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Why Orthodox Jewry is Exploding?

Reader comment on item: More about the Orthodox Future of Judaism

Submitted by David Eidensohn (United States), Apr 21, 2016 at 12:13

I am an older person, 73 years old, and at the age of 17, I went to Lakewood Yeshiva to study under Rabbi Aharon Kotler, the Dean of rabbis in the world. In those days, two people came to the Yeshiva each term and two people left. American Jewry had no use for a pure-European Torah genius who insisted on very serious learning for Americans.

When I came to the Yeshiva I asked where the bathroom was and I was told, "Go up to the second floor, at the end of the hall, there is one toilet that works in the Yeshiva." This desperate situation was a result of a great defiance of Rabbi Kotler's wish to turn American Jewry into European type Torah scholars. A reliable person told me that Rabbi Kotler once had a meeting with a group of senior American Orthodox rabbis. He wanted backing for his Yeshiva and plans to increase Torah learning in America. The rabbis heard him out and then the senior one said, "Rabbi Kotler. We are in charge here. You can go back to Israel and work with your father-in-law (Rabbi Isser Zalman Melzter.) That was the end. If Rabbi Kotler argued, he was dead. If he accepted it, he was dead. But he didn't die. The rabbi who told him to leave dropped dead. I heard this from a very reliable person who used to take Rabbi Kotler around in New York.

Rabbi Kotler lived two years after I came to Yeshiva, and before he died, he saw that he had succeeded. In his last year, a group of brilliant students came to him, and he founded two Yeshivas in America, in Philadelphia and St. Louis, headed by his students. Now those European greats who came to America have won big time, and it is getting to the point where large numbers of non-Orthodox people are joining them. Lakewood Yeshiva is exploding and on a regular basis, somebody bites the bullet and sends in a million dollar check for a new building. Down the block in the Conservative section of town (not Lakewood) someone pleads with some Orthodox Jews, "Please, help us keep up this business." But it just doesn't interest too many people. No, Judaism thrives under the guidance of Great Rabbis. And they thrive because they trust G-d, not because they are clever. That is why people respect them. At this point: Take it or leave it.

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