European Jewry was rocked by the petiroh of HaRav
Chaim Kreiswirth ztvk"l, the rov of Antwerp and leader
of the Jewish community of the European continent. His
influence and authority was felt throughout the European
continent and beyond with respect to halachic matters and
Jewish leadership. Despite the holiday period in Europe,
thousands came from all over Europe on Monday to participate
in the levaya of this great godol who served as
the rov of the distinguished community of Antwerp for almost
fifty years. He ensured the preservation of religious
standards in general, and in the areas of kashrus and
mikvo'os in particular. He set up Torah institutions
and supervised their development and every detail of their
HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth ztvk"l was niftar this
past Sunday night (16 Teves) shortly before midnight. HaRav
Kreiswirth was niftar at the age of 82, after
suffering from an illness.
HaRav Kreiswirth, the son of Rav Avrohom Yosef, grew up in an
outstanding home where his unique personality as an ish
haTorah was crystallized. In his youth, he was well-known
for his brilliance, his excellent character traits and his
Replete with Torah and yiras Shomayim, he plunged into
his Torah studies, spending many years in the famous Torah
centers of Poland and Lithuania,
When the young Chaim applied to the yeshiva Chachmei Lublin,
its rosh yeshiva, HaRav Meir Shapira who tested him, was
astounded by his vast knowledge in all aspects of Torah.
In time, letters written by the Dvar Avrohom and by the
Minchas Boruch about him were made known. In these letters
the remarkable illui, Rav Chaim, is praised, and his
vast knowledge of Bavli and Yerushalmi is
He stayed in Torah's tents all his life, remaining close to
his illustrious mentors from whom he acquired all of the
He was very close with all of the gedolim of the
previous generation, among them HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky,
who was very fond of him and gave his sefer on
Zevochim a warm recommendation. This manuscript was
lost during the war.
HaRav Kreiswirth maintained strong links with all of the
great Torah luminaries of Poland and Lithuania and became
known as the Illui of Cracow. He spoke in learning with the
Rogochover Gaon as well as with HaRav Elchonon Wassermann;
the Imrei Emmes, and HaRav Menachem Ziemba.
His talmidim are full of stories about his immense
gadlus in Torah. They point out that already in his
youth after he was tested by HaRav Meir Shapira of Lublin
when he was visiting Turna, Rav Shapira put him next to him
and praised him highly in front of the kehilla. He was
eventually sent to learn in Yeshivas Lublin, where he became
close to the mashgiach HaRav Arye Zvi Frommer
His close relationship with the Rogochover was well known. He
first heard about his greatness when the Rogochover was on
his way to an operation in Vienna and stopped over in Warsaw.
Rav Chaim zt"l became attached to him and traveled
with him to Vienna, talking in limud with him
throughout the journey.
When he was still young he became a maggid shiur in
the yeshiva of the Chovas Hatalmidim in Piaschana, where he
looked after a blind talmid chochom. When several
years later he was caught by the Germans and taken to be
killed he asked Hakodosh Boruch Hu to save him in the
zechus of have having taken care of the needs of that
talmid chochom. His prayers were heard and, in
response to his entreaties, the Nazi soldier told him that he
would shoot into the air and then he should run away.
He married the daughter of HaRav Avrohom Grodzensky
Hy"d, author of the Toras Avrohom. During the
sheva brochos week he gave drosho after
drosho citing gemoras in Bavli and
Yerushalmi by heart.
When he arrived in Eretz Yisroel he was referred to as
Ho'ari she'olo miBovel, a phrase expressing the esteem
in which he was held due to his greatness in Torah. In 5701
(1941) he moved to Eretz Yisroel and became well-known
among the geonim of Yerushalayim. He met the Brisker
Rov and became close to the Chazon Ish, the Steipler, HaRav
Shach and HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztvk"l and
ylct"a to HaRav Eliashiv shlita.
In the early 50s, he served as a rosh yeshiva in Chicago.
Even though he was relatively young and the yeshiva was
mainly staffed by older talmidei chachomim from
Lithuania, he had tremendous success. A group of his
talmidim from Chicago remained close to him his whole
life, and after he left they became the influential baalei
batim of Chicago and served in key roles when the
kehilla established itself. The talmidim of
Chicago were also the ones involved in helping him establish
Yeshivas Mercaz HaTorah in Yerushalayim.
In time, he was appointed Gavad of Antwerp. While
serving in that capacity, his influence was far-reaching, and
halachic questions were sent to him from all parts of the
world. By the same token he played a crucial role in
spreading Torah in Antwerp.
He also served as head of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami
LeInyonei Giyur and actively fought the intrusion of
goyim into Kerem Beis Yisroel through
halachically unacceptable conversions.
After World War II he traveled to Poland at great personal
risk, and miraculously escaped being arrested, in order to
save Jewish children who were hidden by the Church during the
war years and were withheld from Jewish authorities after the
His chesed with orphans and widows constituted a
glowing chapter in his life. When referring to HaRav Chaim's
acts of chessed, the Steipler Rov called him "a compassionate
father with a pure heart." With the funds he raised in his
community and from philanthropists all over the world, he
assisted many broken and impoverished families.
He also bolstered the spirits of the brokenhearted in a warm,
pleasant and unassuming manner. His genial and natural manner
endeared him to all, and were the basis of the high esteem in
which he was held.
His efforts on behalf of Torah in Eretz Hakodesh were
numerous. He founded and supported the Mercaz HaTorah yeshiva
in Talpiyot where hundreds of bnei yeshiva from all
over the world study. On his visits to Yerushalayim he would
deliver shiurim which ranged over the entire Shas
to the students of the yeshiva. These shiurim were
also attended by many gedolei Yerushalayim. It wasn't
in vain that the Kehillos Yaakov, in a letter, called him:
"HaGaon Hagodol, moro dekulei Talmud, maoz umigdol, otzar
haTorah veyiras Hashem tehoroh, hanitzmad bekiros levovi . .
He was very close to the gedolei Yisroel of Eretz
Hakodesh, especially to Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Shach
ztvk"l, and yibodel lechayim tovim ve'arukim,
Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv.
He was an outstanding orator, who stirred his audience with
his heartfelt words. At the fifth and sixth Kneissios Gedolos
of Agudas Yisroel he delivered the main speech, which was
raptly listened to by thousands, led by maranan
verabonon the gedolei Yisroel.
Recently he fell ill and his condition worsened from day to
day. On Sunday afternoon his condition deteriorated, and
prayers were said on his behalf in all the botei
midroshim in Eretz Yisroel, including the beis
medrash of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv
shlita who personally participated in the
Tehillim. In Torah centers and yeshivos throughout the
world many prayers for his recovery were recited. Sunday
night (16 Teves) at 11:30 p.m. Israeli time, he returned his
pure soul to its Maker.
The levaya started Monday at 4 p.m. Belgian time.
Thousands gathered at the central Machzikei Hadass Shul in
Ostelei Street, Antwerp where he had served as rov. The large
shul and adjoining courtyard became a sea of black.
The maspidim included his son HaRav Dov from Lakewood,
Dayan Tuvia Weiss and Dayan Elya Sternbuch of Antwerp, the
rosh yeshiva of Antwerp HaRav Yehudah Trager, his son-in-law
HaRav Pinchos Zelivansky, and the Rosh Hakahal R' Zalman
All the maspidim bewailed the great tragedy that had
befallen European Jewry in general and Antwerp Jewry in
particular, which had lost its pride and glory. They dwelt
upon his greatness in Torah and that the gedolim of
the previous generation already testified about him that
despite his young age (then) he was a remnant of the
gedolim of Poland from previous generations. He knew
Shas Yerushalmi and Bavli by heart.
He had a beautiful personality, a spiritual giant and man of
deeds who, in addition to his Torah and halachic rulings, was
the spiritual and material father of hundreds of orphans,
widows and families in distress, whose needs he took care of
over the last few years. With his petiroh world Jewry
has lost one of its geonim and tzadikim, a
pillar of Torah and chesed, who was close to the
gedolim of the previous generation and who had
transmitted the traditions to this generation.
The levaya continued from the shul to the
Yesodei HaTorah school, and then to the Bais Yaakov. From
there it went to Eretz Yisroel on a special chartered flight,
accompanied by family members and members of the
kehilla. The kehilla paid the considerable
expense of the flight, allowing the aron to travel
inside with the passengers, which greatly enhanced the
The aron arrived in Eretz Yisroel around 2 a.m. and
was taken to HaRav Kreiswirth's shul in Har Nof where
Tehillim were recited. From there it was taken to the
beis medrash of Yeshivas Mercaz HaTorah according to
the instructions of the gedolei haposkim, where
Tehillim were said by talmidim for the rest of
the night. There were hespedim at the yeshiva in the
The main levaya in Yerushalayim was in the Beis
Knesses Ahavas Torah in Kiryat Zanz which the niftar
recently established and for which he served as nosi.
Many, many talmidim came from America for the
levaya, including talmidim from Chicago and
many who had learned in Mercaz HaTorah over the years.
It began at about 11 a.m. with the saying of Tehillim.
The first maspid was HaRav Shmuel Wosner of Bnei Brak,
a "childhood friend" of the niftar, as he said in his
remarks. HaRav Wosner said that the niftar was a true
talmid chochom and a true godol and was also
kabir hama'as. He quoted the posuk (Tehillim
55,19), Podoh vesholom nafshi, explaining that the soul
is in captivity in This World, and that a talmid
chochom and an oveid Hashem understands that with
Torah he can redeem the soul of This World. The rest of the
posuk refers to gemilas chassodim (mikrov li)
and tefillah betzibbur (ki berabbim . . . ) since
excellence in these areas indicates a ben Olom Habo.
HaRav Wosner said that if the shem tov extends to the
final clod of earth over the grave, the zibula
basraiso, then it is truly a shem tov.
HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, the ravad of the Eida
HaChareidis, said that he recalled the niftar sitting
together with his own rosh yeshiva, HaRav Isser Zalman
Meltzer zt"l, and saying over shtiklach
Yerushalmi by heart. He was a true Sar Torah.
HaRav Boruch Rosenberg, rosh yeshivas Slobodka, said that
like the children of Eli Hacohen, he says two
hespeidim: one for the Aron Elokim, the
talmid chochom and leader of Klal Yisroel, and
the other for a brother-in-law.
The other maspidim were HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, rosh
yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Dov Kreiswirth of Lakewood,
the niftar's son, HaRav Don Segal, HaRav Chaim Sarna
and his son-in-law HaRav Pinchos Zelivansky. The
maspidim all stressed his gadlus in Torah and
his considerable achievements in gemilas chesed. HaRav
Chaim himself used to say that he will take his
chassodim along to the Olom Ho'emes.
The levaya proceeded on foot to Har Hamenuchos where
he was buried in a new section.
He is survived by his wife tichye, by his son HaRav
Dov of Lakewood, and his daughter, the wife of HaRav Pinchos
Zelivansky, as well as by grandchildren and great-grandchildren all
of whom are pursuing Torah's path. His brothers-in-law,
ylct"a are: the Mashgiach HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, HaRav
Boruch Rosenberg and HaRav Yitzchok Grodzensky.