HaRav Eliahu Svei zt"l, one of the prominent leaders of chareidi Jewry in the US and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Philadelphia, passed away last week on Thursday Rosh Chodesh Nisan. The levaya began at the yeshiva last Thursday and continued on Friday afternoon in Eretz Yisroel, where thousands of participants were on hand, including Maran HaRav Eliashiv, the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Shteinman, HaRav Lefkowitz and HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman shlita.
Hespeidim were given by HaRav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Slobodka, who learned with the niftar at Yeshivas Lakewood under Maran HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l; HaRav Lefkowitz, who learned with the niftar under HaRav Shlomo Heiman zt"l; and HaRav Shteinman. Because Shabbos was approaching the Rosh Yeshiva told the organizers to curtail the eulogies.
When the procession set out from Yeshivas Mir at 3:00 p.m., the large crowd accompanying the aron included HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Yitzchok Scheinberg, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Admor of Novominsk and the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir.
Eulogies were delivered by HaRav Finkel and the niftar's son, HaRav Aharon Shlomo.
HaRav Eliahu Svei was buried at Har Hazeisim near the grave of his father, HaRav Shmuel Leib zt"l.
Eliahu Svei was born on Taanis Esther 5684 (1924) in Slobodka, Lithuania to HaRav Shmuel Leib, a prominent talmid of HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt"l and a member of the Kovna Kollel together with HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky and HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman zt"l.
As a boy he studied at the Slobodka Talmud Torah during the period when the Divrei Yechezkel, HaRav Yechezkel Halevi Bourstein, was serving as rosh yeshiva of the yeshiva ketanoh. Before becoming bar mitzvah he fled the horrors of Europe together with his family, reaching safety on US shores. Right away he began studying at Yeshivas Torah Vodaas under HaRav Gedaliah Schorr and HaRav Shlomo Heiman zt"l. Later he learned under HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l at Yeshivas Lakewood. He then came to Eretz Yisroel to study. Among his chavrusas was a regular seder with HaRav Nachum Partzovitz to study Seder Zero'im.
He sometimes went to HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt"l to discuss his learning, and even spent one Pesach Seder at his home. He also became a regular visitor at the homes of the Brisker Rov, the Mashgiach HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, and the rosh yeshiva of Chevron Yeshiva, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt"l.
Upon returning to the US he continued his intense studies at Yeshivas Lakewood until marrying the daughter of HaRav Avrohom Kalmanovitz, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir in the US. He then continued his studies at Yeshivas Mir until he was asked to serve as rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Philadelphia, 52 years ago.
His students were continually astounded by the amount of effort he put into his Torah study, his ability to plumb the depths of a sugiyoh and his rare powers of concentration. His love for Torah was boundless and his mussar talks were impassioned. He would set forth daas Torah and hashkofoh with clarity, and the entire Torah world of America looked to him for guidance in every matter.
He maintained close ties with gedolei hador in Eretz Yisroel, including HaRav Shach zt"l and ylct"a Maran HaRav Eliashiv and HaRav Shteinman.
His health declined severely in recent years until he finally returned his refined soul to his Maker last week, leaving behind an enormous void in the US.
HaRav Eliahu Svei is survived by his Rebbetzin, six sons, three daughters and many grandchildren, all lomdei Torah, and thousands of talmidim — and their talmidim — mourning the loss of their rov and teacher.