A long-needed divorce
As a graduate (1965) of Torah Vodaath, I am sadly required to divorce myself from an institution to whom I owe much gratitude. Read my bio for some details of my Torah Vodaath experience. Those who read that synopsis will note that in 4 years, one would normally have four Rabbeim; I listed only three. I omitted one Rebbe where my experiences would have dishonored Torah Vodaath.
Notwithstanding, three major sins (le’Shem Shamayim 😊) have brought about a complete separation. I thought that the appointment of the Rav ztl’s grandson and RAL ztl’s son would have made a difference, but sadly his energies have been applied in a different direction. He has and is rebuilding a strong post-HS program leaving TV with a booming elementary school, but a still anemic HS program.
While there is a host of sins, three unrelated occurrences motivated my divorce.
The first occurred about five and one-half years ago in 2015 when I saw the video at the annual dinner where my 50th anniversary class was recognized. I was uncertain of what I thought I saw; a CD of the dinner allowed me to verify what I in fact saw. The video hatched the face of Rav Pam ztl’s rebbitzen AH, who was then in her eighties. I remember paying a shivah call to Rochelle (Dershowitz) Zinkin; her late mother was a childhood friend of the rebbitzen. I saw Mrs. Dershowitz and her friend as young teenagers playing together in camp, dressed as one might expect to see normal young girls.
Other events at my 50th HS anniversary dinner were disturbing – 1) the choice of dais members, ve’hamaivin yavin, 2) an author of a sefer on a topic that would have by necessity require reading a prior sefer by RAL, of whose existence he was not even aware, 3) reinterpreting “Vodaath” by two separate speakers as referring to daat Torah. That effort to rewrite history pales in significance relative to my next two sins/occurrences. There were other issues not even worth mentioning.
The second occurred about one year or so later. In the short biography of an unnamed RY who arrived in the US in the early 40’s, the RY was described as bringing the Brisker derech to America. Forget the obvious insult to both the Rav and his father, Rav Moshe ztl, who arrived more than a decade earlier; perhaps the greatest talmid of Rav Chaim ztl, Rav Shlomo Polachek ztl who Rav Chaim himself named the Meitscheter illui, was the RY at R.I.E.T.S. for about 5 years before his untimely death in 1925, (from a tooth infection.) Rav Polachek’s students included Rav Nissan Wachtfogel ztl, the long-standing mashgiach of Lakewood, and Rav Pinchas Scheinberg ztl among many others. But Torah Vodaath continually ignores its predecessor in Washington Heights; this shameless lie is just another part of a continual pattern of the blatant rewriting of history.
The third avlah occurred at TV’s 100th centennial, two+ years ago, something I would not attend. My brother-in-law (Rabbi Julius Berman) and sister went because of the presence of Rebbitzen Tovah Lichtenstein, who was there given the introduction of her son, Rav Yitzchak Lichtenstein, as the Rosh HaYeshivah. The yeshivah distributed a brochure honoring its 100 most influential graduates. I suspect that Rav Dr. Norman Lamm ztl and yibadail le’chaim, my BIL would deserve the honor of being listed even without any mention of Yeshivah University or R.I.E.T.S.; Rav Lamm’s drashot on the parsha or my BIL’s roles at the OU and the Claims Conference alone tower over the accomplishments of anyone mentioned.
Were all this insufficient, I recently thought about another mega-sin mentioned by Rav Rakeffet in a recent shiur. Torah Vodaath likes to call itself Eim haYeshivos, the mother of all the rest of what it considers yeshivot in the Americas. Other older places Eitz Chaim or the Rabbi Isacc Elchonon Talmudic Academy are disregarded as if they did not really matter. The fact that TV’s name was meant to connect it to Rav Reines’s yeshiva where secular subjects were studied; another inconvenient fact that ought not to be mentioned in heimeshe surroundings.
Only an opinion you say, then try listing important graduates of TV before 1925. R.I.E.T.S. can name a fair number of future Haredim among its early students. From that source of misinformation, Wikipedia:
“At age 17 Scheinberg progressed to Yeshiva University‘s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). There he studied under Rabbis Shlomo Polachek (known as the “Meitcheter Ilui”) and Moshe Soloveichik. His learning partners included Rabbis Avigdor Miller, Moshe Bick, Mordechai Gifter, and Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, future leaders of American Torah Jewry.
Significant proof? I think so. The first major RY at TV was likely Rav Dovid Leibowitz, who had Rav Schorr and Rav Pam both ztl as talmidim, but only AFTER he arrived for a roughly 6-year stay in about 1926. So next time you hear the claim, join me in concluding heilege SHEKER.