Hundreds of alumni of Yeshivas Kol Yaakov Yehudah – Hadar Hatorah, the world’s first yeshiva especially designed to provide a quality Torah education to baalei teshuvah or young men from assimilated backgrounds, came from all over the country to attend the special 50th Anniversary Jubilee Gala Dinner that was held at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights on June 3rd/13 Sivan.
Origins of the Yeshiva
The origins of Hadar Hatorah go back to the fall of 1962. At that time an amazing phenomenon was occurring. Chabad Lubavitch shluchim who had been sent to various college campuses across the United States by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, were inspiring American-born Jewish boys from assimilated families to want to learn more about their Torah heritage. Unable to devote the time necessary to educate these college students, these shluchim told the young men to go to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn and visit the main synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway where Chabad yeshiva bochurim from around the world were engaged in serious Torah learning.
These young assimilated college students were told by their shluchim to ask some of the Chabad bochurim to teach them Torah. This was an incredible and unheard of phenomenon and a young Chabad bochur named Rabbi Avroham Lipsker started teaching these enthusiastic young men sichos of the Rebbe, Tanya, Shulchan Aruch, Chumash and even Gemora.
Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson, zt”l, was one of the hanholah of the Lubavitch Yeshiva in 770 and was excited by what he saw Rabbi Lipsker accomplishing. He wanted to establish a special educational institution with a more formal yeshiva program for these potential baalei teshuvah. With the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s permission and brocha, the yeshiva was established and named Hadar Hatorah. With a growing enrollment, it soon moved from inside 770 to a nearby location less than a block away at 824 Eastern Parkway.
“Find Me Neshamas and I’ll Find the Money”
After the first decade, as the number of students increased, the financial burden became overwhelming. Fortunately, Rabbi Jacobson found in Rabbi J.J. Hecht, zt”l, founder and executive vice president of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), a great ally who undertook the burden of raising the large amounts of money needed to keep the yeshiva operating. Indeed, Rabbi Hecht declared, “Find me neshamas and I’ll find the money.”
From the start, Hadar Hatorah had the enthusiastic support of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Many in the Chabad community noted the great enthusiasm that the Rebbe demonstrated in the development and progress of the yeshiva’s students. Once a chassid from a distinguished family complained to the Rebbe that the Rebbe was showing more favor to the baal teshuvah students from Hadar Hatorah then to old timers in the Chabad community and asked if that was being fair. The Rebbe replied, “Well why don’t you become a baal teshuvah?”
Appropriate Guest of Honor
In 1968, Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg, a young married Chabad yeshiva student from France learning in the senior Lubavitch Yeshiva in 770 was recruited by Rabbi Jacobson to give a shiur to some of the Hadar Hatorah students in the morning before his Kollel schedule.
Ever since, Rabbi Goldberg has been intimately involved with Yeshivas Hadar Hatorah, and, following the petirah of Rabbi Jacobson in 1975, was appointed the rosh yeshiva of the world’s historic first yeshiva for baal teshuva men. It is therefore not surprising that Mr. Shimon Kroll, dinner chairman, Mr. Eliezer Putter, journal chairman, and Rabbi Yaakov Silberstein, the yeshiva’s executive administrator, decided to make this year’s Jubilee Dinner’s Guest of Honor – Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg.
Rabbi Goldberg, along with a stellar staff of mechanchim (Rabbi Sholom Ber Vishedsky, zt”l; Rabbi Yosef Boruch Wircberg; Rabbi Yaakov Osdoba; Rabbi Binyomin Cohen and many others over the years) have inspired and taught thousands of young men to come closer to Hashem, create dynamic Jewish homes and become leading members of their communities worldwide.
Serving the Entire Community
In addition to the regular day and evening sedorim for Hadar Hatorah students who learn year round, the yeshiva also offers learning options for alumni and other members of the community and from other neighborhoods who have free time to learn in the morning or evenings or on Sundays. In the summer, Hadar Hatorah has a very unique Yeshivacation program in upstate’s Catskill mountains that has attracts hundreds of college students including many from top-rated institutions.
Also honored at the Hadar Hatorah Jubilee Anniversary Dinner were Mr. Yaakov Stern (Alumnus Guest of Honor), Mr. and Mrs. Yaakov and Tzivia Chaya Rosenthal (Couple of the Year) and Rabbi Dov Yona Korn (Campus shliach Award) – all alumni of the yeshiva.
The Mother and Her Son
Perhaps summing up the special role of Hadar Hatorah to Klal Yisroel was a story related by the Alumnus Guest of Honor. Mr. Stern recalled his years during the early history of the yeshiva, when the building at 824 Eastern Parkway had not been completely renovated. A young 18-year old man accompanied by his mother was visiting the yeshiva and the mother was critically looking at the physical structure and its furniture.
As the mother and son passed by Yaakov Stern, the mother commented, “It doesn’t look very nice to me!” And Mr. Stern replied, “But the people are nice!” Stopped by the remark, the mother reflected and declared to her child, “O.K., you can stay here.”
The Fruits of One Remark
Yaakov Stern forgot all about that remark until about 10 years ago when he went to one of the community shuls in Crown Heights. A young man in his mid 20s said to him, “You were the one who told my grandmother that the people in Hadar Hatorah are nice and because of that she decided to let my father learn in Crown Heights. You should know that with that remark you saved not only my father’s neshama but were responsible for the creation of 18 other neshamas.” And since then the numbers have gone up with the births of additional grandchildren to that then young man.
How many other countless stories are there to be discovered in the halls of Hadar Hatorah from the past half century? And how many more new miracles will be created in the new jubilee?