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Haifa’s Rebbe of Unity and Peace

Yossi Elituv and Mishpacha Staff

He was a child in the court of his illustrious grandfather, the Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz, but stayed on the sidelines during the leadership of his father, the Mekor Baruch. Yet when he was appointed Rebbe of Seret-Vizhnitz 51 years ago, he vowed to keep Yiddishkeit alive in “Red Haifa” at any cost. Several years ago Rav Eliezer Hager ztz”l granted an exclusive interview to Mishpacha, sharing his convictions about a country in trouble and the remedy for healing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On Motzaei Yom Kippur 1924 in Grosswardein, Transylvania, the Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz couldn’t contain his joy. A new grandson had just been born to his son Rav Baruch Hager and Rebbetzin Tzirel — and named Eliezer after Rav Baruch’s uncle Rav Eliezer of Dzikov. Later, looking at the newborn, the Ahavas Yisrael exclaimed, “When my grandfather, Rav Naftali of Ropschitz, beheld his newborn son, Rav Eliezer of Dzikov, he said, ‘Eliezer, my son, you are shining like the sun!’ ” Years later, it was obvious that the Ahavas Yisrael was referring to this newborn Eliezer as well. He was to become the Seret-Vizhnitz Rebbe of Eretz Yisrael, and in the 51 years of his influence until his passing last week at age 90, helped turn notoriously “red” Haifa from a staunchly secular town to a city that was open to the embrace of Torah and chassidus. The Ahavas Yisrael passed away in 1936 when Eliezer was just 12, but even as a young child, he was unusually attached to his grandfather. One time, he accompanied the Ahavas Yisrael to the “kvittlach tzimmer,” the Rebbe’s private domain where he received visitors in confidence. The Rebbe’s attendants tried to stop the child at the door. “Leave the boy,” the Rebbe ordered them. “Let him watch. The day will come when many people will gather at his door.”

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