Keser Torah Radomsk
Keser Torah Radomsk (Hebrew: כתר תורה רדומסק), also spelled Keter Torah Radomsk, is the name of yeshivas and kollels in Israel and the United States affiliated with the Radomsk Hasidic dynasty. The name was originally coined for a network of 36 yeshivas in pre-war Poland founded by the fourth Radomsker Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen Rabinowicz.
Establishment in Poland
World War I uprooted hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews and decimated established communities. Thousands of shtiebelach (small houses of prayer and study) in which Hasidic youth traditionally learned the customs and lore of their dynasties were destroyed. On Lag B'Omer 1926, Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen Rabinowicz, the fourth Radomsker Rebbe and a prominent Polish Hasidic leader, announced his plan to innovate a new trend in Hasidic education before a gathering of Radomsker Hasidim. He declared:
"The time has come to found yeshivas where the younger generation will be able to learn and toil in Torah. We must plant the light of Torah in every city in Poland. Until now, everybody learned where he desired and what he desired. Times have changed and today the necessity is to set up organized yeshivas and appoint roshei yeshivas who will educate our youth. The yeshivas will be called Keser Torah".
Soon after the Rebbe's announcement, eight yeshivas were opened – in Będzin, Podgórz, Kshanov, Valbaram, Ushpazin, Czanstechav, Łódź and Kraków. In the city of Sosnowiec, the Rebbe also founded Kibbutz Govoha, a high-level study group exclusively for advanced students and avreichim (married students). He appointed his new son-in-law, Rabbi David Moshe Hakohen Rabinowicz (1906–1942), a brilliant Torah scholar, to head it. Rabbi David Moshe, a first cousin of the Rebbe, married the Rebbe's only daughter in 1929. He also served as rosh yeshiva of the entire Keser Torah network, monitoring students' progress, delivering shiurim, and administering the end of the semester tests.
By 1930, nine yeshivas and the kibbutz were functioning. Over the following decade, more yeshivas were added. On the eve of World War II, there were 36 Keser Torah yeshivas enrolling over 4,000 students in Poland and Galicia.
Though Hasidic in nature, the yeshivas did not promote Radomsker Hasidism, nor were students and staff exclusively Radomsker Hasidim. (In Sosnowiec, for example, the rosh yeshiva was a Ger Hasid.) Each yeshiva had its own rosh yeshiva and initially studied its own masechta (section of the Talmud); later, all the yeshivas studied the same masechta at the same time. To encourage a high level of learning, the yeshiva network also produced its own Torah journal containing the best chidushim (original Torah thoughts) by students, together with shiurim by the rosh yeshivas. The Radomsker Rebbe paid for the entire operation, including staff salaries, food, and student lodging, out of his own pocket.
With the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the yeshivas disbanded. The Radomsker Rebbe and Rabbi Dovid Moshe Rabinowicz were both incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the latter continued to give regular shiurim. The Rebbe and all the members of his family, including his only daughter, son-in-law, and their infant son, were shot to death during the Aktion of 1 August 1942.
Rebirth in Israel
After World War II, Radomsker Hasidim and Keser Torah yeshiva students who had survived the Holocaust founded Kollel Keser Torah in Bnei Brak, Israel. In 1965 they asked Rabbi Menachem Shlomo Bornsztain, son of the Sochatchover Rebbe and a nephew of Rabbi David Moshe Rabinowicz, to head the kollel. Bornsztain, who became known as the Sochatchover-Radomsker Rebbe, died in an automobile accident in 1969. After Bornsztain's death, his eldest son, Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain, assumed the leadership of Kollel Keser Torah.
Today Keser Torah Radomsk institutions exist in these locations:
- Bnei Brak, Israel: Kollel Keser Torah has been operating here since the 1940s.
- Jerusalem, Israel: Yeshiva Gedola Keser Torah Radomsk opened in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood in 1996 with 75 students. Like its namesake in pre-war Poland, the yeshiva includes a kibbutz govoha (high-level study group) for advanced students and avreichim (married students).
- Lakewood, New Jersey: Kollel Keser Torah Radomsk, an evening kollel, opened in the Whispering Pines neighborhood of Lakewood in 2000 with approximately 30 students.
- Montreal, Canada: Kollel Keser Torah Radomsk was established here in 1986. Its founding president was Rabbi Pinhas Hirschprung, Chief Rabbi of Montreal. Deans of the kollel are Rabbi Osher Mintz and Rabbi Dovid Elias.
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