The Changing of an Era: Remembering Rav Yitzchok Hutner's disciples

Published date02 August 2022

Rabbi Yitschak Hutner zts"l Rudomin

Some background:

Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin was the first yeshiva founded in Brooklyn, NY in the very early 1900s. It was renamed in honor of the famous Rav Chaim Berlin (1832-1912) chief rabbi of Moscow after he passed away. The yeshiva existed as an elementary school until 1936. The first high school class graduated by 1940 and Rav Hutner became one of the main Rosh Yeshivas of the Bais Medrash, post-high school division of the yeshiva. By 1956 Rav Hutner founded Kollel Gur Aryeh post-graduate division for married students, it was named for the Maharal of Prague's work. In the early 1960s Rav Hutner started to establish a branch of the yeshiva in Israel and eventually it was set up in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem under the name Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok, named for Rav Hutner's works by the same name.

From 1936 until his passing in 1980 Rav Hutner educated and cultivated thousands of Talmidim (students or disciples) many of whom became famous rabbis and roshei yeshiva in their own right. Any person who learned in the yeshiva during Rav Hutner's forty four year long tenure as the active Rosh Yeshiva will have their own unique memories and know of the names of so many others who are deserving of mention that is beyond the scope of this brief essay. This essay is not meant as the "final word" about the deceased disciples of Rav Hutner, but as one looks back there is the sense of the passing of an era that should not be forgotten.

Since I came to the yeshiva in 1976 I heard of, met, and saw quite a few famous Chaim Berliners that had established themselves during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980, 1990s and into the 2000s. There were many great disciples of Rav Hutner who became famous leaders in the world of American Orthodoxy that I became familiar with who have passed away and I would like to share some of these memories of these great men that I had the privilege of either getting to know them personally or getting to know about them. Here are a few of them that I had the privilege to know, in alphabetical order:

* Rav Meir Belsky zt"l (1923-2017) was part of the original 1940 Yeshiva Chaim Berlin high school graduating group. Rav Hutner eventually encouraged him to move to Memphis, Tennessee to set up the Yeshiva of the South that existed for about thirty years. Rav Belsky served as the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of the South. Rav Hutner sent a group of his own students to help Rav Belsky set up and get the Yeshiva of the South going and it attracted young Jewish men from the South of the USA to come learn in a genuine yeshiva, something that was quite unique. Rav Belsky authored several books on Torah thought such as "Citadel and Tower". Eventually Rav Belsky followed in Rav Hutner's footsteps and moved to Israel and founded a Kollel in Jerusalem. I would see Rav Belsky a few times when he visited the yeshiva in Brooklyn at the time I was learning there. I got to know some of his sons, all rabbis, quite well. He passed away in Jerusalem.

* Rav Shmuel Elchonon Brog zt"l (1928-2012) married Shandy Miller the oldest daughter of the famous Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l (1908-2001) who was the Mashgiach Ruchani (spiritual counsel;or) at the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin where Rabbi Brog came to learn from Pittsburgh, PA. Rabbi Brog was unique because he was a son in law of Rav Avigdor Miller and a strong disciple of Rav Hutner and remained unfailingly loyal to both until his last days. Rabbi Brog was appointed the principal of the Yeshiva Ketana (elementary school) of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and after that Rav Hutner appointed him the head of an outreach Shiur (class) in the main Chaim Berlin Bais Medrash yeshiva building catering to young men who did not have an intensive yeshiva background or maybe had never been to a yeshiva at all, and who now wished to "mainstream" themselves into the yeshiva. This was a groundbreaking pioneering innovation that Rav Hutner introduced into his own yeshiva entrusting Rabbi Brog to carry out this "impossible mission" because he had to teach multiple students, often simultaneously, who were on different levels and who had different learning skills. This program only lasted as long as Rabbi Brog was alive. Hardly any of the big "mainstream" yeshivas in America have ever had such a groundbreaking program that bore so much success. Rabbi Brog authored a number of books, one of them was called "Challenge of Eternity". I merited to be in some of Rabbi Brog's classes at the time he was teaching in yeshiva and was a guest at his home a few times. I got to know...

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