Avraham Yitzchak Bloch
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Rabbi Bloch was born in 1891 and was the second son of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, the Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz. He represented the third generation of family leadership in Telz, as his grandfather Rabbi Eliezer Gordon was also Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Telz.
Rabbi Bloch was educated by both his father and grandfather and on account of his brilliance and intellectual ability, was appointed to the faculty of the Telz Yeshiva when he was only thirty five years old.
Telzer Rav and Rosh Yeshiva
Upon the death of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch in 1929, it was widely assumed that Rabbi Yosef Leib's oldest son, Rabbi Zalman Bloch would succeed his father as Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, as was the custom in many communities. At the funeral Rabbi Zalman Bloch announced that the position should be filled by his younger brother. At the young age of 38, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch succeeded his father in the dual role of Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, which was one of the largest and most prestigious yeshivas in Europe.
Serving in these capacities, Rabbi Bloch understood the diverse points of view of community members, while, simultaneously, upholding the Torah perspective. Sensitive to the material as well as the spiritual needs of his students, he traveled to the United States in 1928 on a successful fundraising campaign. Rabbi Bloch continued to develop the educational methodology pioneered by his father. This method is known as the Telzer Derekh, a unique analytical approach to Torah study.
World War II
In 1940, the town of Telz was invaded by Soviet forces. Shortly thereafter, the yeshiva was forced to surrender its main building for use as a Red Army barracks. The students remained in Telz, where they rented accommodation from local townsfolk. This also changed, when the Soviets forbade the renting out of rooms to yeshiva students. Rabbi Bloch responded by dispersing the yeshiva to five surrounding towns and arranging for members of the faculty to travel from town to town to deliver classes to his students.
On Tuesday July 15, 1941 (20th Tammuz), Nazi Einsatzgruppen stormtroopers and local Lithuanian sympathizers massacred the male population of Telz, including Rabbi Bloch himself and the faculty of the yeshiva. Three of Rabbi Bloch's daughters survived the Holocaust. One married Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin who joined the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio and later served as the Rosh Yeshiva. Another married Rabbi Aizik Ausband, a student of Telz in Lithuania who also became a Rosh Yeshiva at the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio. The third daughter married Yosef Yehudah Leib Kleiner; they escaped Europe together during World War II and fled to Palestine's Yishuv.
Rabbi Bloch was both a prolific writer and speaker yet poignantly many of his writings were lost during the Holocaust. Some writings were miraculously saved; and some notes of Rabbi Bloch's lectures had been rescued by students who escaped the Holocaust. Subsequently, Rabbi Bloch's family published:
- Shiurei HaGrai Bloch on the Talmudic Tractates of Chullin and Yevamos.
- Shiurei Daas - A collection of essays on a variety of topics viewed from the unique Telz method of analysis.
- Faiṭelson, Aleḳs (2006). The truth and nothing but the truth: Jewish resistance in Lithuania. Gefen Publishing House. p. 458. ISBN 978-965-229-364-0.