Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Tammuz 5763 - July 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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R' Shlomoh Yaakov Gross, z'l
by A. Cohen

The Admor of Vishnitz led thousands at the levaya Sunday afternoon of R' Shlomoh Yaakov Gross zt'l, a veteran Agudas Yisroel askan in Eretz Hakodesh, a former Agudas Yisroel MK, and a prominent member of Vishnitz chassidus, who passed away at the age of 94.

He was born on the fourth night of Chanukah 5669 (1908) to R' Avrohom and Rivkoh in the town of Bamesiv in the district of Marmarosh, and studied under HaRav Menachem Mendel Hagar of Wishwa, Vishnitz. At a young age his talents and proclivity for activism were directed toward kodshei Shomayim. As a young avreich he worked to promote Torah and strengthen yiras Shomayim in Romania. He was inspired by his great rosh yeshiva who, in addition to being mechanech and the rosh yeshiva, also took care of the material aspects of the yeshiva -- in addition to his duties as rov of Wishwa.

At the young age of 27 R' Shlomo Yaakov was appointed secretary of Agudas Yisroel in Romania, a task that entailed great responsibility and had a widespread impact. In Tchernovitz he was a central and prominent activist in preparing Agudas Yisroel members for aliyah ("hachsharah"). He also helped R' Chaim Meir Kahana edit the Agudas Yisroel journal, Das Yiddishe Vort. At the time R' Shlomo Yaakov specialized in writing feuilletons that mocked religious transgressors.

During the Holocaust he lost his young wife (nee Einhorn) and two children, Hy'd, accepting the din with love. After the war he set up large orphanages for Holocaust survivors in Grosswardein. Not only did he ensure they received a proper Torah education, but he also showed amazing dedication in his efforts to help them marry with dignity.

In 5710 (1950) he came to Eretz Yisroel, where he married his wife Henyoh tchy', who stood by his side devotedly until his last day. In Eretz Yisroel he longed to start a town founded on pure Torah ideals. Through tremendous efforts he founded Kfar Gidon, an Agudas Yisroel settlement with fabulous Torah and educational institutes. He also made considerable contributions to opening Agudas Yisroel trade schools in three locations--Tiberius, Rechovot and Tel Aviv-- which he saw as life rafts for youths, particularly from Oriental countries, who were drifting away from Yiddishkeit.

In 5717 (1957) he was elected MK on the Agudas Yisroel list and served as Deputy Knesset Chairman as well. In the Knesset he fought tenaciously over kodshei Yisroel and Shabbos observance, making himself heard and conveying the message of Torah-true Judaism clearly, intrepidly and without flattery.

When a storm raged 32 years ago over plans to hold car races on Shabbos Kodesh in Ashkelon, R' Gross warned the Knesset that this was liable to demonstrate to the entire world Jews are capable of treading Shabbos underfoot, choliloh. During the battle, when the entrepreneurs behind the idea demanded half a million liras in guarantees in the event of losses resulting from avoiding chilul Shabbos, among the signatories on the guarantee form signed at the last moment on a Thursday night were R' Shlomo Yaakov Gross and ylct'a Rav Yehuda Meir Abramovich in the name of Agudas Yisroel.

Years later, out of his great concern for kovod Shomayim, he initiated legislation to allow individuals to avoid taking oaths in Israeli courts.

He also took an active role in Agudas Yisroel's campaigns to block recruiting girls into the IDF, to prevent autopsies and to defend the yeshivas, and helped promote pure chinuch and the setup of Hamodia, where his articles appeared for many years until recently.

During his final years he was confined to his bed due to illness, but nevertheless he continued to engage in Torah and tefilloh and tzorchei tzibbur even in his nineties. His mind remained clear and he would share nostalgic memories of the Wishwa beis medrash, which was led by the Admor of Vishnitz.

On Monday, in his modest home in Bnei Brak, he returned his soul to his Maker.

The levaya set out from the large beis medrash in Kiryat Vishnitz and on to Yerushalayim. At the Shamgar Funeral Area a large gathering was on hand to accompany the deceased to Har Hamenuchos.

R' Shlomo Yaakov Gross, z'l, is survived by his daughter, the wife of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Wolner, a dayan in Tel Aviv; his sons, R; Nochum Yehuda and R' Avrohom Eiver; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in his path.



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