Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
Although he was gravely ill for years and could no longer fulfill his leadership responsibilities, Rabbi Elya Svei, zt”l, continued to influence many of us who are involved in Torah education, whether as principals or teachers or lay leaders.
For nearly a generation, he was without question the key figure in the spread of Torah chinuch in the United States, giving without personal regard of his endless commitment and remarkable insight into religious education at all levels. His passing last week leaves us with the feeling of loss and leaderlessness — of a void that makes the task of building and sustaining Torah even more difficult.
For all of his understanding of day-school education in an environment that was far removed from the pre-Holocaust yeshiva world of Eastern Europe, in a curious way it was as if Rav Elya were of the generation of the transcendent roshei yeshiva who were educated in Slabodka, Mir and other outstanding Torah institutions. In this respect, he provided a contrast with his peers in the United States, the yeshiva deans who emerged as Torah leaders about a generation ago.
He came here with his parents and brothers as a young boy, studying briefly in elementary school at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School and then, for high school, at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. His advanced yeshiva education was both in Israel and at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood where he emerged as an outstanding student of the great rosh yeshiva Rabbi Aharon Kotler.
In these years, he followed the extraordinary path of his beloved teacher, combining intensive Torah study with activism on behalf of the religious Jewish community, here and in Israel. I remember his vital role in the 1950s in the American Peylim, the effective advocacy group that did much to promote and protect religious life in Israel in the years following the establishment of the state.
This developmental period served as an apprenticeship as he worked under the tutelage of Torah leaders, earning their confidence and respect as they entrusted him with expanding responsibilities. It is a major deficit of the yeshiva world of today that the crucial process of shimush or apprenticeship has been neglected, a deficit I fear will escalate in its untoward consequences in the coming years.
For all of his obedience to Torah leaders, Rav Elya had a strong independent streak, a quality that was evident in his establishment nearly fifty years ago of the major advanced yeshiva in Philadelphia where he was soon joined by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky. He eschewed the perhaps easier path of serving as a rosh yeshiva at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, then headed by Rabbi Avrohom Kalmanowitz, his father-in-law. In Philadelphia, Rav Elya educated and influenced thousands of students, a great number of whom have had fruitful roles in our religious life.
With the passing of the Torah giants of the previous generation, Rav Elya was thrust into leadership, not as a result of any election or selection but simply through the recognition that he was, in effect, designated by his predecessors. This role was especially acknowledged by Israeli Torah leaders. In one of my few involvements with Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv regarding an American religious issue, I was told that this preeminent Torah leader was interested in hearing the views of Rabbi Svei and no one else.
Although his influence extended across our religious life, Rav Elya’s impact was most strongly felt in the educational sphere, where he worked without personal regard and often in a state of exhaustion, assisting yeshivas and day schools throughout North America. He had remarkable awareness and insight into the dynamics of day school education. For all of his Herculean and singular efforts, he was intensely modest, not once speaking of his own role.
Over the years, the circle that relied on his guidance grew, as was often apparent at weddings and dinners where there was constantly a line of educators and lay leaders seeking his counsel. For all of the public persona that emerged, he was a quiet and thoughtful man and I confess that, at times, I hoped he would abjure public speaking altogether. He was a terrific listener, drawing out the salient points from those who sought his advice. He treated those who came to him with respect and he regarded each situation and institution as unique.
About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick is president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. He has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Charges from the court of world public opinion and their refutations.
It is up to our government to ensure that their sacrifices were not made for short-term gains.
Supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has become dangerous in Malmo.
Regional pro-US Arab countries rely on Israel as a deterrence to rogue Islamic regimes.
He has always supported the underdog, once even quite literally, legislating a law that prohibits the abandonment of pets.
Temech is about providing a community – a place where religious women can learn, collaborate and refresh themselves with like-minded people.
Netanyahu has decided that the lives of Israeli are more important than looking good for Obama, U.N. and the NY Times.
Many Jews join the Israel-haters with their progressive ideology and politically correct obsessions.
“The will to triumph is a prerequisite for victory.” Abba Kovner
How can you run away from Israel and all the things that have shaped your life?
“Am HaNetzach Eino Mefached Mi Derech Aruka” (An eternal people doesn’t fear the long journey).
Isn’t it comforting to know that our God loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?
We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.
As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.
As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.
A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.
There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.
Where children are emotionally and socially when they are not in school is a matter of growing concern for educators, especially in Jewish schools and other religious institutions.
It often seems that it’s always open season on teachers, that they are available for target practice in the form of harsh criticism or verbal and written abuse from current parents, former parents, current students, former students, administrators, lay leaders and, in the case of public education, public officials and the media.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/reflections-on-rav-svei/2009/04/01/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: