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Child of the Yeshivah

Yisroel Besser

Rav Aharon Kotler’s grandson and namesake — Beth Medrash Govoha’s CEO Rabbi Aaron Kotler — took an unlikely path to the executive office. Having successfully weathered fiscal, political, and communal challenges from his position at the reins ofAmerica’s largest yeshivah, Reb Aaron is girded by his grandfather’s fire and his own tenacity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

grandsonIt was the mid 1980s and the young student, new to all things Orthodox, made himself comfortable on the inter-Jerusalem city bus. An elderly white-bearded American scholar boarded and took the seat next to him, and within minutes, the two English speakers struck up a cordial conversation.

The student shared that he had left university two months before in order to learn at Aish HaTorah.

The visiting rav politely asked who his rebbi was.

Rabbi Aaron Kotler,” said the young man.

The rav, an early talmid of Beth Medrash Govoha, was overcome with reverential silence, transported to a different time. Finally, he spoke. “Your rebbi carries a great name.”


Sitting in the home of the grandson and namesake of Rav Aharon Kotler, I attempt a psychoanalytical question: Were his years as a rebbi at Aish, perhaps the one yeshivah in the world where most students weren’t aware of his yichus, really an attempt to make it on his own?

He shrugs. “When you’re young you don’t really think about these things.… No, honestly, Aish’s anonymity was not its draw — I was pulled there through remarkable siyata d’Shmaya. My name is a very special subtle backdrop to my life; however, gifts are no substitute for hard work.”

The subsequent return of the young kiruv rebbi toLakewood during the turmoil of the mid 90s, his  steady development, his impact on the yeshivah and his more recent influence on the greater yeshivah world, is its own intriguing story. Few would have predicted that he would take this particular path, but none would deny that Rabbi Aaron Kotler is dedicated to his grandfather’s yeshivah.

And anyone who remembers that difficult era can certainly appreciate the chain of events that led him home.... 


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