Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

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Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff
Rabbi Rakeffet Photo.jpg
Compliments of the OU Production Dept
Position Lecturer, Jewish History and Halacha
Yeshiva Gruss Kollel
Personal details
Birth name Arnold Rothkoff
Born 1937
New York City
Nationality  Israel  United States of America
Denomination Orthodox Judaism
Residence Jerusalem, Israel
Spouse Malkah Grund
Children 3 daughters
Alma mater Yeshiva University
Semicha YU, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lessin

Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff (born Dec 2, 1937[1]) is Professor of Rabbinic Literature at Yeshiva University's Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem. He is a noted scholar, author and teacher who has taught thousands of students throughout his over 50+ years of teaching. He spent four years studying under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and remained very close to him afterwards.[2] He quotes his rebbi's halachic and hashkafic views in his lectures.[citation needed]

Born Arnold Rothkoff, he changed his name to Aaron Rakeffet upon becoming an Israeli citizen.[citation needed]


Rabbi Rakeffet attended Bnei Akiva as a youth. Meir Kahane was one of his madrichim (counselors). Rabbi Rakeffet met his future wife Malkah while giving a shiur at Bnei Akiva.[3]

Rabbi Rakeffet started his career in 1961 as a pulpit rabbi at Lower Merion Synagogue in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.[4] In 1962, he moved from Lower Merion to become spiritual leader of the first Orthodox synagogue in suburban Essex County, Congregation Beth Ephraim of Maplewood and South Orange, New Jersey. During that time, he also served as a high school rebbe at Yeshiva University High School for Boys. In 1969, he moved to Israel and worked as a Staff Editor for the Encyclopaedia Judaica.[5] He also wrote numerous entries, including the one for Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik[6] and Rabbi Eliezer Silver.[7]

Upon the conclusion of the Encyclopaedia Judaica project, Rabbi Rakeffet pursued his love of teaching. He was a pioneer in Torah education for diaspora students in Israel. He was a member of the initial 1969 faculty of Jerusalem Torah College (BMT) and taught there for twenty years. He also taught at Machon Gold and Michlalah. He was also a founding faculty member at Midreshet Moriah, an advanced Torah study program for women.[8]

Rabbi Rakeffet has been a member of the Gruss Kollel faculty since its inception in 1976.[9] He also recruited Dr. Nechama Leibowitz to teach there as well.

Rabbi Rakeffet served in the Israel Defense Forces until the maximum allowable age. He served in Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War.[10]

In 1980, he was recruited by Aryeh Kroll to join the Mossad's clandestine Nativ operation to teach Torah in the Soviet Union.[11] Rabbi Rakeffet visited the Soviet Union in 1981, 1985, and 1989 together with his wife Malkah, and recruited 200 others to also visit. His initial visit motivated him to help found the Shvut Ami organization.

Rabbi Rakeffet felt strongly that a documentary should be made about Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. After much effort, he found Ethan Isenberg to produce the film, and a donor to subsidize it. The documentary "The Lonely Man of Faith: The Life and Legacy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik" was first shown in November 2006.[12][13]

Rabbi Rakeffet finished his 10 year effort of writing his personal scholarly memoir, "From Washington Avenue to Washington Street", in the summer of 2009. The new book was published in 2011 by the OU Press in conjunction with Gefen Publishing House.[9] [14] [15] One critic hailed the memoirs: "Although serious to the core, his wonderful sense of humor shines in this inspiring life story of a true intellectual who continues to devote his talents to the Jewish people and the State of Israel."[16]

Rabbi Rakeffet has 14 grandchildren (13 boys & 1 girl), and 4 great-grandchildren (3 boys & 1 girl).

Noteworthy Quotations[edit]

  • You can not be a good Zionist unless you know Vayoel Moshe by heart. Once you know Vayoel Moshe by heart, with Al HaGeula Ve’Al Hatemura…then you can be a Zionist. Until then you’re a faker. .[17][18][19]
  • My life is an open book. There is nothing I’ve done in my life which I hide from you, the good or the bad. Students have to know everything about a rebbe. If the rebbe hides something, then you have to throw that rebbe out. It’s a sign he can’t be a rebbe.[20]
  • If we take the point of view that we have to educate students but not clone them, then...we just have to say לא דרכי דרכיכם ולא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם..and.[21] As a rebbe for so many years, I pride myself that I never tried to clone my students...I have so many students that became Chasidim, Chabadnikim, someone found their roots going back to Belz, I even have a Gerrer or two among the thousands of students I taught over the years, and so many different lifestyles. Ribbono shel `Olam, as long as they are filled with Torah and Yirat Shamayim, why should I object? … Do I have to feel that if they don’t think exactly the way I do I failed? Chas V’Chalila..[22]



  • Spiritual leader of Lower Merion Synagogue in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (1961–1962)
  • Seven years as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Ephraim and Maplewood Jewish Center in New Jersey (1962–1969)
  • High School Rebbe at Yeshiva University High School for Boys (1962–1969)
  • Staff Editor for Encyclopaedia Judaica. (1969–1971)
  • Jerusalem Torah College (BMT) (1969–1989)
  • Machon Gold (1971–1989)
  • Michlalah (The Jerusalem College for Women) (1971–1986)
  • Midreshet Moriah (1987–2002)
  • Gruss Kollel (1976 - )


  • Bernard Revel: Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy (1971)
  • The Silver Era: Rabbi Eliezer Silver and His Generation (1982)
  • Rakafot Aharon (1997) - 2 volumes, collected published writing, Published by Shvut Ami
  • The Rav - The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1999) - 2 volumes, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. ISBN 0-88125-614-5 (vol 1) and ISBN 0-88125-615-3 (vol 2)
  • From Washington Avenue to Washington Street (2011), Gefen Publishing House and OU Press. ISBN 978-965-229-565-1




  1. ^ Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Aaron (2011). From Washington Avenue to Washington Street. Gefen Publishing House. p. 3. ISBN 978-965-229-565-1. 
  2. ^ "From Lakewood To Yeshiva University: An Interview With Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff". Jewish Press. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  3. ^ "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 2009-11-16_JH_07, Minute 90". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  4. ^ "History of the Lower Merion Synagogue, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania: The Early Years 1954 - 1981, by Rabbi Abraham A. Levene". Lower Merion Synagogue. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 1, p.24
  6. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 15, pp.133-134. [A.Ro] at the end of the article represents Aaron Rothkoff, as listed in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 1, p.41.
  7. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 14, pp.1544-1545.
  8. ^ The Rav The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Volume 1, p. 297 by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff. KTAV Publishing House. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  9. ^ a b Per interview with Rabbi Rakeffet by Noah Cheses, December 2009.
  10. ^ Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Aaron (2011). From Washington Avenue to Washington Street. Gefen Publishing House. p. 301. ISBN 978-965-229-565-1. 
  11. ^ "YUTorah: Teaching Torah in Russia by Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff". Yeshiva University. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  12. ^ "The Making of "The Lonely Man of Faith" by Binyamin Ehrenkranz in the Commentator". Yeshiva University. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  13. ^ "The Art of the Rav: A Documentary by Chana Wiznitzer in the Commentator". Yeshiva University. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  14. ^ "Responsa 23, The Printers Rule the Rabbis, Minutes 0 - 2". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  15. ^ "OU Press web site". Retrieved 2011-06-17. 
  16. ^ "Living History". Jerusalem Post. 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  17. ^ "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 2009-11-15_Responsa_08, Minute 33". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  18. ^ For further elaboration and Menachem Mendel Kasher's response in HaTekufah HaGedolah to the Satmar Rav and anti-Zionism, listen to: "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 2011-03-14_JH24 - The Satmar Rav". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-04-06.  and to "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 2011-03-28_JH_25_-_Maimonides_vs._Satmar_and_a_Purim_special_from_the_Slobadka_Yeshiva_". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  19. ^ For Rabbi Rakeffet's discussion of Al HaGeula Ve’Al Hatemura, listen to: "2011-12-5 JH 11 Satmar Chassidim vs. the Kotel PART 1, Minute 26 and onwards". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-12-26.  and to "http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/766516/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/2011-12-5_JH_11_Satmar_Chassidim_vs_the_Kotel_PART_2". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  20. ^ "1996-04-23 Tanya Soloveitchik Memorial 1968 part 1, Minute 41". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  21. ^ "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 1994-04-17_Bait Ephraim, Minute 6:59". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  22. ^ "Lecture by Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff 1994-04-17_Bait Ephraim, Minute 8:56". YUTorah.org. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 

External links[edit]