The Rabbinical Seminary of America—Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim will celebrate its eightieth anniversary this year with a rich legacy and a bright future.
The yeshiva was founded in 1933 by Rav Dovid Leibowitz, a talmid of the Alter of Slabodka and great-nephew of the Chofetz Chaim. Rav Dovid’s son, Rav Henach, became rosh yeshiva in 1941, a position he occupied until his passing in 2008. Today, the yeshiva is led by Rav Henach’s chosen successors, Rav Dovid Harris and Rav Akiva Grunblatt.
All are invited to join the Five Towns—Far Rockaway friends of the yeshiva at a breakfast reception on behalf of the yeshiva on Sunday, April 21, at 9:30 a.m. Rav Dovid Harris will iyH attend the reception, and Rav Dovid Weinberger is to address the gathering, which is to take place at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Dov Wolowitz (202 Broadway in Lawrence).
In the tradition of Slabodka, the yeshiva seeks the development of the complete Torah personality. Rav Henach Leibowitz identified three basic elements in a talmid’s path of personal growth: iyun, mussar and harbatzas haTorah. Intense, rigorous analysis; self-knowledge and depth of character; and a commitment to the service of Klal Yisrael define the yeshiva’s template for greatness.
Today, the yeshiva is filled to capacity, with enrollment exceeding 400, and 180 new rabbanim have received semichah in the past ten years. The 19 yeshiva high-school affiliates nationwide comprise a Torah network of over 4,000 talmidim.
RSA talmidim practice the ideals of mussar and harbatzas Torah in a variety of concrete ways. Queens JEP has its office inside the yeshiva; the Community Learning Program, pairing community members with chavrusos from the yeshiva, meets in the yeshiva’s beis medrash and six satellite locations. Kollel members comprise a significant percentage of the EMTs in Queens Hatzalah. Affiliates in RSA’s high-school network benefit from Queens beis medrash students who volunteer part of their z’man as mentors and role models. Ten percent of Torah Umesorah’s summer SEED programs are staffed and run by RSA talmidim. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the yeshiva, in coordination with Achiezer, came out in force to help the affected areas.
Unlocking Torah’s secrets requires clarity of thought, intellectual honesty, and, above all, hard work. Shiur is a laboratory for acquiring iyun skills–a collaborative workshop where rebbe and talmid explore the Gemara together. After graduating from the roshei yeshiva’s shiurim, beis medrash and kollel members continue to participate in analysis, discussion, and debate of the shiur klali, the pilpul shiur, which draws talmidim of every age into the ongoing, never-ending pursuit of understanding in partnership with their roshei yeshiva.
More than 200 yungerleit in RSA’s kollel pursue rigorous sidrei limud, culminating in an intense semichah program, while preparing themselves for a future of service to the klal. Diverse venues such as teacher training courses, teaching internships, and shimush mar’os with local rabbanim provide opportunities to build practical skills. Last year, the yeshiva launched the Field Training Program, providing an overview of financial and administrative skills necessary for leadership of mosdos haTorah.
Graduates of the yeshiva enter the field imbued with the conviction that harbatzas haTorah is both the crowning glory of Torah accomplishment and the most urgent imperative of our time. Emphasizing the areas of greatest need, the yeshiva fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging its alumni to seek out new projects and build Torah institutions from the ground up. The yeshiva stresses the importance of kiddush Shem Shamayim as the responsibility of every Jew in the boardroom as well as the classroom.
Marbitzei Torah among the yeshiva alumni serve 37 communities internationally. Institutions founded by alumni include 10 yeshiva elementary schools, 19 high schools, 12 post-high-school beis medrash programs, and 45 kiruv centers, kollelim, and shuls.
This past year, the placement department sent executive directors to Las Vegas and Orlando; elementary school rebbeim to Edmonton, Alberta; Boca Raton, Fla.; Vancouver, BC; and Hamilton, Ontario; and high-school rebbeim to Los Angeles and North Miami Beach.
Kiruv careers were launched in Cambridge, Mass.; Dallas; Tempe, Arizona; Binghamton, NY ; Bensalem, PA; and Las Vegas.
New institutions include shuls in Summerlin, Nevada and East Boca Raton, Fla.; a preschool in the San Fernando Valley; and a kashrus organization in the greater Las Vegas area. The Torah Academy of Buffalo Grove expanded to become the Suburban Alliance for Jewish Education.
As the yeshiva continues to grow and expand, it draws inspiration from the commitment and self-sacrifice of its friends and supporters. With Hashem’s help, Torah will continue to blossom and flourish, until the day when all of Klal Yisrael will unite in pursuit of our common goal. v