Pressburg Yeshiva (Austria-Hungary)

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Painting of the Chasam Sofer.

The Pressburg Yeshiva, was the largest and most influential Yeshiva in Central Europe in the 19th century. It was founded in the city of Pressburg, Austrian Empire (today Bratislava, Slovakia) by Rabbi Moshe Sofer (known as the Chasam Sofer) and was considered the largest Yeshiva since the time of the Babylonian Talmud.[1]


Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Chassam Sofer)[edit]

Some sources document its establishment in 1803 whilst others cite 1806. The Yeshiva was known as The Chassam Sofer Yeshiva, or simply as Pressburg Yeshiva.[2] [3] The Pressburg Yeshiva was run as an autonomous institution, without the intervention of the community.[4]

Unlike Yeshivas in Czarist Russia which were forced to operate clandestinely, the Pressburg Yeshiva was recognized by the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose emperor Franz Joseph I sympathized and respected the Jews and their leader Rabbi Sofer. The Yeshiva was licensed by the Minister of Education of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under the law, the school required the four upper grades to study secular studies. These secular studies were not taught in the yeshiva, but students attended and took exams at another Jewish school in Pressburg run by the orthodox Jewish community.[5] All of the yeshiva's students were exempted from military service; most of the military rabbis who served in the Austro-Hungarian Army were graduates of the Pressburg Yeshiva, and held officers’ ranks.[4]

The Yeshiva was founded at the height of the Age of Enlightenment and surge of the Jewish Haskalah movement. As such, the Chassam Sofer stood at the forefront against any reform to traditional Judaism and trained his many students to maintain strict observance of Torah and Shulchan Aruch.

This yeshiva produced hundreds of future leaders of Austro-Hungarian Jewry who made great influence on the general traditional orthodox and future Charedi Judaism. Notable students of the Chassam Sofer were:

  • Rabbi Yehuda Aszod (Yehudah Ya'aleh), (1794–1866)
  • Rabbi Aharon Duvid Deutsch (Goren Duvid), (1813–1878)
  • Rabbi Dovid Zvi Ehrenfeld (died 1861), (son-in-law)
  • Rabbi Aharon Fried (Tzel Hakesef), (1813–1891)
  • Rabbi Chaim Joseph Gottlieb of Stropkov.
  • Rabbi Menachem Katz, (1795–1891)
  • Rabbi Yisroel Yitzchok Aharon Landesberg, (1804–1879)
  • Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein (Kolomea) (Maskil El Dol), (1815–1891)
  • Rabbi Chaim Zvi Mannheimer (Ein Habdoilach), (1814–1886)
  • Rabbi Yehuda Modrin (Trumas Hacri), (1820–1893)
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Panet (Maglei Tzedek), (1818–1884)
  • Rabbi Meir Perles, (1811–1893)
  • Rabbi Avrohom Schag (Ohel Avrohom), (1801–1876)
  • Rabbi Dovid Schick (Imrei Duvid) (died: 1890) brother of Moshe Schick[6]
  • Rabbi Moshe Schick (Maharam Schick), (1807–1879)
  • Rabbi Avraham Yehuda Hacohen Schwartz (Kol Aryeh), (1824–1883)
  • Rabbi Shimon Sidon (Shevet Shimon) (1815–1891), Rabbi of Cifer and Trnava
  • Rabbi Aharon Singer, (c. 1806 – 1868)
  • Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Binyamin Sofer (Ktav Sofer), (1815–1872) (son)
  • Rabbi Chaim Sofer (Machne Chaim), (1822–1886)[7]
  • Rabbi Naftali Sofer (Matei Naftali), (1819–1899)
  • Rabbi Shimon Sofer, (1821–1883) (son)
  • Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Spitzer (Tikun Shloime), (1811–1893), (son-in-law), Rabbi of Schiff Shul in Vienna
  • Rabbi Yoel Unger (Teshuvas Rivo), (1800–1886)

Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer (Ksav Sofer)[edit]

Picture of the Ksav Sofer.

Upon Moses Sofer's death on October 3, 1839, his son, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin (known as the Ksav Sofer) succeeded him as Rosh Yeshiva. Like his father, Rabbi Samuel Binyamin was a man of great Talmudic knowledge and of great character. Even the Emperor Franz Joseph, was impressed by him and recognized the Yeshiva as an official theological college. This status exempted students from military service.[2]

Amongst his students were:

  • Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein (1826–1873) Author of Shenos Chaim Chaim.
  • Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld (1835–1883), (Chasan Sofer) (grandson)
  • Rabbi Jacob Koppel Reich (1838–1929)[8][9]
  • Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld [1848–1932]
  • Rabbi Dr. Hillel Klein (1849–1926) (Honorary president of the Agudas Harabanim, president of Agudath Israel of America, treasurer of Ezras Torah, Nassi of Kolel Shomrei Hachomos in Jerusalem and vice-president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America)[10]

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Sofer (Shevet Sofer)[edit]

Upon Rabbi Shmuel Binyamin's death on December 31, 1871, his son, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Sofer (known as the Shevet Sofer) assumed both the positions of Rav of Pressburg and rosh yeshiva of the Pressburg Yeshiva which number some 400 students at the time.[11]

The Tiferess Shabboss Society was established in 1883 by students of the Pressburg Yeshiva. The society aimed at awakening learning competition between the Yeshiva students. Every Shabbat, one of the young men was chosen to give a "shiur" on the subject being learnt in the yeshiva.

In 1903 a booklet was published by the Tiferess Shabboss Society, bearing its own name. This book names some 240 students who were learning at the Pressburg Yeshiva at that time. Amongst the young men mentioned are dozens of Hungarian rabbis, including a few Gedolei Torah :


Other known students were:

  • Rabbi Shlomo Breuer (1850–1936)[13]
  • Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal (1885–1944)[14][15]
  • Rabbi Benjamin Szold (1829–1902)
  • Rabbi Baruch Kunstat (1885–1967)

Rabbi Akiva Sofer (Daas Sofer)[edit]

In 1907, after the passing of Rabbi Simcha Bunim, his son Rabbi Akiva Sofer (known as the Daas Sofer) assumed leadership over the Pressburg Yeshiva and congregation. The First World War and the resultant breakup of the Habsburg Empire brought tumultuous times to the Yeshiva. Pressburg became Bratislava and passed to the dominion of the new country Czechoslovakia. Countries such as Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland hampered efforts of students trying to reach the Yeshiva with difficulties attaining passports and visas. Nonetheless, the Yeshiva flourished and continued to operate. After the Czech crises of 1938 and Hitler’s invasion of the country, Rabbi Akiva fled Hungary. Upon the advice of his uncle, Rabbi Shimon Sofer of Erlau, he escaped to Switzerland and from there to Jerusalem, where he re-established the yeshiva in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood.[16][17]

Amongst his students were:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aaron M. Schreiber. "The H.atam Sofer's Nuanced Attitude Towards Secular Learning, Maskilim, and Reformers". The Torah u-Madda Journal. 
  2. ^ a b The Jewish World in the Modern Age, p. 77, at Google Books
  3. ^ "Crash Course in Jewish History: Pale of Settlement,". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b The Story of the Jewish Community in Bratislava - The Pressburg Yeshiva, Yad Vashem. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Jewish History blog - Part 2". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "אמרי דוד - חולין - שיק, דוד (page 5 of 193)". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Singer, Isidore; Venetianer, Ludwig. SOFER, HAYYIM BEN MORDECAI EPHRAIM FISCHL. Jewish Encyclopedia. 
  8. ^ Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History, p. 437, at Google Books
  9. ^ he:יעקב קופל רייך
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Today’s Yahrtzeits and History - 15 Kislev » - The Online Voice of Torah Jewry". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "RavFrand List - Rabbi Frand on Parshas Vayera -". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Moshe Tapnack moshe -at- "ישיבת שעלבים - המעין". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "archive/shoah/07a-shoah". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Triumph of Survival: The Story of the Jews in the Modern Era, 1650–1990, p. 150, at Google Books
  17. ^ "Presburg (Bratislava), Czechoslovakia, 1929, Yeshiva students. - Hungary, Photographs of Yeshivot and Rabbis.". Retrieved 6 April 2015. 

External links[edit]