Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Iyar 5764 - April 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Hillel Lieberman, zt"l
by Betzalel Kahn

Rav Hillel was born in the town of Radomsko, Poland in 5666 (1906) to HaRav Moshe Lieberman, one of the heads of Amshinover chassidim. He moved to Eretz Yisroel with his father, well before World War I broke out in 5674 (1914), settling in Jerusalem.

In 5690 (1930) Rav Hillel married the daughter of Rav Gavriel Hakohen Adler, a prominent Gur chossid in Tel Aviv, chairman of Agudas Hashubim (an association for shochtim and bodkim) and one of the heads of the city's Agudas Yisroel.

Soon R' Hillel set up Jerusalem's first Bais Yaakov elementary school, run in the spirit of the Bais Yaakov movement in Poland. Built on David Yellin Street, the school soon became a big success, despite the difficult financial conditions of those times.

In 5699 (1939), with the blessings of gedolei Yisroel, he had the merit to found Jerusalem's first Bais Yaakov seminary which was attended by the graduates of the seventh grade class at his elementary school. Crucially needed to prevent the students from dispersing, the seminary was in great demand and eventually became the pride of the chareidi public in Eretz Yisroel.

During those same years before the State's founding he was sent as an Agudas Yisroel delegate to a large gathering in Marienbad in 5697 (1937).

When Holocaust refugees began to arrive in Eretz Yisroel, after the State was founded, Rav Hillel was active in attending to their material and spiritual needs. Later, during the period in the early years of the State when the chareidi education system was known as the "Fourth Stream," he was involved in establishing Torah-based schools in the immigrant camps at Ein Shemer and Tel Nof and at the transit camps in Talpiot and Mamilla in Jerusalem.

Following the government's decision to set up government and government- religious streams he fought in the vanguard in the battle for the complete autonomy of chareidi religious institutions--a point on which gedolei Yisroel were unwilling to compromise--and out of that battle Chinuch Atzmai was born, as a partially-government financed education system with educational autonomy.

In 5715 (1955), six years after the Bais Yaakov network of schools was founded, maronon verabonon implored him to dedicate a period of his lifetime to the cause of pure education in Eretz Yisroel by heading Chinuch Atzmai. He accepted the demanding challenge, which required that he travel abroad in order to keep Chinuch Atzmai institutions operating by seeking funding to cover budget shortfalls.

After two-and-a-half years he returned to his former post at Merkaz Bais Yaakov Seminary, which was expanding its network of schools to other cities and towns. As head of the organization he was largely responsible for opening girls' high schools in Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Haifa, Tiberius, Netanya, Tzfat, Rechovot, Ramat Hasharon, Petach Tikva and other places around the country. His son HaRav Yeshayoh Lieberman recalls that until just a few months ago he would still visit the schools, taking an interest and helping in any way he could.

Sixty years ago, deeply disturbed that students at Torah- based schools were compelled to use textbooks written by secular, "enlightened" educators, Rav Hillel pioneered the field of chareidi textbooks. With a tremendous personal investment, both in terms of contents and finances, he wrote the Yalduteinu series, which included textbooks for math, science, geography and history. The books, which serve as a foundation stone for chareidi institutions to this day, won acclaim from the Chazon Ish zt"l.

For 12 years he served as the Agudas Yisroel representative on the Jerusalem City Council and Executive Board. As a public servant he sanctified the Name of Heaven, earning the esteem of the various mayors and commissioners who trusted him implicitly despite the battles he waged for chareidi Jewry. Working selflessly for the people of Jerusalem he earned a good reputation and was later awarded the title of Honorary Citizen.

Rav Hillel worked indefatigably and made great sacrifices, not just for the sake of building new Torah and educational institutions for tinokos shel beis rabbon in "an unsown land" for thousands of Bais Yaakov girls, but also devotedly handing down the traditional ways of avodas Hashem to the young generation.

Throughout his lifetime he was faithful to maronon verabonon, maintaining close ties with gedolei hador such as HaRav Zalman Sorotozkin, HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, the Admorim of Gur, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and, ylct"a, HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv and the Amshinover Rebbe.

He merited seeing tens of thousands of girls study at the schools he set up and helped take root. Each and every student knew that if she was in need of someone to talk to or of help in personal matters, Rav Hillel was the one to come to. For a certain period of time he would bring a sandwich with him every morning for one student, after hearing that there was no food in her home. He felt like a father to them and when needy girls got engaged he would help with hachnosas kalloh as much as he could.

A few years ago he began to moderate his extensive educational endeavors and his inexhaustible activism because of his advanced age, yet he continued to keep abreast of developments at Bais Yaakov. He pushed for more and more schools to get started, kept in contact with all of the principals and participated in Merkaz Bais Yaakov conventions. Just months ago he took part in the Aliyoh LeBasyoh Convention in Jerusalem and when he gave his heartfelt blessings to the 2,500 teachers and educators on hand, many eyes welled with tears.

Even one year ago he could still be seen at one of the city's matzoh factories taking part in the mitzvah himself, surrounded by his five generations of offspring. But nine years ago he suffered a great personal tragedy when his son Rav Avrohom suddenly passed away in his prime.

In his private life he was very humble and his needs were few. He lived in a rented apartment for many years and his furnishings were scant. He dealt with extremely large sums of money in his work, but for himself he made do with modest amounts.

A talmid chochom with a love of Torah, Rav Hillel received smichoh of Yoreh Yoreh Yadin Yadin many years ago by the gaonim of Jerusalem, including the Tefliker Rav.

When he became housebound a few months ago due to his increasing weakness, his many family members took care of him faithfully. He passed away surrounded by his family as they recited Shema Yisroel and Tziduk Hadin.

Thousands took part in the levaya of the intrepid warrior for pure, chareidi education who shouldered much of the load for seven decades. Gedolei Torah, rabbonim and numerous public figures were on hand and the sidewalks were filled with thousands of Bais Yaakov students, alumni and educators spanning several generations.

When the procession set out from his home on Rechov Gesher Hachaim hespeidim were delivered by HaRav Levy Yitzchok Halperin, his son-in-law HaRav Aryeh Weinberg, Rabbi Menachem Porush and HaRav Chananiyoh Schiff. At Har Hamenuchot Cemetery the Amshinover Rebbe joined the mourners and after the grave was covered, Rabbi Avrohom Yosef Lazerson, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai, gave an emotionally-charged hesped, lamenting the great loss to chareidi Jewry.


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