By Rochelle Miller
Rabbi Zvi and Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky

Since its inception, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) has pursued the high standards of Torah scholarship exemplified by Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector. So many distinguished roshei yeshiva have shared their wisdom within its walls. Among them were Rabbi Shimon Shkop, the famous rosh yeshiva of Grodin, who taught there from 1928–1929, and Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, who brought the heralded Brisker approach developed by his revered and sagacious father, Rabbi Chaim of Brisk, to the United States.

RIETS is one of the leading centers in the world for Torah learning and training for the rabbinate. Since its founding in 1896, RIETS has produced some of the world’s most distinguished Orthodox rabbis, scholars, and teachers. Musmachim assume a broad range of leadership roles in the community, while ensuring the perpetuation of Jewish scholarship.

Vital in its approach and vibrant in its tradition, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary offers a broad array of shiurim in Talmud, halachah, and machshavah, as well as professional pastoral training leading to rabbinic ordination. Students may also learn in the Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel and pursue a co-requisite degree at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies, or Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

Students spend most of the morning and afternoon preparing and attending shiurim by illustrious roshei yeshiva. On Fridays, students take professional rabbinic classes such as public speaking and rabbinic counseling, and pursue advanced rabbinic classes in one of five different tracks: pulpit, chinuch, kiruv, chaplaincy, and organization.

Resources include five vibrant batei midrash, all of which resonate with the sacred sounds of Torah learning from morning until late evening. There are also state-of-the-art classrooms with one of the best-stocked sefarim libraries in the world.

In their fourth year at RIETS, students work with the Rabbinic Placement Office to find internships in various fields. The office also assists newly ordained rabbis in furthering their careers.

The RIETS Rabbinic Alumni body is a centuries-old Torah fraternity. Programs include various yarchei kallah and conferences for rabbis, assistant rabbis, and rebbetzins, and a monthly shiur with rotating RIETS roshei yeshiva, exclusive for Rabbinic Alumni members.

The Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah Online features more than 60,000 free shiurim by Yeshiva University’s esteemed roshei yeshiva and other Torah luminaries.

On Wednesday, May 9, RIETS will hold its annual gala Evening of Tribute at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The dinner’s guests of honor will be Rabbi Zvi and Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky.

Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, ‘87YC, ‘90YR, ‘96A, is currently a rosh yeshiva at RIETS. He was appointed rosh yeshiva in the spring of 2002 and began teaching Talmud at Yeshiva University and its affiliated RIETS in the fall of that year. His shiur is currently one of the most popular shiurim in the yeshiva. Some credit this popularity to Rabbi Sobolofsky’s ability to blend the teaching styles of his two teachers, Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter. Rabbi Willig is known for his focus towards practical understanding and Rabbi Schachter is known for his ability to present topics in the Talmud in a broader context. Rabbi Sobolofsky syncs these two styles to form a unique package that students find most rewarding.

In addition to his role as rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Sobolofsky serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Bergenfield, New Jersey where he has served with distinction since its inception. His shul has attracted many Orthodox Jews, including an impressive number of Yeshiva University alumni, to the warm and vibrant community. Additionally, Rabbi Sobolofsky lectures at the Bergen County Beis Midrash program housed at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey. A world-renowned posek and author, his phone rings at all hours of the day with people asking a variety of halachic questions. Rabbi Sobolofsky has over 5,000 shiurim on YUTorah.org.

An exceptional talmid chacham, in the tradition of the Torah luminaries who have graced the batei midrash of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Sobolofsky is blessed with encyclopedic knowledge, experience, and humility. He is one of Orthodoxy’s leading lights.

So vast is the scope of Rabbi Sobolofsky’s knowledge and expertise that he often begins answering a query while it is still in the midst of being posed to him. Enter any observant home in Bergenfield on a Shabbos and you will surely hear Rabbi Sobolofsky’s Friday night “She’eilah of the Week” discussed around the Shabbos table, with participants deeply engrossed in the conversation and the subject matter.

Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, ‘95W, ‘06W, is director of YUConnects, a relationship-building program that recently celebrated its 324th engagement. She also serves as the coordinator of respite services at the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities in Paramus, New Jersey. YU Connects offers unique social events, targeted matchmaking, and educational programs to foster healthy relationships toward marriage. More than a matchmaking service, YUConnects mentors social-work interns, conducts academic research on dating, and has the resources of Yeshiva University throughout each step of the way. It is self-funded and open to the entire Jewish community.

Brilliant and gifted, Dr. Sobolofsky holds a doctorate in social work and utilizes her professional expertise and compassionate nature for the greater good. On a noble mission to help establish baatei ne’eman b’Yisrael, Dr. Sobolofsky is truly the essence of an eishes chayil, a kind and caring rebbetzin who shares her husband’s bren for learning, yiras Shamayim, and ahavas Yisrael.

A renowned lecturer and author, Dr. Sobolofsky finds immense joy and satisfaction in being married to an eminent rosh yeshiva and raising their children in a home—and community—infused with Torah.

It is Thursday evening, a typically hectic time in most Torah-observant homes, particularly for a rosh yeshiva who is a posek and rav of a thriving shul, as well as for his rebbetzin. Despite the demands of their respective professions, Rabbi and Dr. Sobolofsky have graciously consented to be interviewed for this article. I soon ascertain that the approaching Shabbos is one of added joy and celebration. “We are preparing for the RIETS Shiur Shabbaton and are hosting 33 boys,” says Efrat. “It’s one of the favorite Shabbosos of my children—they love it!”

Indeed, the Sobolofsky children love every aspect of growing up in a home infused with Torah and experiencing the tremendous impact their parents have on their students, friends, neighbors, the community, and their family. They are an integral part of the fabric of RIETS and Yeshiva University, the standard-bearer of Torah U’Maddah.

“I have been part of RIETS for 36 years,” says Rabbi Sobolofsky. “It has been part of my life for all these years. Many of the members of Ohr HaTorah, my shul in Bergenfield, New Jersey, are RIETS alumni. RIETS has many unique features: The beis midrash is vibrant and offers top learning. It’s ‘the engine that drives’—everything emanates from the beis midrash. RIETS offers a great deal of hands-on preparation for training young men for rabbanus.”

“Through my husband’s position as rosh yeshiva, I have been able to foster friendships with other wives, and my husband and I have established friendships with other married couples with whom we have remained close over the years,” said Dr. Sobolofsky. “We share interests; some of the wives have doctorates, some are physicians or lawyers. I am very blessed to use my social-work knowledge and the education I received at Wurzweiler. It has helped me to grow professionally. I was able to fulfill my dream of establishing YUConnects.”

She adds, “Yeshiva University is a very special place. We are very grateful for this honor.”

“It is inspiring for me to learn with talmidim who are devoted to their growth in Torah,” said Rabbi Sobolofsky. “I have personally gained so much from my interacting with them both in the beis midrash and beyond.”

“The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary plays a critical role in shaping its students, their families, and the Jewish community at large,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill dean of RIETS. “The gala dinner is an opportunity to celebrate its global impact.”

For reservations or to obtain further information, please refer to the ad in this issue of the 5TJT.

Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com.

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