Continuation of a series about the passing of Rav Yitzchok Hutner's disciples:
The Changing of an Era Part I (Aug 2, 2022)
The Changing of an Era Part II (Aug 8, 2022)
Over the past year (2022 to 2023) a number of Rav Yitzchok Hutner's great disciples have sadly passed away and it is very much worth focusing on their greatness and memory. Besides being great Torah and Talmud scholars they were also extremely charismatic, famous and popular Marbitzei Torah (great teachers of Torah) especially in the New York Torah yeshiva world.
Each one was attached to Rav Yitzchok Hutner (1906–1980) Lev Vanefesh (heart and soul) and a tremendous personality of sterling human qualities and volumes can be written about them and their accomplishments. The following is only the merest of memories about these great people and in no way is meant to be a conclusive summation of their true greatness as Torah personalities.
In alphabetical order:
Rav Shlomo Braunstein was a brilliant Talmid Chochem (Torah scholar) and holder of a doctorate in mathematics from a prestigious university which he never bragged about. Over time he held various positions such as: assistant Mashgiach (spiritual supervisor) at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin; Rosh Yeshiva of the Bostoner Yeshiva in Flatbush, Brooklyn; Magid Shiur (lecturer) in Yeshiva Emek Halacha and Menahel (principal) of the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin High School that he held until his passing. He had the warmest and most welcoming of personalities and greeted everyone with his trademark friendly sincere wide smile. Even though he was a great Talmudic genius he made every student and everyone he met comfortable in his presence. He was part of a large family that all have these trademark qualities of warmth, humor and friendliness and his own children are likewise great Torah scholars and teachers following in his footsteps.
His love for his Rebbi Rav Hutner was never-ending and the feelings were mutual. Rav Braunstein once told the story of how in his youth he was once sitting with Rav Hutner who told him about his long-ago relationship with Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook (1865–1935) that he (Rav Hutner) "was so close to Rav Kook as if he were under his (Rav Kook's) Talis Koton"! Which Rav Braunstein later told over to a group of rapt listeners. Mishpacha magazine published an eloquent article "The Wisdom to Build" (Aug 23, 2022) in memory of Rav Braunstein that is worth reading.
Rav Feivel Cohen was a noted Posek (decisor of Jewish Law) and Halachist who over time served as the Rosh Yeshiva at: Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin; Yeshiva Nachalas HaLevi'im; Yeshiva of Brooklyn. He also served as the longtime Rov of Congregation Tomchei Torah in Flatbush, Brooklyn. He is the author of works on Talmud called Daas Kohen and he is the author of the famous Halachic work Badei HaShulchan: "It is commonly used by rabbis and is sometimes a required text in yeshivahs, especially when studying the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut). Other volumes in the series cover the laws of mourning, tzedakah, vows, ritual immersion and the laws of family purity." (Wikipedia).
To say that Rav Cohen was a Gaon (Talmudic genius) would be an understatement. When Rav Cohen first published his Badei HaShulchan it only included an approbation from his Rebbi Rav Hutner who stated that "of one thousand students who enter the halls of Torah study only one comes out as an authority of Halacha (Jewish Law), and of of one thousand that become authorities of Halacha only one comes as a Creator of Halacha" and Rav Feivel Cohen is such a one! Rav Cohen came from a notable rabbinical family yet and his chosen Rebbi was Rav Hutner to whom he remained a loyal Talmid (student) his entire life. Rav Feivel Cohen's children follow in his footsteps and are noted rabbis in their own right. The Jewish Press published an interesting commemorative article "Remembering Rav Feivel Cohen: The Understated Posek For Our Time" (Dec 14, 2022) by a woman who grew up in his community.
Rebbetzin Bruria Hutner David was the only child of Rav Yitzchok Hutner and she can rightly be called one of Rav Hutner's closest students and disciples as well, because she was a brilliant and avid scholar of Rav Hutner's teachings and writings that have become known as the Pachad Yitzchok books.
Rebbetzin Bruria Hutner David (1938–2023) was regarded with great respect and awe by all of Rav Hutner's students and disciples in "The Chaim Berlin Family" and community as a result of the fact that she was incredibly gifted and was Rav Hutner's only child, and that she was brilliant and pious in her own right, she picked up on everything that was going on around her illustrious father in his role as the famous Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Kollel Gur Aryeh who eventually became a leading rabbi on the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of America.
She was always around famous rabbis and rebbetzins and married Rav Yonason David the eventual co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in America and the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Pachad Yitzchok in Israel. Rebbetzin David went on to become a trailblazing educator of young Orthodox Jewish women and founded the famous and elite Beth Jacob Jerusalem (BJJ) in Israel that has educated thousands of young Orthodox Jewish women based on Rebbetzin David's educational philosophy. An article in her honor is "Remembering Rebbetzin Bruria Hutner David" (May 7, 2023).
Rav Yehoshua (Shia) Fishman became a close disciple of Rav Yitzchok Hutner as a young teenager and never stopped openly and publicly praising the bond of love that existed between himself and Rav Hutner. Rav Fishman went into the field of Chinuch (Torah education) and never left the field of educating Jewish youngsters in the ways of Torah learning, life and living. After serving as a Melamed (teacher) and Menahel (principal) in the New York area, Rav Hutner hand picked him to serve on the executive board of Torah Umesorah: The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, see also Torah Umesorah, and he eventually was appointed to its leadership role of Executive Vice President, the top leader of that organization. In this capacity he succeeded the legendary founders of Torah Umesorah Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz (1886–1948) and Dr. Joe Kaminetsky (1911–1999) and excelled in expanding the scope, depth and reach of the organization to serve more pupils, teachers and principals.
Rav Fishman expanded the scope of Torah Umesorah by adding new programs to it such as the Jewish Outreach program called Partners in Torah, playing a key role in establishing out-of-town community Kollelim all over America, promoting Project SEED whereby young adult yeshiva students spend their summer weeks learning with people in far flung communities, and many other original and innovative programs and projects that have been put into action. I owe a great debt of personal gratitude to Rav Shia Fishman because he was the one who referred me to go learn in the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in 1976 where I developed a very close connection with many of Rav Hutner's disciples and where I studied for ten years from 1976 to 1986 lasting to this day. The editor of the American Yated Ne'eman wrote a great tribute "Rav Shea Fishman zt'l" (Feb 15, 2023) in memory of Rav Fishman.
Rav Matis Greenblatt was an important Torah writer, teacher, thinker and journalist who from his early years was a close disciple of Rav Hutner. Rav Greenblatt wrote for various Jewish Orthodox and Torah-based publications and most notably he worked for the prestigious Orthodox Union, see its own website at OU as the editor of its groundbreaking and pioneering Jewish Actionmagazine for thirty years!
In an article in Jewish Action: "Rabbi Matis Greenblatt: A Dedicated Editor Retires" (Spring 2014) Rav Greenblatt is praised as follows: "Matis is a consummate talmid chacham—an expert, whether in Talmud, midrash, Jewish philosophy or the history of machshavah. Whether it was Klezmer or classical music, novels or biographies, Chassidism or Mitnagdism, politics or organizations, Matis had an interest in and a firm knowledge of the subject matter...Under his guidance, we published articles covering the full range of Orthodox Torah scholarship, from Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook to Rav Yitzchak Hutner, from Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach."
The Rosh Yeshiva Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (1933–2015) affirms his and Rav Greenblatt's status as disciples of Rav Hutner when he writes that "Rav Matis Greenblatt’s sensitive and illuminating portrait (“Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner: The Vision Before His Eyes,” Jewish Action, Summer 2001) of our mutual rebbi, served both the Rosh Yeshivah (as we all called him) and the readers of Jewish Action well." (Jewish Action, Summer 2002).
Rav Yosef Mitnick was one of Rav Hutner's closest, most beloved and popular Talmidim. When Rav Mitnick would talk about Rav Hutner both during Rav Hutner's lifetime and during all the decades after Rav Hutner passed away it would be in tearful, rapturous tones of love and longing for his Rebbi Rav Hutner.
Rav Mitnick merited to be the first one to get a Kollel paycheck from the newly founded Kollel Gur Aryeh established in 1956 by Rav Hutner and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. Rav Mitnick went on to become a legendary teacher of Orthodox Jewish boys and girls for the remainder of his active adult life. To support a growing family Rav Mitnick became a qualified insurance agent and with the blessings of Rav Hutner was the "official" life insurance agent to the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin community and to many religious Jews in Brooklyn. He had a sterling reputation in his dual roles as educator and insurance agent and was always a happy, optimistic inspirational figure.
He and his wife welcomed untold numbers of guests for Shabbos and holiday meals into their home. He was joy and happiness incarnate with his gigantic Simchas HaChaim (joie de vivre) but he could easily be moved to heart-rending deeply felt tears especially when called upon to be the Shaliach Tzibbur (prayer leader) on days like Hoshana Rabba in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin. The Yeshiva World "BD'E: Harav Yosef Yisroel Mitnick ZT'L" (June 25, 2023) wrote about Rav Mitnick:
"A master mechanech for more than six decades, Rav Mitnick was a talmid muvhak of Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt”l, and was the founding member of Kollel Gur Aryeh," and Matzav "Rabbi Yosef Mitnick z'l" (June 25, 2023) wrote that "Rabbi Mitnick was an extraordinary mechanech, whose simchas hachaim and good cheer uplifted his many talmidim, infusing them with ahavas haTorah and ahavas Hashem. Generations of students remain grateful to him for the knowledge he imparted and the ruach that he brought with him every day."
Rav Moshe Yanovsky was both a brilliant educator of Orthodox Jewish girls for his entire life as well as having an additional career as a distinguished mathematician and professor of mathematics in college. He was in addition a very successful Shadchan (Jewish matchmaker) having made dozens of happy marriages often for graduates of his girls school to young yeshiva men.
He was always thinking "outside of the box" and was able to analyze and dissect intricate problems of human relations as well as solving great institutional problems. He was the consummate educational administrator and was followed in this role by a few of his very capable sons. He was devoted heart and soul to the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and always lived close to it and learned Torah and prayed there as much as he possibly could. In many ways he mirrored Rav Hutner's ingenuity as a master of human nature and was able to guide his students and anyone who sought out his advice in original and productive ways.
Matzav's tribute upon his passing "Rabbi Moshe Yanofsky z'l" (Dec 22, 2022) said it well: "Rabbi Yanofsky was the founder and longtime beloved principal at Machon Bais Yaakov in Boro Park. Reb Moshe was also the long-time principal of Bais Yaakov of Boro Park, serving alongside Rav Boruch and Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan for over 20 years. Reb Moshe was known for his humor and humility. 'Please don’t call me Rabbi,' he would say, not wanting an honorific in front of his name. My whole life I’ve been known as Mr. Yanofsky. Rabbi Yanofsky was a pioneering mechanech [educator], who, with creativity, good cheer, and inspiration, influenced thousands of talmidos [female students] over the years." An impressive article about Rabbi Yanovsky "Educator of Each Girl" (Jan 27, 2021) was published in Ami magazine prior to his passing.
The tragic loss of these great multi-talented and multifaceted Torah personalities who were so close to Rav Yitzchok Hutner during their lives until their own passing cannot be summed up with mere words. Their own greatness was tied in with the influence that their great Torah teacher Rav Yitzchok Hutner had on their lives transforming them into great people devoted to the cause of Torah education and the development of well-balanced, happy and harmonious Torah oriented students and adults who they nurtured and developed following in the footsteps of their great Rebbi, Rav Yitzchok Hutner.
The related series of articles about Rav Yitzchok Hutner:
Remembering Rav Yitzchok Hutner's Legacy (Sep 20, 2022)
Remembering Rebbetzin Bruria Hutner David (May 7, 2023)
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin was born to Holocaust survivor parents in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and of Teachers College–Columbia University. He heads the Jewish Professionals Institute dedicated to Jewish Adult Education and Outreach – Kiruv Rechokim. He was the Director of the Belzer Chasidim's Sinai Heritage Center of Manhattan 1988–1995, a Trustee of AJOP 1994–1997 and founder of American Friends of South African Jewish Education 1995–2015. He is also a docent and tour guide at The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Downtown Manhattan, New York. He is the author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy. Contact Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin at[email protected]