The shul on Glen Avenue
In later years Reb Elchonon's words were realized. Rav Schwab often noted that his former shul known as The Glen Avenue Shul is bustling with minyanim whereas the Beth Jacob is a now a small congregation.
Rav Schwab's background in the Frankfurt of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch made him singularly qualified to fight such a battle against hisbolelus. One of the major features of Rav Hirsch's philosophy is, as was mentioned previously, austritt: that frum Jews are not allowed to belong to any organization based upon kefirah.
In the Germany of Rav S.R. Hirsch, religion and state were not separate. Thus, if someone was Jewish, he had to be a member of the organized Jewish community. In Rav Hirsch's day, in many cities most Jews were Reform and thus the orthodox Jews had to be part of the community even though it was run by kofrim.
Rav Hirsch fought against this law for about twenty-five years until finally, in 1876, the Prussian Parliament passed a law which granted Jews the right to secede from the main Jewish community and form their own independent community. Even after that, Rav Hirsch had to battle against some orthodox Jews who felt that separation from the larger collective community was not necessary and perhaps even counter productive. (For more background material see Shemesh Marpeh, Biography, Chapter 7, or Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch by Rabbi Eliahu Klugman).
Rav Schwab writes at length in Selected Speeches, Chapter 17 about Rav Hirsch's principles and how he was nurtured on them. One lesson he learned (page 212), "Learn how to withstand animosity and to weather unpopularity, and to carry on the struggle to uphold Hashem's ideals."
The Separation of White from Black
Another principle which guided Rav Schwab and was involved in this battle as well, is the generalized principle of austritt. As stated by Rav Schwab in the abovementioned article, "There can be no compromise with minus. Rather one must seek complete separation from those who deny the authenticity of the Torah... One must therefore separate oneself from such movements as secular Zionism, which promotes the concept that the Jews can be like any other nation. One must secede from any organization that includes such movements."
Thus, although the battle to keep people who weren't shomrei Shabbos wasn't exactly the same type of battle as that waged by Rav Hirsch, it was still in a similar vein since someone who is a mechalel Shabbos befarhesya is considered to be a mumar since Shabbos is so central to Judaism.
A third message which Rav Schwab took from Rav Hirsch is that just like Eliyahu, who was known as mekanei leHashem Zevokos, saw, that before the kol demomo dakko came the fire and the wind, so it is with Hashem's battles: before peace can reign sometimes fire and storm must precede. Those who fight for Hashem are always labeled divisive, and said to be people who breed sinas chinom and the like, but Hashem taught otherwise. When one fights for Hashem, one must fight lesheim Shomayim and true peace will come at last but one does not start with peaceful complacency.
Rav Schwab continues by explaining how he was nurtured on Rav Hirsch's philosophy. He writes, "In my parents' household, Rav Hirsch's presence and influence were still strongly felt. There was a picture of Rav Hirsch on the mantelpiece and my grandfather had written under it: Ho'emess vehasholom ehavu. After all, this was the crux of Rav Hirsch's philosophy."
He continues, "The period of my adolescence still reverberates with the thunderous speeches of Rav Shlomo Breuer zt'l who continued to uphold the principle of ein sholom omar Hashem laresho'im. As a young man I read all the pages of the Jeshurun and the essays of Rav Hirsch have become part of my consciousness."
One more principle which Rav Schwab doesn't mention directly, but also probably was gleaned from Rav Hirsch, is that battles aren't won in one day. Battles are won through perseverance. Rav Hirsch could stick to his battle for twenty-five years until success was his. Shlomo says, "Sheva yipol tzaddik vekom," the tzaddik may fall seven times but yet rise up.
Rav Schwab saw himself as a successor to Rav Hirsch: a fighter for Hashem. At the end of his days he would remark, "I have fought many battles and I feel I have won all of them." The fight over membership for non-shomer Shabbos was thus one of the first, and in a sense one of the most difficult, battles which Rav Schwab waged on behalf of Hashem.
The principle of austritt as well kept on being a subject of Rav Schwab's battles even into the twilight of his career. He fought in his own kehilla as well as amongst the greater Orthodox community against joining in any way with non-frum organizations. In his own kehilla of Washington Heights in New York City he was preceded by Rav Hirsch's grandson, Rav Yosef Breuer zt'l who already had set the tone by refusing to join — and by speaking out against joining — any organization that even included non-frum elements.
Rav Breuer's kehilla never had been part of an organization like the RCA. Rav Schwab was very proud that his yeshiva would not take any money from the Federation (the general Jewish charity of New York City that is controlled by non religious Jews). In fact, he felt that taking money from the Federation would hinder a school from producing proper talmidim.
We find in the gemora Bava Metzia 85B the famous story of Rav Chia who prevented Torah from being forgotten from Klal Yisroel by making all the proper preparations for students to learn Torah. Thus, he felt, one would be doing the opposite by taking money for a yeshiva from a non-frum organization like the Federation.
He would speak at the Aguda convention and say (Essays 89), "We address ourselves to our chaveirim bede'ah, our achim bemitzvos of the Orthodox rabbinate of America. Ad mosay? How long do you want to remain a branch, without becoming a part of the tree? For how long would you like to be a member of a joint brotherhood with the meisisim and <>medichim?"
He goes on to explain that this is what our generation must take from Hashem's command to those congregated near Korach, and Doson and Aviram's tent, "Separate yourselves from the tents of these wicked people."
Support for Agudas Yisroel
This guided Rav Schwab on a personal level as well. We will see later that Rav Schwab was a staunch Agudist but when the Agudas Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948, Rav Schwab cabled Rav I.M. Levin to say that he is immediately resigning from the organization.
Later on, when the question of the Aguda's joining the government arose, he stood firmly opposed. Even when in his later years Rav Schwab would be the keynote speaker at the convention of Agudas Yisroel of America he would not speak at the same session as any representatives of the Israeli Aguda. He saw all the above as being a violation of the principles of austritt and not in adherence with the Aguda's original goals.
On the other hand, Rav Schwab was not one who said kablu da'ati. He recognized that the Aguda had other gedolim on which to base their actions. But he saw himself and his kehilla as being talmidim and followers of Rav Hirsch's derech and thus he had to be honest to Rav Hirsch and himself and act accordingly.
He even saw Rav Hirsch's opponent in the battle for Austritt, Rav Seligmann Ber Bamberger, the rav of Wurzburg, as being a person who was a big tzaddik and likewise a locheim lesheim Shomayim and, therefore, had the highest respect for him (cf. Speeches 209-210). However, one has to have a certain derech in hashkofo and, for himself and his kehilla, it was the derech of Rav S.R. Hirsch.
Of course, when his opponents had no proper hashkofo on which to base their actions as was the case with the shita of Torah umada then Rav Schwab was outspoken and unequivocal but in a case such as the Aguda in Eretz Yisroel Rav Schwab kept his opposition mostly to himself.