Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Cheshvan 5766 - November 16, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








HaRav Naftoli (Herman) Neuberger — Askan and Mechanech

by Mordecai Plaut

Modern commentators have stressed that Torah education is not just giving over information. Education is not just filling students with the facts of Torah, but also building their character and developing their potential in all areas of life. Every Torah teacher is not just charged with giving over information, but also with making his charges into mentschen.

Though Rabbi Naftoli Herman Neuberger spent most of his time at the Ner Israel Yeshiva running the office and developing the physical plant and not in the beis medrash, generations of students who passed through can testify that he played an important role in educating the talmidim in that difficult-to-pin-down area of being mentschen. In truth this was a theme struck even by many of those who came in contact with him in any of his myriad activities. His role as a model of dedication to Torah and yashrus and the advice he provided to so many in need in how to get things done and how to do them properly, are remembered and treasured by all those who came in contact with him.

Many people said that Rabbi Neuberger was like a father to them, but we think that more importantly it can be said that he served — from the unlikely position of executive director — also as a rebbe. As the gemora (Bovo Metzia 33:1) explains, a father brings his child to This World, but the rebbe "who teaches him wisdom (chochmoh)," brings him to Olom Habo. Though his official responsibilities were only the Olom Hazeh part of the yeshiva, there is no doubt that Rabbi Neuberger's influence was important in bringing the talmidei yeshiva to Olom Habo as well.

Always Ready to Help

There was a feeling about Rabbi Neuberger that everyone who came in contact with him — parents, students, faculty, politicians — felt: he was always ready to help. Despite his responsibilities, he always had time for another problem.

It could be said of him that his activities were motivated by a sense of duty in the highest sense: a deep orientation towards helping others. His work in the yeshiva, his assistance and counsel of students and faculty, even his relationship with politicians and the movers and shakers of the world — were all driven by a deep desire to help others, and a duty to the Ribono Shel Olom to improve His world in any and every manner possible. Nothing was too small for his attention and, it seemed, nothing was too great for his abilities.

Rabbi Neuberger once said, "I do what I can do. When the telephone stops ringing, I go to sleep at night."

On another occasion he said, "I try to help people whenever and wherever I can. I try never to refuse anyone."

"The legacy that our father left us was to maintain this preeminent yeshiva for the benefit of the Jewish people, and to always understand that we're part of a greater community," said Rav Sheftel Neuberger, who now runs the office of Ner Israel. "We look to continue his legacy of involvement for the benefit of the Jewish community and mankind."

"He was on a different level than most people," Rabbi Leonard Oberstein, director of Ner Israel's Teacher's Institute, said. "He cared very much about people. His heart encompassed everybody. I remember once a lady called him up who was in a hospital on the other side of town with no kosher food. He had never heard of this lady. Rabbi Neuberger arranged for Ner Israel to take her food. That for him was just normal."


He was born June 16, 1918 (6 Tammuz, 5678), in Hassfurt, a small Bavarian town along the Main River. Rabbi Neuberger was the youngest of R' Meir and Bertha Neuberger's three children. His father, a businessman, moved the family to the larger city of Wurzburg where he could hire a rebbe to teach his children, when Naftoli was eight. Four weeks after Rabbi Neuberger's bar mitzvah, his father was niftar.

In 1935, when he was 17, Rabbi Neuberger left home to study at the Mirrer yeshiva in Poland. "I told them I want to learn in Mir," he told the Baltimore Jewish Times. "It was very essential. It gave me a background."

It was well after the rise of Hitler ym"sh and German Jews knew they had to get out. His elder brother, Albert, had left for London in 1934 to study medicine and he became a prominent chemical pathologist. His sister, Gretel, had immigrated in 1933 to Palestine, settling on a moshav in the Galil where she directed a children's school.

In February of 1938, Rabbi Neuberger's relatives in New York sent him papers to immigrate to the United States. He left as soon as he could. His mother settled in London.

The day after he arrived in the United States, he traveled to Baltimore to visit cousins. Rabbi Neuberger visited Ner Israel, then at Tifereth Israel Congregation on Garrison Boulevard. He decided to stay there to learn. "I liked the spirit of the yeshiva," he said. "I was fascinated by Rabbi [Yaakov Yitzchok] Ruderman," the renowned Rosh Yeshiva, one of the close talmidim of the Alter of Slobodka.

Rabbi Ruderman was brought to the United States from Slobodka yeshiva in Lithuania by his father-in-law, HaRav Sheftel Kramer. Rabbi Kramer was spiritual guide of a New Haven yeshiva that was relocating to Cleveland and he wanted Rabbi Ruderman to serve as rosh yeshiva there.

But while fundraising in Baltimore, Rabbi Ruderman was asked to serve as Tifereth Israel's spiritual leader. He agreed, if he could establish a yeshiva in the shul. Despite initial hostility from residents opposed to a yeshiva, Ner Israel, named after R' Yisroel Salanter, opened in 1933 with five students.

In 1940, Rabbi Neuberger began working in the yeshiva office. In 1942 he married Judith Kramer, the youngest of Rebbetzin Ruderman's four sisters. Rebbetzin Neuberger was a personality in her own right, and she often contributed to her husband's chesed work.

Six weeks before their wedding, HaRav Kramer was niftar following an emergency appendectomy. The widow soon moved in with the newlyweds — as did a sister until she wed — and lived with them for 24 years. In 1968, Rabbi and Mrs. Neuberger brought his ailing mother from London to their apartment to live with them until her passing in 1974.

During and after World War II, Rabbi Neuberger worked to obtain visas to help Jewish refugees flee Europe. New facilities for the yeshiva were completed in 1943, along Garrison Boulevard.

Rabbi Herman Neuberger, who was ordained by Rabbi Ruderman, took on more administrative duties, becoming executive director and later vice president. By the mid-1950s, he was responsible for fundraising and the yeshiva's physical operation. He built an impressive campus at 4411 Garrison Boulevard, including a main building with a large beis hamedrash and a large dining room that could serve the whole yeshiva at once — by then it numbered some 400 talmidim from high school through yeshiva gedoloh. There were also several outlying dormitory buildings.

As the Orthodox community moved north towards the suburbs, Rabbi Neuberger undertook to relocate Ner Israel to Pikesville, where there would be more space and isolation from the anti-educational influences of the city. In 1964 the yeshiva purchased a 50-acre site on Mount Wilson Lane for $250,000. In those days it was well beyond the urban development around Baltimore. To reach it one had to drive beyond the Beltway and through the quiet, two-lane Mount Wilson Lane.

Rabbi Neuberger borrowed $5,000 for the down payment; his connections with bankers helped him raise the $850,000 mortgage to build the first stage. Development and building ultimately exceeded $10 million. The first stage was completed in 1968 with the assistance of associate director Rabbi Jerome Kadden. Three more tracts were purchased and construction continued throughout the 1970s on what became the 90-acre Beren campus.

Ner Israel's founder, HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, was niftar in 1987. His son-in-law and successor, HaRav Yaakov S. Weinberg, was niftar in 1999. HaRav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky was niftar in 2000.

The current rosh yeshiva is HaRav Aharon Feldman shlita, originally from Baltimore and who lived many years in Jerusalem.

Saving Iranian Jewry

"Rabbi Neuberger rescued Iranian Jewry," said Rabbi Eliyahu Hakakian, director of Iranian students at Ner Israel, who escaped Iran in 1985.

Rabbi Neuberger first became involved in 1975, when the Shah of Iran, put into power in 1953 with British and American assistance that overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq, sought to modernize his country and ban religious schools. At the time, nearly 100,000 Jews lived in Iran. Most have since fled.

The late Rabbi Zoldan Sassoon, an English businessman who directed the international Sephardic religious school system Otzar HaTorah, asked Rabbi Neuberger to accompany him to Iran to negotiate on behalf of his Jewish schools there.

In Teheran, Rabbi Neuberger saw that students attended religious school only part-time and there was no secondary Jewish education. He began a pilot program to bring young Iranian students to study at Ner Israel, planning for them to return to Iran to teach.

Rabbi Reuven Khaver, a Park Heights businessman, was one of six high school students from Shiraz who went to the US on a student visa in 1978. Five months later, the Shah was overthrown and they all remained at Ner Israel. There was no going back.

When young Iranian Jews could no longer obtain passports or student visas, they escaped to Istanbul to get refugee status from the United Nations so they could enter the United States.

In 1983, Rabbi Neuberger — with his close friend, the late Rabbi Moshe Sherer, a Ner Israel alumnus and president of Agudath Israel of America — successfully initiated political pressure on the U.S. State Department to recognize Iranian Jews as political refugees and allow them entry.

In 1984 Turkey, which shares a border with Iran, became an escape route for Iranian Jews, who risked being shot, jailed or returned to Iran as they fled through the Turkish mountains.

Despite the Turkish government's deal with Iran to close its borders, Rabbis Neuberger and Khaver — along with former New York congressman Stephen J. Solarz, then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Affairs, and attorney David Zwiebel, executive vice president for government and public affairs for Agudath Israel — met with the Turkish ambassador to obtain assurances that Turkish authorities would look the other way when Iranian Jews came through.

The ambassador also agreed to allow Iranian Jews to stay in Turkey as refugees until they obtained tourist visas to Vienna before immigrating to the United States. The clandestine operation continued until 1994, when Iran issued passports.

When there was no more room at Ner Israel for more Iranian students, Rabbi Neuberger convinced yeshivas in New York and Los Angeles to accept immigrants. He also helped bring out teenage girls, arranging for Baltimore families to take them in.

Over the past 23 years, more than 800 Iranian immigrants attended Ner Israel — on full scholarship. Two years ago, 75 Iranian students were enrolled.

When the Iranians first arrived at Ner Israel, Rabbi Ruderman was adamant that they maintain their religious identity and customs, encouraging them to conduct their own minyanim on Shabbos.

"From day one, the yeshiva's policy was to bring out the best in us," says Rabbi Khaver. "They said, `Let us give them the tools and education to be leaders tomorrow.' Preserving Iranian Jewry was their goal. Today, when a boy in Iran has a dream of coming to Baltimore, it is of a yeshiva life here."

Students who maintained their traditions have become more effective leaders than those who were Americanized, says Rabbi Hakakian. "Anywhere there is a flourishing Iranian Jewish community in the U.S., the majority of the leaders are from Ner Israel."

Rabbi David Zargari is an Iranian Jew who now lives in Los Angeles. He was one of the first Iranians brought to Ner Israel by Rabbi Neuberger. Rabbi Zargari graduated from Ner Israel and left for Los Angeles in 1986, where he founded Torat Hayim of Los Angeles, which includes a 500-family congregation, a Hebrew academy with 220 students and a graduate program.

"Rabbi Neuberger should be credited more than any other individual for what is happening in [Iranian] communities in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, all over. Everywhere there is a Persian Jewish community, the rabbis are graduates of Ner Israel. It is all his foresight," said Rabbi Zargari.

"What did he know about the Persian Jews? Nothing. He just had tremendous ahavat Yisrael. Every individual really mattered to him. He cared and he showed to what extent every individual mattered."

A Friend and Advisor to Non-Jewish Leaders

Rabbi Neuberger was one person in Baltimore who commanded the respect and devotion of community leaders of all kinds. High- ranking Maryland politicians, communal officials, local Jewish clergy of every stripe, the archbishop of Baltimore — all called and came to consult with him.

"He was truly one of the great thinkers in our community," said Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin.

US Senator Barbara A. Mikulski from Maryland first met Rabbi Neuberger in 1982 when she was a congresswoman representing an area that included the Jewish community. "We hit it off immediately," she said.

"I try to go to the banquet every year," she told the Baltimore Jewish Times. "One year, when Al Gore was vice president, he asked me to his residence for dinner. I said, `Presidents come and go. I've got to go with Rabbi Neuberger.'"

Ms. Mikulski, who is Catholic, still gets teary recalling that after her mother died, both Rabbi Neuberger and Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger attended the funeral. "For them to be in this funeral home in East Baltimore in the Polish neighborhood . . . it was really very moving."

Senator Mikulski described Rabbi Neuberger as "a man of great wisdom, but also of great kindness and humor. He helped me to know the vibrant Orthodox community in Baltimore."

Baltimore's Cardinal William H. Keeler said that he found a lobbying partner in Rabbi Neuberger on moral issues involving protection of family and married life in Maryland. He recalled, "He came to me and said that we should be able to work together on aid to students in our religious schools and on some moral issues, and I agreed with him. I found him a marvelous collaborator in these areas."

If asked, Rabbi Neuberger would say who he was voting for. But he did not publicly endorse candidates, to avoid alienating the opposition. "I'd like to talk to people after the elections — even if they are not elected," he said.

Approach to Askonus

Whatever the issue, Rabbi Neuberger's approach was to first get it out of the public eye. When problems go public, he maintained, opposing sides dig in their heels and refuse to compromise. He then worked with the parties and tried to pinpoint the essence of the disagreement.

"I try to be positive, not negative," Rabbi Neuberger explained. "It lessens the sharpness of differences. I'm not out to get every issue [fully] resolved, but [just] resolved as best I can. There are misunderstandings, misstatements and stubbornness, all kinds of motivation. You try to address them one by one. I have a will and obligation to help people do that."

He is effective, he insists, simply because he is a good listener. "There's a whole art to listening," he says. "I try to listen for where there's an opening to solve a problem. You can understand them only if you let them talk freely."

Some issues need public action. One controversy was a proposal by the JCC board in 1997 to open its Owings Mills facility on Shabbos. Rabbi Neuberger orchestrated a massive telephone and letter-writing campaign by the Orthodox that culminated in a "Pro-Shabbos Rally" drawing nearly 4,000 people. Two days later, the Associated board voted to reject the proposal.


Almost 3,000 people who loved and admired Rabbi Herman Naftoli Neuberger attended his levaya on Sunday afternoon, chol hamoed Succos, October 23. Rabbi Neuberger was niftar two days earlier on leil Shabbos, of cardiac arrest after a period of declining health. On the evening of his death, Rabbi Neuberger lit Shabbos candles at his Yeshiva Lane home. Before taking a nap, he told a family member to wake him up in time for evening prayers. He died a misas neshikah during that nap.

Dr. Yoel Jakobovits observed, "When he died on Friday night, I felt this is typical of Rabbi Neuberger to die when yeshiva is not in session [because of the holiday], so it was least disruptive. He never ran after kovod. He regarded himself as a person to serve, not to get privileges."

Rabbi Neuberger was buried at United Hebrew Cemetery in Baltimore.

Rabbi Neuberger is survived by his five sons and their families: Rav Sheftel, who now guides Ner Israel's office; Rav Shraga, a Ner Israel rebbe; Rav Ezra, a Ner Israel rebbe and dean of its kollel; R' Isaac, a Pikesville attorney; R' Yaakov, a Greenspring attorney.

We would like to acknowledge the cover story of the Baltimore Jewish Times September 13, 2002, entitled "Leader Among Us" and written by Rona S. Hirsch, which served as a source of much of the information in this article.

File dated 3/8/1995

An Interview with Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger

by Rabbi Yitzchok Satz

Q. Rabbi Neuberger, what year was the yeshiva founded in Baltimore?

A. It was founded in 1933 by the Rosh Yeshiva, zt'l. It started with 14 bochurim, and it grew. When I came to the yeshiva in 1938, there were already 40- some bochurim in the yeshiva.

Q. Where were the first bochurim from?

A. From the different parts of the United States. A few from Baltimore, Rochester, Montreal, Ottawa — from different towns in the United States.

Q. Where was the Yeshiva's first building?

A. On Garrison Boulevard and Forest Lane, at the old Tifereth Yisroel Shul where the Rosh Yeshiva was the rov. It was a wooden building with three floors, and the upper floors were used for dormitories.

Q. Did the Rosh Yeshiva establish the Yeshiva by himself?

A. Yes.

Q. He just gathered the bochurim together by himself?

A. Right, but other rabbonim helped him such as Rabbi Riff from Camden, Rabbi Kurtz from Rochester, Rabbi Eliezer Silver, Rabbi Yisroel Rosenberg from Agudas HaRabbonim, all zt'l. They gave him a lot of moral support.

Q. This was after Chofetz Chaim (Talmudical Academy) was founded in Baltimore?

A. Oh, yes, the Chofetz Chaim was founded in 1917, but it only went up to grade eight.

Q.You came to the United States in '38. Were you at the time in Germany or in the Mir Yeshiva?

A. I came from Mir to the United States.

Q. You would not go back to Germany?

A. No. Just to get my visa.

Q. But you knew what was going on?

A. Everybody knew. They knew there was no future in Germany.

Q.During World War II, were a lot of bochurim coming to the Yeshiva?

A. Not a lot. At the outbreak of World War II there were probably around 75 bochurim in the yeshiva.

Q.When did the refugees start to come?

A.A number of German refugees come in '38-'40. Among them were Rabbi Carlebach and Mr. Ernie Guttman. Rabbi Naftali Carlebach stayed for a while and then became rabbi in a small community in Pennsylvania. There was an influx of some Germans, but the real thrust came after the war ended. We took in about 60 to 80 students from D.P. camps in Sweden, who were recommended to us by Rabbi Jacobson. Some of them became big lomdim and some became very fine baalei batim. Out of this group that stayed — I would say 90 percent stayed shomer Shabbos and shomer mitzvos. We sent them student affidavit admissions to the United States. It was very much bechessed that they gave them student visas.

Q. What ages were they?

A. From 16 to 24.

Q. What countries did they originally come from?

A. They were survivors of the camps, from Hungary, Poland, from Eastern Europe.

Q. Were there psychological problems?

A. They all had serious memories of what happened to their families, and the koach of learning Torah sustained them so they were able to live on.

Q. When did American bochurim start coming?

A. They came all along. One thing didn't interfere with the other.

Q. And the American bochurim accepted the refugees?

A. Yes. There were no problems. They helped them along. They were chavrusas with them and they felt a sense of achrayus. To a great extent it was because of the cooperation of the American bochurim that these refugee bochurim from Europe were matzliach.

Q. Were there other groups of the refugees?

A. Yes. Wherever there was unfortunately a crisis involving Jews, we took the initiative and brought students from there. In the late sixties we started an Iranian program, and at the end of the period of the Shah even before Khomeini came in, it became difficult for the Jews, so there was a demand to come out and we helped them. Hundreds of Iranian students came to us. Some stayed a few months and others are still in the yeshiva in the kollel.

There was a tremendous effort on the part of the yeshiva. At one time we had 80 Iranian students and we persuaded other yeshivas to take them in and other yeshivas took some in. Many of them became tremendous lomdim. There are today, I think, six avreichim in the Kollel Chazon Ish who are Iranians. We have in Ner Yisroel 20-some avreichim who are Iranians, and they are very fine lomdim.

The Rosh Yeshiva zt'l insisted that they not lose their own heritage. We still have minyanim for them on Shabbosos where they use their own nusach and keep their own minhagim. We also felt that this was the only way they would be able to help their own Iranian communities. If they would lose their nusach of davening and their own minhagim, they would not be accepted in the Iranian communities. Thanks to this, whenever there is an Iranian community in the U. S. you almost always find former talmidim of Ner Yisroel among their leaders. It's true in Atlanta; it's true in New York. And we have at least ten Iranian rabbonim and mechanchim in Los Angeles. They changed the outlook of the whole Iranian Jewish community there.

Q. There were quite a few American bochurim who came from non-frum families.

A. Yes.

Q. What was, in your opinion, pulling them into yeshiva?

A. Each case had its own Hashgochoh protis. Some came through NCSY. Some came through rabbonim who happened to get close to them and be mashpi'a on them and persuaded them to go to yeshiva. Others took off from their college studies for a year and devoted themselves to Torah learning . . and one year became ten and twelve years. There is no common pattern. We tried to deal with each baal teshuva according to his own needs and his requirements.

No two persons are alike. Their backgrounds are so different, their temperament is different, their commitment is different. We had to work with them on an individual basis in order to be matzliach.

Q. When did the Mashgiach HaRav Dovid Kronglas zt'l come to the yeshiva?

A. Rav Dovid came in 1946 or '47. He came straight from Shanghai.

Q. How did the American olom accept him being a European, a big baal mussar, a big lamdan?

A. His great personality, his lomdus, his mussar was so persuasive, that Americans respected him, and he was very effective.

Q. Rav Dovid himself was originally from Kobrin. I remember that he told us once that he had a rebbe in Kobrin who taught them how to listen to chazoras hashatz, how to listen to the other person. I am from Atlantic City. Can you tell us about bochurim from Atlantic City?

A. R' Gershon Weiss came from Atlantic City. He is today one of the main forces at Tiferes Yerushalayim Yeshiva in Staten Island. He has a tremendous hashpaah on a lot of bochurim because of his sincerity, his serious- mindedness, his lomdus. But he came to us as an American young man and he became one of the leading Torah personalities in America today.

Q. Who else did you have from there?

A. You came and you had the chance to develop extremely well, and we had four or five other students. I remember one very fine young man who is today in New York: Reb Dovid Singer who came to us from Atlantic City along with his brother who is now in Philadelphia. Dovid developed into one of the most sincere and serious workers for Klal Yisroel. I think even for him alone all the efforts were worth it.

Q. You also had bochurim from Scranton?

A. We had bochurim from many places. Each one is a history in himself. R' Moshe Sherer (zt'l) learned in Ner Israel and became the president of U.S. Agudas Yisroel.

Q. Also, for instance, in Atlanta, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman.

A. Rabbi Feldman was originally from Baltimore. He opened a shul in a house in Atlanta and he changed the community. Today his son, also a talmid of Ner Israel, is the rabbi and he brought in a kollel and outreach. The most outstanding Torah community in the South is Atlanta and only because of the work of Rabbi Feldman Senior, and Rabbi Feldman Junior — and help was given to them by the yeshiva. Today there are 16 men in the kollel there who learn half-a-day and spend half-a-day in outreach.

Q. I understand the yeshiva accepted bochurim who needed attention and took care of them.

A. Yes. We looked at the potential and didn't shy away from work. The bochur has to be given every opportunity. It may take him a few years until he learns to apply himself in the beis hamedrash. Some of the biggest lomdim in America today came out the Ner Israel yeshiva. Rabbi Moshe Brown from Far Rockaway, Rabbi Joseph Kalatsky who has a very important kiruv program in Midtown, New York. He is boki beShas and is a great koach.

I can name you ten more outstanding lomdim, that grew out of the Ner Israel environment. The Rosh Yeshiva represented hasmodoh, commitment to learning, ameilus in Torah. That concept always had an impact. Those who had the zchus of learning with Rav Dovid, were affected in the same way. The same can be said of the present rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Weinberg (zt"l), who leads the yeshiva in the same derech as it was founded and is continuing what his father-in-law started. He expresses the same desires and the same interest in Torah.

Q. I understand that sometimes there were national problems with Congress with regard to Yiddishkeit and the yeshiva.

A. It is a continuous process. It hasn't ceased. There were problems with the draft (in the late 60s). To keep the exemption from the draft for all yeshiva bochurim, we organized a whole movement to get the exemptions adopted in the House after the Senate rejected it, and thank G-d it was carried out and the bochurim were able to continue learning. We are in almost daily contact with Washington in one form or another.

Most of these things I did not talk about because shtadlonus in the future may be defeated by publicizing any particular situation. Let it be said that there is hardly a day that goes by when some intensive contact isn't made with Washington.

Q. You mentioned to me earlier one of the secrets of success of the yeshiva. Could you explain a bit?

A. Simply that if there is any hatzlochoh, it can only be if the act is done totally lishmoh and not for the sake of popularity or publicity. Your chances of hatzlochoh are greater when done lesheim Shomayim. If you push something for your own personal glory, you are apt to have resistance. People are not willing to help you unless you convince them that your cause is a universal cause and that you are not speaking for yourself, that you have no personal interest and no personal gain from it but that you are there totally for the sake of the problem you came to them for, and that is solely what motivates you to solve these problems. Even the political personality in Washington respects that [sincerity] and helps you to solve it and to come to a good conclusion. But if you get your own personality involved in the problem, and you feel kochi ve'otsem yodi, you are defeated before you start. My wife, aleha hasholom, used to say that when you try to run things, if you put your "I" in there, it then becomes ruin, and you will only ruin things. It's important to leave the "I" out.

Q. Can you tell us how the yeshiva influenced Baltimore?

A. The yeshiva is not only interested in Ner Israel, but also in every Torah mossad in the city. We work together with them and as a unit in the community. We all work for the same purpose. We are the only community in the United States that I know of where all go for funding as a group — all yeshivas and day schools and Bais Yaakov schools. We get a lump sum from the community and it's up to us to figure out how to divide it up.

We work it out. It is a kiddush Hashem. We talk as one group made up of all Torah institutions, and this is the hatzlochoh. If any one institution needs help, we are there to help in any way possible. We feel that the hatzlochoh in the community is from our unity for one goal. For example, in Baltimore we have only one vaad kashrus and everyone eats from it. There is no place that you cannot eat because of the meat that they use. We are one of the few communities where most of the bakers have only yoshon.

Q. Did a lot of the bochurim from the yeshiva marry and stay in the city?

A. I would say 40 or 50 percent of the bochurim stayed on in the community and they made the community what it is.

Q. Do you have a lot of second-generation Ner Yisroel talmidim?

A. We already have third-generation.

Q. Where was the Yeshiva's second building?

A. Also on Garrison Boulevard. You only remember the second building.

Q. Right. How many buildings were there in the beginning?

A. There were, depending how you count them, three or four buildings.

Q. The first one was with the beis medrash with the dorm rooms on top of it.

A. And after that there was an annex and upstairs dormitories again, and then there was the Horowitz dining room and there was the Shraga building and then there was 4409, an old building which was the additional dormitory. We later had to expand to some apartment buildings across the street.

Q. Why did the yeshiva move out to Mt. Wilson Lane?

A. It had became a very mixed neighborhood, and we felt that we had to expand and we didn't want to put more money in a neighborhood that we eventually would have to leave. So we bought 50 acres of land. Since then it has become 77 acres (now 90).

Q. When did the kollel start in the yeshiva?

A. The Kollel started in late '50s.

Q. Whose idea was it.?

A. The Rosh Yeshiva zt'l.

Q. How many yungerleit do you have now in the kolel, kein ayin hora?

A. 140.

Q. On Yeshiva Lane on the Beren campus there is an awful lot of housing.

A. There are about over 1,000 nefoshos here on the campus.

Q. That is including the bochurim?

A. Including the bochurim. All the rabbeim live here and there are 77 homes here. We are finishing now the fourth apartment house. They are only for either the rabbeim or kollel. There is a total Torah atmosphere there.

Q. Are there plans from more apartment buildings?

A. We have to digest what we have. We also have three large dormitory buildings which house close to 400 bochurim. On the campus we have the Mechina High School, the yeshiva gedolah and the kollel.

Q. In my time there was no such a thing as cholov Yisroel here. Bochurim who insisted on cholov Yisroel had to go to the farm — the Guttman farm — and bring the milk back and boil it themselves. Now there is a full range of cholov Yisroel products. How did that happen?

A. There was a demand, and one of the rabbeim of the yeshiva had an idea of how to organize it. The cholov Yisroel is now sold throughout the East including Lakewood and Scranton, in addition to Baltimore. Only one mashgiach is needed because milking and bottling is done in the same place.

Q. What about the Yeshiva's current outreach program?

A. Our outreach is not limited to the United States. During the summer when the bochurim and Mechina are away, NCSY organizes a program on Yeshiva lane for bochurim from public schools. They visit here for five or six weeks. Their morning is occupied with learning and the afternoon with different camp activities. Out of these, when they leave here almost all have a commitment to Shabbos and kashrus. And every year, out of the 60 bochurim who come, at least 25 change from public schools to day schools. That is the program for American bochurim.

We also have a program for Central America bochurim, from Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Columbia. We have one person, Reb Mosheh Fuller, who is fully occupied the whole year with arranging the summer programs and winter programs, plus Shabbatons in different centers around the countries. It's the only Yiddishkeit which they get and it has a tremendous impact.

The bochurim who come here go away and are committed to be shomer Shabbos. I can say 70 or 80 percent remain shomer Shabbos, because we are constantly in touch with those who came here. Some of them come to the Mechina and stay for the yeshiva and become regular yeshiva bochurim. But the purpose is not necessarily for them to become yeshiva bochurim, but just to become committed Jews of kashrus and Shabbos. And Boruch Hashem we are very matzliach with them.

Rabbi Satz learned in Ner Israel in the 50s. This interview was conducted about ten years ago, in 1995, and was not previously published.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.