Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz

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Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz

Hebrew: הרב חיים מרדכי כ"ץ
Also Known As: "Mottel"
Birthplace: Šeduva, Radviliškis District Municipality, Šiauliai County, Lithuania
Death: November 17, 1964 (70)
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States
Place of Burial: Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Yaakov Katz and Rachel Leah Katz
Husband of Perel Leah Katz; Chaya Katz and Esther Mindel Katz
Father of Rachel Katz; שמואל Katz; Avneir Katz; Eliezer Katz; Yehoshua Katz and 11 others
Brother of Abba Katz; Leon Bernard Katz; Eva Krikler; Anne Goldberg; Yetta Wise and 2 others

Occupation: Rosh Yeshiva Telz
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz

Chaim Mordechai Katz (Hebrew: חיים מרדכי כץ‎; 1894–1964) was an Orthodox rabbi, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, and among American Jewry's foremost religious leaders.


Katz was born in 1894 in Shadova, Lithunania. As a young man, he studied in the yeshiva in Shadova, under the tutelage of the town's rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch. In 1910, he went to study in the Knesses Beis Yitzchak yeshiva in Slobodka for a year, following which, in 1911, he returned to study under Bloch, who had been appointed as Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Telz.

In 1914, Katz went to the Volozhin Yeshiva for two years where he was ordained by Rabbi Refael Shapiro, the son-in-law of the Netziv. In 1916 he studied under Rabbi Shlomo Polachek, the renowned "Maitziter Illuy". In 1918 he returned to Telz, where he married Perel Leah, Bloch's daughter.

In 1920, Katz assisted his father in law in the founding of a preparatory school for young men (Mechina), which would prepare younger students for study in the yeshiva proper. Katz was appointed director of the Mechina. In 1922, a postgraduate institute (Kollel) was founded in Telz and he was appointed Head of the Institute.

In 1930, Katz's father, wife, third oldest child (Shmuel, aged six) and father in law died. The following year he married Chaya Kravitz, Bloch's niece.

In 1934, Katz was one of the founders of the Zeirei Agudath Israel in Lithuania and he served as the head of the Board of Action (Va'ad Hapoel). Together with his brother in law, Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, he also served as one of the editors of the Agudah newspaper in Lithuania: "Dos Yiddishe Lebben".

He participated in the first Knessiah Gedolah of the Agudath Israel in 1923 and at the third Knessiah Gedolah in 1937 he was appointed a member of the International Action Committee (Va'ad Hapoel Ha'olami).

In 1940, Katz and Eliyahu Meir Bloch managed to travel out of Soviet occupied Lithuania and make their way to the United States, in the hope of re-establishing the Rabbinical College of Telshe and bringing over its faculty and student body. Both Katz and Bloch were unable to bring their wives and children, the fate of whom remained unknown to them until 1944.

In October 1942 Katz and Bloch re-established the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio. Together, in 1943 they established a Jewish day school: The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland.

Towards the end of the war Katz discovered that his wife and 10 children had been killed by Nazi forces in Telz in 1941. Bloch's family suffered a similar fate.

In 1946 Katz married Esther Mindle Mandel. In 1947 Katz and Bloch established a Hebrew School for girls in Cleveland called Yavneh, under the framework of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland.

In 1954 Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch died, and Katz became head of the yeshiva (Rosh Yeshiva).

In addition to running the yeshiva, Katz remained very communally active, both locally, nationally and internationally.

Katz served as a member on the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the Agudath Israel. Together with Rabbi Aharon Kotler, he undertook to ensure the financial needs of the Chinuch Atzmai (religious education network in Israel) were met, encouraging the students of the yeshiva to raise funds for Chinuch Atzmai in their vacation period. In 1957 the yeshiva moved from downtown Cleveland to its present-day location in Wickliffe, Ohio, on the outskirts of Cleveland.

In winter of 1958 he was hospitalized for a serious heart attack. Despite his health, he continued to actively run the yeshiva and remained active in the wider community.

In 1960 he established Telshe Chicago - a branch of the yeshiva in Chicago, Illinois.

On Tuesday morning, January 1, 1963, a fire broke out in one of the three dormitories at the yeshiva. Two students died in the fire and local authorities closed the remaining two dormitories as a safety measure. Katz guided the yeshiva through the difficult period, again, rebuilding. That year he participated at the Knessiah Gedolah of the Agudath Israel in Jerusalem, where he spoke on numerous occasions.

On November 17, 1964 Katz suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was interred on Har HaMenuchot.

His son Rabbi Yaakov Zev (Velvel) Katz founded and leads the Cedar-Green Community Kollel in Beachwood Ohio, officially named Kollel Yad Chaim Mordechai, after his father.

Letter by Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz (1894-1964), son-in-law of R' Y. L. Bloch. (Image)

Letter: 3 leaves, (Stationery of "Centre Hotel - Yokohama").

Long letter (3 leaves) by Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch and Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz. Yokohama, Japan, Tishrei 1940. Sent on their way to the US, to Rabbi Moshe Blau, head of Agudat Yisrael in Jerusalem:

”For over a month, we are staying in the port city of Japan, Yokohama. We are among the first survivors and arrived here with an American tourist visa. Naturally, we are considered community delegates to transmit to our brethren [information] about the situation of the Jewish people...".

Further in the detailed letter, they describe the destruction of the European and Lithuanian communities ravaged by war and write about the difficult situation and the Russian occupation of Lithuania. [This letter was written before the Nazi invasion of Lithuania in the summer of 1941].

They write about the heads of the Telz Yeshiva and of the students who do not know if they will succeed leaving Japan [in the end, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch and most of the yeshiva students were murdered by the Nazis, and some were exiled to Siberia].

Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch (1895-1955), son Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch served for 12 years as head of the Telz Yeshiva in Lithuania in the lifetime of his father [from 1928]. In 1940, two heads of the Telz Yeshiva in Lithuania,

Rabbi E. M. Bloch and Rabbi C. M. Katz left on the perilous journey via Siberia and Japan to the US to try to rescue their wives and children and the yeshiva students and their families who remained in the war-ravaged city of Telz. Upon their arrival in the US, they decided to found a new yeshiva on US soil. In Cheshvan 1941, they established the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio.

Until 1945, they were not informed of the details of the destruction and horrific annihilation. Only after the war, they discovered that most of the rabbis and students of the yeshiva and their families were brutally murdered at the time Lithuania was occupied by the Germans. However, Telz Torah was saved by their tremendous efforts to strengthen and glorify the Torah.

Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz (1894-1964), son-in-law of R' Y. L. Bloch was known from his youth as an outstanding Torah prodigy. He headed the kollel in the city of Telz and after the Holocaust founded and headed the Telz Yeshivas in Cleveland and in Chicago.

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Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz's Timeline

November 3, 1894
Šeduva, Radviliškis District Municipality, Šiauliai County, Lithuania
Telšiai, Telšiai District Municipality, Telšiai County, Lithuania
Telšiai, Telšiai District Municipality, Telšiai County, Lithuania