By Rabbi Nison Wolpin
One of the most noteworthy achievements of the post-World War II era is the phenomenal growth of Torah in America, particularly the founding a development of kollelim both in this country and on an international scale.
When the Gaon, Rav Ahron Kotler arrived in America in 1940, he became totally involved in Hatzolah, saving the lives of the remaining Jews in Europe. In 1943 when his further efforts proved fruitless, he focused on founding a kollel–first in Connecticut, and then relocated in Lakewood. He contacted Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz, zt’l, who had founded Aish Dos an educational institution to train mechanchim in Monsey, NY–a Torah Vodaath project, in line with Torah Umesorah. Rav Ahron advised him to transfer Aish Dos to the Torah Vodaath campus in Brooklyn and to found a kollel–Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey, where it would benefit from the isolated rural environment. The results of both efforts were truly phenomenal and inspired similar efforts in other yeshivos.
Today, there are thousands of yungerleit–young married men engaged in advanced Talmudic and halachic studies in Eretz Yisrael, around the globe, and across the American continent in numerous kollelim, transforming this country into a home for continually advancing Torah learning.
On our agenda is Kollel Aliyos Shlomo, an English speaking institution located in the Ramot section of Yerushalayim, made up of chaveirim who are notably advanced in their learning, having already spent several productive decades of their lives in kollel. Indeed the Hebrew word “kollel” conveys the concept of being inclusive, comprehensive, and thorough-going in one’s involvement in Torah study.
The men of Aliyos Shlomo come from a wide variety of yeshiva backgrounds, carrying with them an impressive array of approaches to Talmudic study. A sampling: One senior member learned under Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, in Staten Island as well as Rav Simcha Schustal, zt’l, in Stamford, CT, Rav Zelik Epstein, zt’l, (Shaar Hatorah), Rav Abba Berman, zt’l, in Yerushalayim, and Rav Elya Weintraub, zt’l, in Bnei Brak… Others learned in a variety of settings–under Rav Elya Svei, zt’l, in Philadelphia, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, zt’l, Rav Gedalia Schorr, zt’l, and Rav Elya Chazan, zt’l, in Mesivta Torah Vodaath, Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt’l, in Far Rockaway, Rav Moshe Eisemann, zt’l, in Vineland, NJ, Rav Shimshon Pincus in Ofakim, Rav Nochum Partzovitz, zt’l, and Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt’l, in Mir, and, yblc’t, Rav Dovid Soloveitschik, shlita, in Brisk/Yerushalayim.
When this author entered the shidduchim stage of his life over half a century ago, there was a quota of ten yungerleit per kollel, in Lakewood as well as in Monsey which was nonnegotiable. I had always yearned to make up for those years spent outside of a structured kollel, and I find the compensatory experience in Aliyos Shlomo these past two-plus years most gratifying.
The Vilna Gaon commented that talmidei chachamim are the lev shel Klal Yisrael–the very source of life and energy of the Jewish people. To be sure, these yungerleit, who have been dedicating their very selves to absorbing the depths of Torah with vast knowledge, devotion, and energy are the true life forces of our nation.
Support of this kollel is, in my opinion, a most worthwhile investment in the personal growth of established talmidei chachamim, raising the standards of limud haTorah among our people and endowing us all with sacred vitality. v