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Walking through Kiryat Belz in Yerushalayim today and seeing thousands of Belzer chassidim streaming through its streets, one cannot imagine the bereavement that once struck this community. Shattered by the loss of its two great leaders in a span of seven years, the eyes of all Belzer chassidim focused on a nine-year-old boy, waiting for the day when he would become their leader. How does a young man assume the leadership of a dying Chassidus at the age of 18 and transform into an empire of Torah, chesed
It’s not every day that Bnei Brak turns to America to find a rosh yeshivah. But Rav Chaim Ginsburg, who was recently invited to head a newly established Kodashim Chaburah at the Ponovezher yeshivah, isn’t exactly a stranger. As a grandson of the famed mashgiach Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, the relationship between Reb Chaim and the yeshivah is both very long and deep.
Between 1890 and World War I, a period when more than 90 percent of America’s 200 synagogues were Reform and vast numbers of the 2.5 million newly arrived Jewish immigrants spent Shabbos at work, it’s no wonder Jewish youngsters living in America, though free to practice their religion, didn’t find it all that appealing. It was this initial period of challenge and opportunity that gave birth to the Young Israel movement.
In the boulevards of Brooklyn and Monsey, in the passageways and alleys of Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak, they go about their daily business dressed in the distinctive apparel that their grandfathers wore. For chassidim, tradition is more important than style – especially since the various fabrics, buttons, and patterns of their clothing often hold some deeper significance.
It’s not every day that a dentist from Boro Park becomes a close follower and confidant of a member of the distinguished Abuchatzeira dynasty, but that is what happened to Dr. Gedaliah Mordechai Stern. Not only did Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira ztz”l guide him in his career, the tzaddik, who was recently niftar, gave Dr. Stern invaluable insights into the true meaning of building a life upon the foundation of emunas chachamim.
America of the 1920s and ’30s was a society at a crossroads: second-generation American children who were on the one hand committed to the Yiddishkeit of their parents, but on the other hand educated, fluent in English, and fully exposed to the American way. To keep them chassidish would take a miracle. The Boyaner Rebbe, Rav Mordechai Shlomo Friedman, was that miracle. A visit to his kloiz on the Lower East Side unlocks a wealth of memories, and a portrait of America’s first authentic rebbe.