web analytics
November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Reflections On Rav Svei


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.

There was no formulaic response to the questions that came to him. He was, at once, wise and fair. When, years ago, the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School took the extraordinary step of ensuring the survival of the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island, Rav Elya’s guidance was critical as we traversed difficult issues.

A man of total integrity, I doubt he ever felt fully comfortable in the organizational world, even in situations where he was vested with authority. Organizations require a degree of loyalty that can compromise one’s commitment to integrity. He struggled with this dualism for years and the struggle constituted a painful chapter that cannot readily be discussed, at least not yet. When he decided to leave organizational life, many in his circle followed his example, not because he instructed them to do so but because they believed that it was the right thing to do.

In his deeply moving hesped more than twenty-five years ago for Rabbi Shneuer Kotler in Lakewood, Rav Elya cried out, “You can now go to your father and say, ‘I have fulfilled your mission, I have fulfilled your mission.’ ”

So, too, Rav Elya can now go to the great rosh yeshiva and say, “I have fulfilled your mission, I have fulfilled your mission.”

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Reflections On Rav Svei”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Colleagues of the hanged Arab bus driver whose death continues to be referred to as murder despite autopsy finding of suicide. These are Arab drivers of Egged buses, claiming they suffer discrimination by Israelis.
Arab Pathologist Singing New Tune: Murder (By Jews) Not Suicide
Latest Indepth Stories
Dalia Lemkos, HY"D Is this the image you think of when you hear the word "settler?"

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Temple_Mount_aerial_from_south_tb_q010703bsr-300x225

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

voting

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

Israel’s Temple Mount policy prefers to blames the Jews-not the attackers-for the crisis.

When Islam conquered the Holy Land, it made its capital in Ramle of all places, not in Jerusalem.

I joined the large crowd but this time it was more personal; my cousin Aryeh was one of the victims.

Terrorists aren’t driven by social, economic, or other grievances, rather by a fanatical worldview.

The phrase that the “Arabs are resorting to violence” is disgraceful and blames the victim.

Tuesday, Yom Shlishi, a doubly good day in the Torah, Esav’s hands tried to silence Yaakov’s voice.

Because of the disparate nature of the perpetrators, who are also relatively young, and given the lack of more traditional targets and the reverence Palestinians have for their homes, one now hears talk of Israel returning to a policy of destroying the houses of terrorists’ families.

In any event, the Constitution gives Congress what is popularly described as the “power of the purse” – that is, the power to raise revenues through taxation and to decide how the money should be sent.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

There was much to learn from Judge Kramer and the examples he set remains a source of inspiration and a resource from which to learn. He was and remains a great role model.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

Front-Page-090514

Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/reflections-on-rav-svei/2009/04/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: