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The Moment: Issue 1019

The Ponevezher Rav looked up at the behemoth hotel and exclaimed: “This building is perfect for a yeshivah!”

Living Higher

The community of Gateshead, England celebrated a momentous occasion last week when the city’s yeshivah ketanah, Yeshivas Tiferes Yaacov, relocated from the premises it had been operating out of for the majority of its 47-year history, to a new, large and airy campus, one befitting a makom Torah. Rav Shimon Galai and the Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, Rav Dovid Cohen, flew in from Eretz Yisrael, joining the Gateshead Roshei Yeshivah, rabbanim, and the local community to mark the occasion.

And while every chanukas habayis is a cause for celebration, the specific building that the yeshivah is moving into holds special significance: Nearly 50 years ago, a hotel chain announced plans to erect a large, new resort hotel in Gateshead, which naturally caused consternation amongst the Gateshead rabbanim and community members, who were concerned that the resort would attract a crowd and culture anathema to the atmosphere of the Torah city.

The Ponevezher Rav, Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman ztz”l, though, had a different view: Upon visiting Gateshead, the legendary Rav looked up at the behemoth hotel and exclaimed: “this building is perfect for a yeshivah!” Like many of his statements, which initially seemed far from reach, his words proved prophetic. Eventually, a second, more popular Hilton hotel opened up a short distance away, sending the first hotel into disuse, and eventually, bankruptcy. After a few short years of business, the building was abandoned and boarded up, remaining in that sorry state for a number of years.

When the administration of Yeshivas Tiferes Yaacov decided to look for a new building for its thriving yeshivah, someone suggested that the massive eyesore a few blocks away just may be the perfect location. The yeshivah enlisted the help of prominent philanthropists, including the Reichmann family from Toronto and England’s Pels family, and acquired the building for a fraction of its original value, allowing the yeshivah to enter a new era — and fulfilled the vision of a gadol from long ago.

A Dream Come True

Roni Snitkovski, an unaffiliated Jew from Swampscott, Massachusetts, who was raised by loving parents from the former Soviet Union, started his summer break by visiting Lakewood, New Jersey, as part of the Lakewood Fellowship, an internship program for Jewish college students run by Olami’s Lakewood affiliate, Torah Links.

One morning, Rabbi Yosef Ribner spoke to the students about the mitzvah of tefillin, and mentioned the story of Rav Aharon Kotler ztz”l, who, during his escape from Russia over 80 years ago, sought shelter for an evening in the home of a Jew completely ignorant about Torah and mitzvos.

Rav Aharon encouraged his host to don tefillin, to which the man obliged. Years later, when Rav Aharon was already settled in America, his host appeared to him in a dream and explained that when he passed away and stood before the Heavenly tribunal, he was initially denied admittance to Gan Eden due to his lack of connection to Torah. Then, he said, a voice called out that he had once laid tefillin — and that was enough to allow him entrance.

After the shiur, Roni asked if it would be possible to acquire his own pair of tefillin, a request that was duly fulfilled, gratis. Later that evening, an emotional Roni publicly thanked “the first Rabbi Kotler,” whose story he said, has “changed my life,” making the Russia-to-Lakewood journey come full circle.


Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Denver, Colorado, held its annual year-end siyum, celebrating the culmination of a years-long effort on the part of the bochurim, most of whom plowed through a masechta on their own time, blatt by blatt. The siyum itself was a gala affair, complete with guest speakers and grateful parents in the crowd. But in what has become a tradition in the Denver yeshivah, the siyum dais featured a distinctively younger crowd than typically found at such events. The three-tiered dais featured the mesayemim themselves, the yeshivah in the Mile High City elevating the evening’s true heroes.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1019)

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