes that move quickly, and a gentle smile on a delicate face that is surrounded by a clean, white beard--is "Reb Shimon." This is the same "Reb Shimon" of Telshe, Maltsh, Bryensk, and Grodno--whose deeds and accomplishments in each of these stations in his life, have gained for him the respect and love of all.
Rabbi Shkop was pleased with the students and enjoyed his stay at the Yeshiva. Revel found solace in his presence; and once again he set the example in the love and respect he expressed for Reb Shimon. However, Rabbis Israel Meir Kagan (the Chofetz Chaim) and Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, the acknowledged heads of Orthodox Jewry, missed his leadership and guidance. Rabbis Revel and Margolies urged Reb Shimon to remain in the United States--they felt the Yeshiva needed him even more. However, on August 22, 1929, Rabbi Shkop wrote to them:
When I arrived here [Miami beach], I was given your telegram in which you requested that I continue in the Yeshiva. It surprises me that you still ask that I do so. Haven't I already told you many times that I cannot fulfill this request. It is my fondest wish that God should help me return to my Yeshiva in Grodno before Rosh Hashanah.... May the good Lord aid you in selecting the proper man to head the Yeshiva.
At the end of summer 1929, when the arrival of Rabbi Moses Soloveitchik was imminent, Rabbi Shkop returned to Europe.
It seems to me fairly safe to suggest that R. Shimon Shkop did not share his student R. Elchanan Wasserman's zealous opposition to secular studies.

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