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Rav Aharon Kotler

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Rav Aharon Kotler - Recreating The Lost World In a Least Likely Place
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Rav Aharon Kotler pulled off a historic accomplishment by opening one of the first European standard Yeshivos on the shores of America. Rav Aharon was not one to compromise and build a Yeshiva within the framework of what America had to offer. No, he wanted an authentic Yeshiva and that is what he got; post high school intense Torah study with no secular studies and a Kollel to boot!

Rav Aharon was born in Svislovitz, Poland in 1891. He studied in the famed Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania under the legendary Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein. After his marriage to the daughter of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, the Rosh Yeshiva of Slutsk, Rav Aharon moved to Slutsk and began to give shiurim in the yeshiva. In the wake of World War I he moved the yeshiva from the Soviet-controlled area to Kletzk in Poland. There he became one of the best-known figures in Polish rabbinical circles. He was the youngest member of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel.

With the outbreak of World War II, Rav Aharon and the yeshiva relocated to Vilna, the major refuge of most yeshivos as it was under control of an independent Lithuania and not subject to either Nazi or Russian rule. Rav Aharon ultimately emigrated to the United States via Siberia in 1941 to join Rav Moshe Feinstein in building post Holocaust Yiddishkeit in America. It is told that he performed a Goral HaGra to help determine if he should move to Eretz Yisroel or America. It took him to the Pasuk in Shemos 4:27 "And Hashem said to Aharon go towards your brother Moshe in the desert." The desert refering to America which was desert compared to the lush and fertile grounds of the European Yeshiva world. His brother Moshe he understood as Rav Moshe Feinstein.

In 1943 Rav Aharon opened the doors of Bais Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. He chose Lakewood, New Jersey, as the site for his new Yeshiva in America, far from the distractions of New York City. From humble beginnings and against all odds with only a handful of talmidim, the Yeshiva grew by leaps and bounds. The dream was realized. The intense Torah study that had prevailed in eastern Europe was successfully re-created in the United States. By the time Rav Aharon passed away, there were hundreds of talmidim who had a major impact on Torah education in America.

Until his sudden death in 1962 Rav Aharon had a hand in most successful frum ventures including helping establish Chinuch Atzmai, the independent religious school system in Eretz Yisroel. He was the chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel. He also chaired the Rabbinical administration board of Torah Umesorah and was on the presidium of the Agudas HaRabbonim of the U.S. and Canada.

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