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Rabbis and students of Slabodka (Knesses Yisrael) Yeshiva - (Slabodka - Kaunas, Lithuania)

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Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka)

Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael was a yeshiva located in the Lithuanian town of Slabodka (Vilijampolė), adjacent to Kovno (Kaunas). It was known colloquially as the "mother of yeshivas" and was devoted to high-level study of the Talmud. It functioned from the late 19th century until World War II.


From the second half of the 19th century, Kovno became a center of Jewish cultural activity in Lithuania. Prominent there were Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (the "Kovner Rav"; officiated 1864-96); Abraham Mapu, one of the first modern Hebrew writers; and Israel Isidor Elyashev, the "Ba'al Makhshoves", the first Yiddish literary critic. The yeshivot of Slobodka, in particular the Or HaChaim yeshivah founded by Tzvi Levitan about 1863, attracted students from other countries and were headed by noted scholars. Nosson Tzvi Finkel, also known as "Der Alter fun Slabodka" (The Elder of Slabodka), introduced Musar ideals there. Headed by the rosh yeshiva, Moshe Mordechai Epstein, the Alter's yeshiva was known as the Slobodka yeshivah from 1881. Subsequently, there was opposition among the students to the Musar method, and in 1897 the yeshiva was divided into two. The followers of Musar established the Knesses Yisrael yeshivah, named after Yisroel Salanter, while its opponents founded the Knesset Beit Yitzchak yeshivah, named after Spektor. The yeshiva ceased operation during the Holocaust.

Relocation to Palestine

A 1924 edict requiring enlistment in the military or supplementary secular studies in the yeshiva led a large number of students in the Slabodka yeshiva to relocate to Mandatory Palestine. The Alter of Slabodka sent Avraham Grodzinski to head this group and establish the yeshiva in Hebron. Twenty-four students were murdered in the 1929 Hebron massacre, and the yeshiva was subsequently re-established in the Geula neighbourhood of Jerusalem. A branch was also established in Bnei Brak.

Prominent alumni

  • Gedaliah Alon, Israeli historian
  • Pessah Bar-Adon, Israeli archaeologist and writer
  • Ezriel Carlebach, journalist and editorial writer
  • David Cohen, rabbi, talmudist, philosopher and kabbalist
  • Ben-Zion Dinur, Zionist activist, educator, historian and Israeli politician
  • Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, rabbi in Soho, London
  • Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Mir yeshiva in both Poland and Jerusalem
  • Tzvi Pesach Frank, halakhic scholar and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem
  • Lazarus Goldschmidt, writer and translator of the Babylonian Talmud into German
  • Avraham Grodzinski, mashgiach ruchani, Slabodka yeshiva
  • Reuven Grozovsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
  • Yosef Zvi HaLevy, Israeli rabbi and head of the rabbinical court for Tel Aviv-Yafo
  • Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin
  • Meyer Juzint, American Talmudic scholar
  • Avraham Kalmanowitz, rosh yeshiva, Mir yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York
  • Yaakov Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
  • Avraham Elya Kaplan, rosh yeshiva, Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary
  • Aharon Kotler, rosh yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha
  • Dovid Leibowitz, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen
  • Yehuda Levenberg, chief rabbi and rosh yeshiva in New Haven, CT
  • Yeruchom Levovitz, mashgiach ruchani, Mir yeshiva (Belarus)
  • Saul Lieberman, professor of Talmud, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
  • Avigdor Miller, mashgiach ruchani, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and community rabbi
  • Ephraim Oshry, Lithuanian-born posek, rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol and Holocaust survivor
  • Eliezer Palchinsky, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Beis Aryeh, Jerusalem
  • Shlomo Polachek, Talmudic scholar and one of the earliest rosh yeshivas in America
  • Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Baltimore
  • Yechezkel Sarna, rosh yeshiva, Hebron yeshiva
  • Elazar Shach, rosh yeshiva, Ponovezh yeshiva
  • Moshe Shatzkes, Polish-born rabbi and rosh yeshiva, Yeshivas Grodno
  • Zalman Sorotzkin, Polish-born rabbi
  • Selig Starr, Talmudic instructor, Hebrew Theological College
  • Isaac Stollman, rabbi, author and religious Zionist leader
  • Naftoli Trop, rosh yeshiva, Raduń Yeshiva
  • Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, rosh yeshiva, Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary
  • Harry Austryn Wolfson, Harvard University scholar
  • Nissan Yablonsky, rosh yeshiva, Hebrew Theological College
  • Moshe Zilberg, Israeli jurist