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8 Shvat, 5784 - January 18, 2024 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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"You went after me in a desert, an unsown wasteland" (Isaiah)

The story of HaRav Moshe Yehuda Schneider, zt'l, rosh yeshivas Toras Emes in Memel, Frankfurt, and London

by M. Samsonowitz


Part VI

For Part V of this series click here.

For Part VII of this series click here.

Rav Schneider was truly among the main disseminators of Torah in our times. An unusual and dynamic individual who transplanted Torah and made it flourish in spiritual wastelands where no one believed it was possible, he did the painstaking groundwork that enabled the barren atmosphere in England and France to give way to the dozens of yeshivos, religious institutions and frum communities that are in existence today.

HaRav Schneider was a man whose entire focus was in the yeshivos which he established, and in his love for Torah, for which he lived. In keeping with his modest personality, his accomplishments for Torah were perhaps not fully appreciated in his lifetime. But the love for Torah and mussar which he instilled in his students produced mighty fruits which changed the face of postwar Jewry in Europe and Eretz Yisroel.

In the first parts, we learned of HaRav Schneider's growth and early education, and how he wound up in the German city of Memel. He achieved the seemingly impossible by founding a high standard yeshiva in Memel, until the first World War threw life into a turmoil. We saw how he started again in Frankfurt, and maintained his yeshiva there for 20 years, through the rise of Nazism, until he was forced to leave. In England, he started again, providing a haven for bnei Torah refugees, caring for their physical needs and nurturing their spiritual growth under the most difficult wartime conditions.

A Wartime Yeshiva

Thus did the yeshiva flourish. The hundred bochurim maintained strong hasmada, and completely threw themselves into their learning. Nothing else existed but the goal of harbotzas Torah.

As time went on, some of the bochurim left his yeshiva to join the new kollel which had been established in Gateshead by HaRav Eliyahu Dessler. It was comprised of older scholars, many of them married and most of them refugees. Many of these students eventually joined the staff of the fledgling Gateshead Yeshiva, becoming the catalysts which eventually transformed it into one of the major postwar European yeshivos.

When London was bombed in nightly attacks, the government distributed special metal tables to families remaining in London. Citizens were advised to sleep under the metal table so that if their homes were hit, they would have some chance of survival when the building crumpled around them. But Rav Schneider refused to do so. "The yeshiva needs me, and I need to sleep on my bed to have strength for tomorrow!"

He urged his students to have trust in Hashem saying that the merit of Torah study would save them from being hit by the bombs. He even urged the boys to continue their Torah study at the moment that bombs were being dropped by German fighters, although — admittedly — only the bravest were able to resist descending to bomb shelters at such times. The houses to the right and the left of the yeshiva were hit by bombs, but the yeshiva remained miraculously intact.

When London was heavily bombarded in 1944, only a few talmidim had the courage and blazing bitochon to remain in such a harrowing situation. Most of the students relocated to Manchester, and HaRav Schneider was reluctantly forced to follow them. The move brought a certain blessing in that a number of local Manchester boys joined his yeshiva.

By now, Rav Schneider's name had spread throughout England as the rosh yeshiva who had succeeded in bringing a true European-style yeshiva to England, and as a fiery baal bitochon. In Manchester, very few rabbonim were permitted to lead the tefillah in Rav Shneebalg's yeshiva. When Rav Schneider entered, however, he was reverently honored with leading the prayers.


Schneider's Yeshiva in the War

HaRav Moshe Shternbuch shlita once told about an incident during the war.

At a certain point, the authorities began to fear a German invasion of England. They made extensive preparations to face this challenge and they specifically asked that everyone take part in the preparations.

They came to the yeshiva and asked if some of the bochurim would work in a munitions factory in order to aid the war effort.

HaRav Schneider gave an extremely fiery speech (eish lehovoh) against this and he maintained emphatically that it is forbidden to cut of yeshiva bochurim from Torah.

The authorities heard about this and they considered his efforts to be in violation of war laws, and they declared that he must leave London. The Rabbi of London suggested that if a few bochurim go to work it would be possible to exempt the majority from participating.

HaRav Schneider refused this plan, saying that the posuk says, "Lenefesh lo yitamo be'amov." He interpreted this to mean that not even one soul should go.

The authorities came to interview the bochurim, to see what their attitude was. The day before they were scheduled to deliver their assessment of the situation, HaRav Schneider declared a day of fasting and prayer.

The final conclusion was that the bochurim are all mentally ill and they proposed recognizing the yeshiva as an official government hospital meaning regular budgetary support. They canceled their decree against the Rosh Yeshiva. HaRav Schneider refused to accept any money from them.

Relief Efforts After The War

After the War, the yeshiva returned to London. In the following months, many of the unfortunate survivors of the Nazi horrors relocated to London and the Jewish community was called upon to offer them succor and help.

HaRav Schneider helped prominently in these relief efforts. He set up a school and dormitory for children survivors of the camps, some of whom eventually attended a yeshiva. His son-in-law, Reb Zeidel, was one of the conduits through which large sums of Vaad Hatzala money passed. He faithfully transferred all amounts and would not take for himself one penny for all the efforts he expended on their behalf.

His students remember how the yeshiva would purchase cans of coffee and send them to the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp, so that they could use the profits from selling them there to keep the camp's yeshiva going.

The situation in Europe was deteriorating. After the war, many countries fell to the Communist bloc, and Rav Schneider feared for the fate of the many Jews who still remained.


In 1947, gripped by visionary concern for the future of Hungarian Jewry, Rav Semiatitzky set out for Hungary to bring a contingent of bochurim to study in the yeshiva in London. He returned with 30 bochurim who attended the yeshiva and afterwards remained in England to set up Torah-true homes.

Reb Zeidel realized that he would be spending Chanukah in Budapest. Although he didn't have a menorah with him, silver menoras were being sold on the street by Hungarian beggars. The annihilated Hungarian Jewish community had left behind much silver which had gleefully been appropriated by the Hungarian peasant population. When the impoverishment of Communism began to set in, many of these peasants were willing to sell the plundered silver for a fraction of its real cost.

Reb Zeidel, though, refused to take advantage of the available bargains. "I'm going for the sake of the yeshiva," he declared. "I cannot take personal benefit from tzedaka money." Instead, he bought a nickel menorah which cost pennies.

He was particular also to only use the public transport instead of a taxi.

A Rosh Yeshiva in Jerusalem: I was a child learning in cheder in Budapest in 1947. One day there was a gala siyum haShas in town, and all the notables and mechanchim of the Jewish community were invited to the celebration. There was a Litvishe Torah scholar called Rav Zeidel Semiatitzky who was visiting our community, and he was invited to say the hadran.

The next day our rebbe came to class, and he gave a sigh. "Kinderlach" he told us. "If you really want to learn, you have to go to the Litvishe yeshivos!"

His words made an impact on me, and when I went to Israel to learn Torah, I opted for a Litvishe yeshiva. I remained many years in ohelah shel Torah, and eventually became a maggid shiur myself.

The Founding Of The State of Israel

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, Rav Schneider was one of the few who realized the dangers it presented to Jewry. President Truman gave his assent to the State's founding on a Shabbos in 1948. That motzei Shabbos Rav Schneider stood up to address his bochurim.

"During World War I, when two opposing countries were about to wage war, the soldiers would hide in trenches until the command was given to attack the other side. The generals knew that the danger was so tangible, they had to find a way to inspire the soldiers to clamber out and fight. So before a battle they would give out whiskey to the soldiers to embolden them to attack."

Rav Schneider looked directly at the bochurim with a flame in his eyes. "This medina is a bronfan which is making us shikur! And when one is shikur, then one is under fire!"

Rav Schneider was close with the group of fiery, G-d-fearing talmidei chachomim who formed the core of the original Neturei Karta. This group included Rav Avraham Mosez and Rav Katzenellenbogen, men whose devotion to their Creator was so impervious that they had withstood the Soviet shmad juggernaut intact. They were men who made it their business to oppose Zionism and fight it with the inadequate means at their disposal so that it not become an imitation of the crushing Soviet model. Rav Schneider kept up a correspondence with them until the end of his life.

A kosher store in London

Fundraising: Spiritual and Otherwise

The yeshiva was always pressed for money. While Rav Schneider was active in looking for supporters, he felt that the true cause of poverty had to be sought in spiritual sources. Once, a student entered his room and saw him carefully reading the Mishna Berurah. Rav Schneider suddenly exclaimed, "Woe! The reason the yeshiva has been lacking sustenance is because we haven't been saying Mizmor Ledovid before the meals!" He turned to the student and showed him the source in the Mishna Berurah.

That very day, Rav Schneider entered the dining hall and told the students to recite Mizmor Ledovid. The minute they finished, in walked one of the yeshiva's supporters with a significant contribution.

Another time, Rav Schneider considered that the reason for the yeshiva's lack of sustenance was that the mitzva of tzitzis wasn't being fulfilled properly. He began to check his tzitzis, and the boys in the yeshiva did so too. One of the bochurim found that his tzitzis were invalid. Rav Schneider took the youth to his home, and showed him how to make new tzitzis. The minute they finished, the postman came and brought a letter with a donation for the yeshiva.


Rav Shakovitzky: Once I went with the Rebbe to collect money for his yeshiva in the diamond district in London. We went to see an irreligious Jew, who, I feared, would quickly show us the door. I told the Rebbe my worries, but he wasn't put out. When he walked in, he didn't begin talking about the yeshiva. Instead, he launched into stern words of rebuke to the Jew. "I knew your father, who was a distinguished, worthy Jew. And you—look at how you conduct your life!" Only at the end did the Rebbe mention that he had come for his yeshiva, and the Jew gave him a generous sum and honored him very much.


When something was needed in the yeshiva, Rav Schneider would not consider his personal honor at all. Many times he walked to the dormitory, climbed several flights to the boys' residence and personally woke each bochur for shacharis.

Rav Schneider's approach, whenever he felt that the yeshiva had failed in some aspect, was to call the bochurim together and ask them what had caused the failure. He would invariably seek out mitzvos which are commonly considered trivial, and would review them with the bochurim, such as how to bow down in Shemoneh Esrei, how to take three steps back at Oseh Shalom, and other such "details."

Even when he was extremely weak, such as a few months before his death, he strengthened himself and stood up in front of the bochurim to demonstrate how these acts are done.

When there was need to establish a new takanah, he would introduce it and then follow up with mussar shmuessim on the same topic, sometimes for many weeks. In this way, he made sure the change was fixed in the bochurim's minds and hearts.

Rav Schneider's mussar shmuessim were often impromptu, spurred by a happening that occurred in the yeshiva. Once, he saw a bochur searching for the dessert dish that contained the most fruit salad. He thereafter entered the yeshiva's beth midrash and banged on the bimah.

When he had the bochurim's attention, his voice lashed out. "Men kookt un men kookt—und men chapped!" The message of derech eretz and control of earthly desires which he wished to bring home to the boys was important enough in his eyes to interrupt a seder.

Studying Chumash with Rashi

Rav Schneider expected the bochurim to finish the parsha, both Chumash and Rashi, every week—even one who had gone through it many times—since "all the foundations of Judaism are brought there." The bochurim usually studied it on Friday, finishing it just before Shabbos.

Waking Bochurim Up in the Morning

Waking up in time in the morning was a serious principle to him. He had no problem waking bochurim up in the morning in Frankfurt, since he had organized an early morning shiur before tefillah at 6 o' clock, which all were required to attend.

When the yeshiva moved to London, the yeshiva adopted a study program that included staying up late to learn—which inevitably brought on the problem of late risers. Rav Schneider was unhappy with this situation, and through the years, he tried various takanos to correct the situation. He also tried once to revert to the Frankfurt arrangement.

However, bochurim protested that their best learning was at night and only part of the yeshiva succeeded at keeping this new program. Rav Schneider appointed "morning watchmen" in all the dormitories who were responsible to wake the others during those periods when Rav Schneider did not do the job himself.

One bochur Moshe Shternbuch, was given this unenviable job for a long period of time. When he found it difficult and was tempted to resign, Rav Schneider reassured him, "If you keep it up, you will become a godol beTorah!"

The importance of rising early for tefillah and investing one's tefillah with kavana formed a prominent part of the rebukes which he showered on his students. As long as even a few of his talmidim were having trouble rising on time, he didn't stop speaking about the great value of tefillah in his shmuessim.

He would explain the great loss in the following terms: "One who comes late to tefillah is either forced to finish his prayers late, or has to hurry to finish on time. Moreover, he's guaranteed that his Torah study that day will be ruined: Since he'll have missed accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven which is a prerequisite to his learning; inevitably his learning will lack siyata deShmaya.

"On the other hand, if the late comer tries to daven properly and thus finishes his prayers late, then he comes late to breakfast. He bothers others, he has to spend additional time finding food for himself, and so he comes late to seder also. His whole day falls under the spell of its lazy beginning."


During the long winter nights, there would be a few bochurim who would rise at night to learn and many bochurim would keep a late mishmar on Thursday night. Rav Schneider would personally serve them tea and cake in the middle of night.

Although he encouraged his talmidim to study early before tefillah, a number of the bochurim preferred studying until late at night.

For many years the yeshiva bochurim divided between themselves two mishmorot on Friday night. Some of them learned from 6-10, and others learned from 1 until 7. The latter would frequently learn in Rav Schneider's house along with him.

Jewish Names

He was particular that the boys call each other by their Jewish name instead of by their family or secular names.

The Dress of a Ben Torah

Rav Schneider spoke at length to his talmidim to convince them to appear in full Jewish apparel. Every talmid who married was encouraged to grow a beard, and wear a long frock. He emphasized this so intensely that even many of his talmidim from German backgrounds adopted this dress.

When Rav Schneider first came to England, he kept his payos neatly behind his ears lest it invite gentile ridicule. Once he traveled on a bus, and several gentile hooligans began to mock him for his obviously Jewish attire and appearance. "If," he drew the conclusion, "they want to make fun of my Jewish appearance, then let it be Jewish all the way!" And from then on he allowed his payos to conspicuously frame his face.

Yeshiva Food

Once, some of the younger bochurim approached the Rebbe and complained about the food. They were particularly bothered by the bread, which was usually 2-3 days old when it was served.

The yeshiva got some fresh bread on Tuesday. Two of the talmidim decided to leave davening early, during Ashrei-uvo letsion, so that they could get there first and be ensured of having fresh bread.

The next day after tefillah, HaRav Schneider summoned them. They found him eating breakfast. He at first said nothing to them, finishing his meal, washing mayim acharonim, and saying Bircas Hamozone. After that he turned to one of the bochurim and said: "M. I heard that you rushed to get fresh bread from the kitchen. You see how I eat old bread, just like everyone else, even though the dry bread is hard for me to chew and I could certainly get fresh bread."

M. later said that the impact of that simple shmuess has been with him his whole life.

Conclusion: Recruiting Moroccan Students


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