Yeshivas Ner Yisroel
|Motto||Building Greatness One Talmid At A Time|
|Founder||Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman|
|Chairperson||Rabbi Aharon Feldman|
|President||Rabbi Boruch Neuberger|
|Principal||Rabbi Beryl Weisbord|
|Campus||Rural, 100 acres (40 ha)|
Ner Israel Rabbinical College (ישיבת נר ישראל), also known as NIRC and Ner Yisroel, is a Haredi yeshiva (Jewish educational institution) in Pikesville (Baltimore County), Maryland. It was founded in 1933 by Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, a disciple of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (the Alter of Slabodka), dean of the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania. It is currently headed by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, a disciple of Rabbi Ruderman and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America.
The yeshiva is an all-male Lithuanian (Litvish)-style Talmudic academy and is politically affiliated with Agudath Israel of America. The yeshiva is composed of three departments: The Mechina for high school students (Mesivta Bochurim), the Yeshiva for post high school students (Beis Medrash Bochurim), and the Kollel for married students (Yungerleit—literally translated as "young men"). The graduates of Ner Yisroel are known for their dedication to Torah study and communal leadership.
In 2000, The New York Times described Ner Yisroel as being "unusual in that it has always allowed students access to secular, professional education." Nevertheless, in order to maintain the on-campus religious vibrance and excitement associated with Talmudic study, these take place off-premises, as university-accredited night-courses.
Although "Ner Israel's mission statement makes clear its priority is religious studies," the yeshiva's alumni have been estimated as 50% rabbis and religious-school teachers, and 50% as professionals: bankers, accountants, physicians, attorneys, psychologists, etc. This is consistent with the Yeshiva's outlook that dedication to Torah study and becoming a lifelong "Ben Torah" is the mission of both members of the clergy and of professionals.
History and past leadership
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, the son-in-law of Rabbi Sheftel Kramer, founded the yeshiva in 1933 with six students. It was based in a local shul. The yeshiva was named after Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter, the founder of the mussar movement which was a movement that was followed by Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (the Alter of Slabodka), the mentor of Rabbi Ruderman. Rabbi Ruderman modeled his decision-making process after Rabbi Finkel who was known for his incredible insights into human nature. Additionally, he modeled Ner Yisroel after Rabbi Finkel's yeshiva - the Slabodka Yeshiva.
Rabbi Dovid Kronglass, of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe (and during World War II in Shanghai) and known fondly by his students as "Reb Dovid", was the yeshiva's first mashgiach ruchani until his unexpected death on December 16, 1972. Besides his role as Mashgiach, he also served as a Maggid Shiur and was the Posek of the Yeshiva. Thus, Reb Dovid exemplified greatness in Mussar, Lomdus, and Halacha.
Rabbi Herman Naftali Neuberger, another son-in-law of Rabbi Sheftel Kramer, brother-in-law of Rabbi Ruderman, and an alumnus of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe, and of Ner Israel itself, was president of Ner Israel from 1940 until his death in 2005. Rabbi Neuberger joined the Yeshiva as a student when he arrived from his native Bavaria in 1938.
Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, a son of Rabbi Herman Neuberger, was the menahel (president) of the yeshiva from 2005, when he succeeded his father (who held the same position), until his death on February 10, 2021. Prior to 2005, Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger was a Maggid Shiur in the yeshiva for many years.
Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, a disciple of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, served on the Ner Yisroel faculty for nearly 50 years. He served as a Maggid Shiur from 1945 to 1965, as well as dean of the Kollel from 1953 to 1965. From 1971 until 1987, he served as an assistant to the Rosh Yeshiva and head of the Kollel. From Rabbi Ruderman's death in 1987 until his own death on July 1, 1999, Rabbi Weinberg served as Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Weinberg was married to Chana Ruderman, the only child of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman. She died on January 23, 2012.
Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, a disciple of Rav Shlomo Heiman and senior lecturer in the Yeshiva, served as the Rosh Yeshiva from Rabbi Weinberg's death in 1999 until his death on November 30, 2000. Other notable rabbis who served on the faculty include the late rabbis: Rabbi Shimon Schwab, later rabbi of the German-Jewish Frankfurt Kehillah / community in Washington Heights N.Y., Rabbi Simcha Zissel Broide of the Chevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Ephraim Eisenberg, the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, and Rabbi Zvi Dov Slanger. Rabbi Slanger, a disciple of Rav Shach, was a Maggid Shiur in the high school for many years until 1996 when he founded and became Rosh Yeshiva of the Bais Medrash & Mesivta Of Baltimore. In addition, Rabbi Moshe Eisemann who was Ner Yisroel's second mashgiach ruchani is presently retired, and Rabbi Moshe Heinemann (who is currently Rav of the Agudath Israel synagogue of Baltimore and the Star-K kashrus agency) no longer serves as Maggid Shiur, although he does give two weekly shiurim.
The yeshiva today is headed by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, who serves as the rosh yeshiva and is also a council member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. Rabbi Feldman studied in the Yeshiva in the 1950s, but had been living in Israel from 1961 until his appointment as rosh yeshiva in 2001.
Rabbi Beryl Weisbord, a son-in-law of Rabbi Weinberg, is the yeshiva's mashgiach ruchani and Mr. Jerome Kadden is the Yeshiva's executive director. Rabbi Yosef Tendler, a disciple of Rabbi Aharon Kotler, served as the principal of the high school (the Mechina) for almost fifty years from 1964 until his death on February 8, 2012, and Rabbi Simcha Cook (formerly assistant principal) is the current principal of the high school, with Rabbi Yosef Neuberger (son of Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger) filling the position of High School Mashgiach. (The position of assistant principal was changed to Mashgiach upon the death of Rabbi Tendler.) Rabbi Azriel Hauptman (son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Tendler) is the General Studies principal (replacing Mr. Jacob Schuchman).
The yeshiva campus is located at Mt. Wilson Lane, just northwest of the Baltimore City limits. The yeshiva moved to its present location in 1968. Their previous location was in Baltimore City at 4411 Garrison Boulevard. The large size of their present campus, which is nearly 100 acres, provides ample space for outdoors recreation.
Ner Israel has two central study halls, one for the high school (known as the Mechina) and one much larger for the beis medrash and the kollel (also doubling as the main prayer sanctuaries). There is an additional study hall/multi-purpose room of a smaller size that is called the "Friedman Beis Medrash". Enrollment is approximately 250 students in its high school division, 300 students in its beis medrash/undergraduate division, and about 200 members in its kollel/postgraduate division.
The dining hall is located in a separate building known as the Sindler/Wolf Dining Hall. The dining hall is scheduled for a significant expansion and renovation in 2019. There are also three dormitory buildings on campus.
There is faculty housing on campus for members of the faculty and some members of the kollel. This section of the campus is known as "Yeshiva Lane".
Activity outside of Baltimore
In 1959, Rabbi Sholom Gold established a branch of Ner Yisroel in Toronto. In 1964, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg became the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Toronto until 1971. This yeshiva still functions but is no longer affiliated with Ner Yisroel in Baltimore.
In recent years, Ner Israel has sent alumni to kollelim across the United States and several have founded their own institutions.
Major student projects include "PROJECT YAHUD", a spring break fund-raising effort for the religious school in Yahud, Israel, and "PROJECT SEED", a summertime outreach effort in smaller communities across America and the world.
Ner Israel is a Maryland state accredited college through the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools – Accreditation Commission (AARTS), and has agreements with Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, Loyola College in Maryland, University of Baltimore, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County allowing undergraduate students to take night courses at these colleges and universities in a variety of academic fields. The agreement also allows the students to receive academic credits for their religious studies. Ner Yisrael also has a pre-med program in association with Stevenson University of Owings Mills.
The Mechina high school is an accredited high school in the state of Maryland under the name "Israel Henry Beren High School". The high school was dedicated by the philanthropic Beren family in memory of Israel Henry Beren who died in 1994.
Cycle of Masechtos (Tractates of the Talmud)
The yeshiva's studies are primarily Talmud texts and relevant rabbinic literature. The yeshiva has a rotating cycle of nine different Talmudic tractates it covers in the course of nine years: Bava Kamma 1, Yevamos, Bava Basra, Gittin, Bava Kamma 2, Nedarim, Bava Metzia, Kiddushin, and Kesubos. There are additional tractates that are sometimes studied in the spring semester. These include Succah, Pesachim, and Makkos. In addition to these B'iyun mesachtos they also learn a range of different mesachtos in bekius, for example Sotah and Megillah
As is true in many Lithuanian-style Yeshivas, the methodology of the study of the Talmud is based on the Brisker method. Other Lithuanian-style Yeshivos follow almost exclusively the Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz style of the Brisker method. Although Rabbi Lebowitz's works are studied in Ner Yisrael, his specific style of study is not the only approach in Ner Yisroel as Ner Yisroel subscribes to a different approach to Talmudic Lomdus. Hour-long Shiurim (lessons) on Talmud are given daily. The highest level shiur is taught by Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz.
Additionally, half an hour per day is dedicated to the study of Musar literature.
Kollel Avodas Levi
Kollel Avodas Levi is a department of the Yeshiva that is composed of older students, mostly married, who are engaged in advanced studies. Established in 1959, the Kollel was later named "Avodas Levi" in memory of Rabbi Ruderman who authored a sefer of the same name. Most of the 250+ members, known as yungerleit, learn within the framework of a study group, called a "chabura", that is focused on a specific topic and led by a senior member of the Kollel. Ner Yisroel confers Semicha (Rabbinic Ordination) upon qualified members.
The Mechina's Masechta Bechina
The Mechina High School studies two tractates every year. One is studied in depth (Iyyun), and the other one is studied in its entirety at a faster pace which is known as the study of Bekius. At the end of the school year, the students take an exam on the entire tractate that was studied in the Bekius program. This exam is called the "Masechta Bechina". An exam on an entire tractate is considered a major accomplishment due to the amount and complexity of the information contained in each tractate. Former students recount how decades later they still have an incredible recall of the tractates that they studied in the Mechina's Bekius program.
Advanced students complete the Iyyun tractate on their own as an extracurricular project. Those that complete the Iyyun tractate are honored at the end of the school year at a special dinner.
Degrees and certificates
Degrees granted by Ner Israel are a Bachelor of Talmudic Law (four years), Master of Talmudic Law (six years), Doctorate in Talmudic Law (ten years and authoring a commentary on Talmudic or Rabbinic texts).
Rabbinic ordination (Semichah) can also be conferred in Ner Yisroel.
Ner Israel attracts students from the United States, Canada and other countries around the world.
Most undergraduate students in Ner Yisroel will either have already studied in Israel for two or three years prior to their arrival, or plan to upon completion of their studies in Ner Yisroel.
In the 1970s due to the political turmoil following the Iranian Revolution and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, which saw many young Iranian men being sent to the front-lines with little military training, life became a little difficult for Iran's Jews. Rabbi Herman Neuberger was very instrumental in bringing to the United States over 1,000 young Persian men, most of whom studied in Ner Yisroel. Ner Yisroel still maintains a special minyan on Shabbos for Persian students. There are large communities of Orthodox Persian Jews in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and New York that are a direct result of Rabbi Neuberger's efforts.
South American Students
There are many South American students in the Yeshiva. This is primarily due to Camp Or Haner, which is a camp for South Americans that is located in Ner Yisroel. Many of the campers are inspired to remain as students in the Yeshiva. Many of these students return to their communities of origin, which has made a significant impact on the religious observance of members of those communities. The camp was founded by Rabbi Moshe Fuller, who began himself as a South American student of the Yeshiva. Rabbi Fuller died in 2008.
Students periodically engage in community service such as leading the prayers in the nearby North Oaks retirement community. Additionally, the Yeshiva sends several Rebbeim once a year to spend a Shabbos in the community. This is known as "The Baltimore Shabbos of Chizuk". Additionally, many students visit older members in the community in the nearby Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital on Fridays.
- Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky – rosh yeshiva, Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, and member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
- Rabbi Aharon Feldman – rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Ner Israel and member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
- Jeff Ballabon – political consultant and community activist
- Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz – maggid shiur, Yeshivas Ner Israel
- Rabbi Shmuel Bloom - Executive Vice President Emeritus of Agudath Israel of America
- Rabbi Emanuel Feldman – Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, Georgia, lecturer
- Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman – Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta
- Rabbi Yissocher Frand – maggid shiur and lecturer, Yeshivas Ner Israel
- Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt – Chief Rabbi of Moscow
- Rabbi Dov Lipman – former Israeli Knesset Member, Yesh Atid
- Rabbi Nota Schiller – Rosh Yeshiva, Ohr Somayach, Jerusalem
- Rabbi Moshe Sherer – former president of Agudath Israel of America
- Rabbi Noach Weinberg – Rosh Yeshiva, Aish HaTorah
- Rabbi Yochanan Zweig – Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Bais Moshe Chaim, Miami
- Hershey Friedman – Canadian billionaire businessman and philanthropist with interests spanning the plastics packaging business and kosher meat in North America to luxury real estate development and Jewish books in Israel.
- Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch – Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Birkat Moshe
- Aaron Twerski (born 1939) - the Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, as well as a former Dean and professor of tort law at Hofstra University School of Law
- Rabbi Idan Scher - Rabbi of Congregation Machzikei Hadas
- Rabbi David Bashevkin - American rabbi and professor
- Moishe Bane - President of the Orthodox Union
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Contact Rabbi Ezra Neuberger
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