Chaim Yisroel HaLevi
August 22, 1938|
January 28, 2016|
|Occupation||Rosh Yeshiva, Posek|
|Parent(s)||Berel and Chana Belsky|
Chaim Yisroel Belsky (Chaim Yisroel HaLevi Belsky) (August 22, 1938 – January 28, 2016) was an American rabbi and posek of Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism who resided in Brooklyn, New York. He was one of the roshei yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and rabbi of the summer camp network run by Agudath Israel of America.
He was "widely acclaimed for his in-depth knowledge across the length and breadth" in Torah which he used "together with an encyclopaedic command of general knowledge and a hands-on familiarity with worldly affairs."
Belsky faced criticism for his statements in reaction to sexual abuse accusations made against a Jewish camp counselor.
Belsky received his semicha from Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, in Brooklyn, NY, in 1962, and from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in 1965. He also studied at Beth Medrash Elyon beginning at age 17. His Rosh Yeshiva was Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky.
He served as a member of the Iggud HaRabbonim Beth din under, successively, Rabbis Yitzchok Isaac Liebes, Baruch Leizerowski and Herschel Kurzrock. Some events that he addressed with this beth din were:
- the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack and freeing its widows from agunah status,
- New York City tap water,
- human-hair wigs from India,
- surrogate motherhood,
- and a kashrus scandal in Monsey.
His first kashrus position was with the Kof-K. He served with the Orthodox Union starting in 1987, and was eventually described as one of "the chief experts for the Orthodox Union, which certifies more than 600,000 products as kosher." In 2004, Belsky ruled that water that might contain microscopic nonkosher organisms is kosher even if it is unfiltered. The same year he ruled that "gruesome" slaughtering of animals at Agriprocessors, then the largest glatt kosher meat producer in the United States, appeared not to violate kosher laws as long as the animal "felt nothing". He later ruled on a kashrus scandal surrounding Doheny Meats, which had been videoed violating the laws of kashrus, saying that food that had been sold by Doheny prior to the scandal could still be considered kosher.
In September 2005, Belsky served as the keynote speaker at the Igud Horabbonim Annual Siyum HaShas. The event also served as the chag ha’semichah where 35 students of his received their certificates of semichah.
Belsky publicly defended confessed sexual abuser Yosef Kolko, who taught children at a Lakewood, New Jersey, yeshiva. Further, he condemned the victim and his parents for reporting the sexual abuse to the police, and wrote that one who does so "has no share in the world to come." Belsky was criticized for his actions in this regard. According to The Jewish Week, the Ocean County, New Jersey District Attorney privately warned Belsky to cease and desist writing letters defending Kolko, or risk prosecution.
According to court documents, Belsky was alleged to have served on a Beth din together with Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark which approved the use of physical violence against Jews who were civilly divorced, yet refused to give a get (Jewish divorce document) to their wives.
In a 2011 interview with The New York Times about a divorce case, Belsky described a court-ordered child custody order as "a joke" since it allegedly interfered with observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
Belsky was the son of Rabbi Berel and Chana Tzirel Belsky. His maternal grandfather is Binyomin Wilhelm, a founder of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas.
In 2012, he suffered a serious medical emergency. At that time, the name Chaim was added to Rav Belsky's name. He recovered, and was able to return to Torah Vodaath. In 2013, the annual Yeshiva Torah Vodaath dinner honored the rosh yeshiva and highlighted 50 young men who earned semichah from him. 
- Piske halakhot (Brooklyn 2002) - responsa
- Einei Yisroel on Chumash (currently Bereishis, Shemos, Vayikra, and Devarim) (Kiryat Sefer 2005, 2006, 2011, and 2008 respectively) - Lectures edited and adapted by Moshe Armel and Reuven Mathieson
- Sha'alos U'Teshuvos Shulchan Halevi, questions and answers on a wide variety of topics, (Kiryat Sefer 2008)
- "Torah Vodaath marks first yartzeit of Hagaon Harav Chaim Yisroel Belsky ZT"L". hamodia.com.
- "Torah Vodaath Marks First Yahrtzeit of Hagaon Harav Chaim Yisroel Belsky ZTL".
- "The Legacy of Rav Chaim Yisroel Belsky zt"l at the OU". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- Publisher's preface, Einei Yisroel, VOL. 1, pp. xxix-xxx; (C) 2005
- similar descriptions of his eclectic gift are also found elsewhere: "HaRav Chaim Yisroel HaLevi Belsky, Zatsal: Recorded, Remembered, and Reflected Upon". OUkosher.org. (mentions R'Belsky taught himself Russian; also had 2 Western language skills)
- Gary Rosenblatt. "Connecting the World to Jewish News, Culture, and Opinion". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
- Finkelman 2017, p. 122
- Igud HaRabonim (Rabbinical Alliance of America) "The Beth Din-Rabbinical Alliance of America Inc".
- Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum (February 5, 2016). "We've Lost Our Guiding Light - Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Zt"l (1938-2016)". The Jewish Press.
- Berger, Joseph (November 7, 2004) "The Water's Fine, But is it Kosher?", The New York Times
- Wakin, Daniel J. (2004-05-14). "Rabbis' Rules and Indian Wigs Stir Crisis in Orthodox Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
- Finkelman 2017, p. 307
- McNeil Jr., Donald J. (December 1, 2004) "Videos Cited in Calling Kosher Slaughterhouse Inhumane", The New York Times
- "Statement from the Rabbinical Council of California on Doheny Meats | Los Angeles". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
- "Passover Kosher Meat Scandal in Los Angeles Latest in String of Mishaps". The Forward. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
- "Hynes Refuses To Name Orthodox Child Sex Abusers - News –". Forward.com. 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
- Ben Hirsch. "Connecting the World to Jewish News, Culture, and Opinion". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
- Samaha, Albert (2013-12-04). "Bad Rabbi: Tales of Extortion and Torture Depict a Divorce Broker's Brutal Grip on the Orthodox Community". Village Voice. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
- Barnes, Julian E. (June 2, 2000) "Symbolic Line Divides Jews in Borough Park; A Debate Over Strictures for Sabbath Observance", The New York Times
- Oppenheimer, Mark (January 3, 2011) "Religious Divorce Dispute Leads to Secular Protest", The New York Times
- Shin, Annys (2011-09-27). "Man who won't grant religious divorce to ex-wife is given rabbinical sanction". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
- Israel, David. "Torah Vodaas Dean in Serious Condition". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 2016-02-07.