Not perfectly in sync with the regimented and staunchly religious life of the Meah Shearim neighborhood, Yitzchak Kroizer moved away from his family headquarters. The large Kroizer family, famous for their scholarship, had yet to have a single member residing in Rechavia prior to Yitzchak’s departure from Meah Shearim. But nine kilometers away, it was a different world regarding dress, and gainful employment was not taboo.
Yitzchak opened up a modest grocery store in Rechavia, which meant long hours and arduous work which enabled him to just barely eke out a living. Yitzchak’s son Avraham was sensitive to the family’s dire financial plight and wished to help out. His offer was quickly accepted and he was given the task of delivering fresh rolls and milk to the doors of ambassadors and other well-heeled individuals who lived in the area.
In order to fulfill this duty and still make it in time for school in the Geula neighborhood, two bus rides away, Avraham had to rise every morning at 5 a.m. This meant that this young boy had already worked for two hours hauling and performing deliveries before he departed for cheider. Two bus rides would have been a breeze to get him to school, but his father could not afford two bus rides (read: four back and forths to cheider), so Avraham took a bus halfway and walked the rest, inbound and outbound. Needless to say, all of this exertion and rising so early resulted in him sleeping through his classes.
When Avraham completed seventh grade and all of his classmates continued on to junior and regular high school, Avraham felt that his primary obligation was to assist his father whose livelihood was very tenuous. But as he did not have any particular talent, and was understandably poorly educated, he would grab any job that he could land.
When he was but seventeen-and-a-half years old, meaning underage, he volunteered to fight in Israel’s War of Independence. Avraham was involved in the battle and subsequent retreat from Neve Yaakov, which we described in our last column.
In that retreat, Avraham carried a wounded soldier on his back all the way to safety and became a lifelong friend of the man that he had rescued. Avraham was also wounded in the war.
After the war, there was an effort afoot to train soldiers for a profession that would enable them to mainstream into society. Avraham was encouraged to learn to become a taxi driver, but he resisted these efforts as he viewed it as a career that had no room for advancement. He therefore selected a different option from the lean list provided, which was to work for Israel’s Internal Revenue Service. Obviously, his job was not in a white-collar capacity, as he possessed the most limited elementary school education. He was thus recruited to work in the yard of the tax headquarters wrapping packages and tying binders together.
Avraham was an observant Jew in the fullest sense, and studied what was going on around him in the office, picking up some rudimentary income tax knowledge along the way. But for this information to be of any use to him, he would need to learn basics, and was referred to Beit Sefer No’ar Lomeid V’oveid which enabled youth to work during the day and study at night. The reference was of no use, for the school was not interested in him. They assured him that it would be embarrassing for him, a mature war veteran, to be in the same class as immature young teenagers. “Go learn to be a taxi driver,” they advised. But the shame was immaterial to him, and in a Rebbe Akiva-esque fashion, he attended classes and learned math for the first time.
Even with night school, Avraham remained only nominally educated, but he was high on motivation. So high that he taught himself to become a CPA and then returned to the very office where he had started, at the very lowest rung. Climbing and climbing, he became the Service’s vice counsel, which is the highest position, as the actual counsel is a government appointee.
Now a very accomplished accountant, he began to lecture in Hebrew University and established the accounting program in Michlalah. All the while his expertise became more renowned and Avraham was eventually offered a scholarship to study accounting in Scandinavia and the U.K. Once again Avraham went into self-study mode and in a few months became conversant and literate in English to enable this opportunity.
When Avraham retired from the Internal Revenue Service, he was still decades away from retiring from his profession. He opened a CPA firm, and through his office was able to help many people and do chesed for countless individuals who could never afford to extricate themselves from tax quagmires that engulfed them.