From 1958 until his passing in 1991, Rav Ezriel Yehuda Leibowitz led the American Vienner kehillah
He was known as the Hodhazer Rav, for the town in the Hungarian Oberland where he served as dayan and rosh yeshivah. After Rav Ezriel Yehudah Leibowitz arrived in the US, he was called to lead the Vienner kehillah in Williamsburg where he founded the kehillah’s flagship yeshivah, Nachlas Yaakov, serving as guide and mentor to that first generation of American-born children, transmitting the majesty and truth of the Chasam Sofer’s path.
The ability to see and appreciate potential in each talmid was evident even as a young man, when Rav Leibowitz led the yeshivah in Hodhaz before the war. Following the mesorah of the Chasam Sofer, he discouraged chassidic customs and pursuits that took talmidim away from the beis medrash, but there was one talmid for whom he made an exception. Seeing that the bochur was in a different realm of purity, the Hodhazer Rav gave this talmid his own key to the mikveh, so that he could immerse on his own schedule. The talmid, who would eventually become the Tosher Rebbe ztz”l, would remember the wisdom of his Rosh Yeshivah.
For 33 years, from 1958 until his passing in 1991, Rav Ezriel Yehuda Leibowitz led the American Vienner kehillah, forming a bond of love with hundreds of families. He and his rebbetzin would never be blessed with children of their own — but this year coming upon the first day of Rosh Hashanah, his 30th yahrtzeit, children and grandchildren of that special kehillah remember a man they looked to as a father.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 876)
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