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Omaha’s Forgotten Sage

Eytan Kobre

Most yeshivah bochurim today would stare blankly at the name Rav Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky, but Torah leaders of the early 20th century spoke of this rav from Nebraska with the reverence due a towering gadol. Now an IT professional originally from Omaha and a powerhouse attorney from Monsey have teamed up to reclaim this forgotten legacy of the Midwest.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

To many people, “Sage of Omaha” is the business world’s moniker for a plainspoken white-haired Midwesterner named Warren Buffet, who has parlayed brilliant market forecasting skills into a financial empire valued in the tens of billions of dollars. But it wasn’t even 70 years ago that a man who was a true sage in the age-old Jewish sense graced Nebraska’s largest city. His name was Rav Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky, and if a book were to be written called Great but Unknown Gedolim, his name would surely be toward the front of that volume. How else to describe someone whose name draws blank expressions from today’s average kollel yungerman, yet was considered the gadol hador by no less than Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin? But, eventually, redemption comes. And so it has slowly begun to arrive for the rich Torah legacy, forgotten for nearly a century now, of Omaha’s venerable chief rabbi. Its redeemers make for an interesting duo in their own right. One, Rabbi Myron Wakschlag, is a native son of Omaha on a mission to spread the Torah of his hometown’s little-known gaon, while the other, Shalom Jacob, is a busy big-firm attorney whose true love is seforim and the people who write them. Neither lives anywhere near the Cornhusker State, but to visit the Wakschlags in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Jacobs in Monsey, New York is to find Rav Grodzinsky very much alive. Mindful of Chazal’s dictum that the lips of a deceased talmid chacham continue to move as his teachings are repeated in this world, the two are working steadily to bring this towering Torah personality ever more to life with the publication of each additional piece of his written legacy.  

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