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How a Trickle Became a Stream

Barbara Bensoussan

Today’s high school graduates take their year in Eretz Yisrael for granted, but a few decades ago the Jewish Agency could barely fill the spots in the two yeshivos under their auspices. Rabbi Malle Galinsky z”l changed all that. He made sure all young Jews could find their place to learn Torah in the Holy Land, changing the face of Orthodoxy inAmerica.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

rav birnbaumThere are certain movements that become so much a part of community life we forget they ever had a beginning; we forget the brave, hardworking pioneers who pushed them into common parlance. There was Chedva Silverfarb and lashon hara; there was Reb Yaakov Birnbaum and Soviet Jewry; there was ArtScroll and the flourishing of English-language seforim.

And then there’s the phenomenon of the Year inIsrael. As I write these words, I myself have two children inIsrael, spending the year in yeshivah and seminary respectively. But 40 years ago, hard as it may be to believe, it was a rare individual who went to Eretz Yisrael after high school to learn. How did a small trickle of American students venturing across the ocean turn into a stream? How did the “Israelyear” become a sort of life-stage migration as inexorable as salmon swimming upriver to spawn?

Unknown to many in our community, Rabbi Malle (Mallen) Galinsky z”l, who passed away in April at the age of 77, was one of the foremost figures in creating the custom of sending young people for a year of study. Hired by the Jewish Agency in the late 1960s to expand study options for American students in Israel, he became a sort of master shadchan between American and Israeli yeshivos. Personally unassuming and deeply dedicated to chinuch, he helped create a movement that would profoundly affect generations of Torah youth to come.

 

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