Rav Aharon Kotler
Rav AharonKotler was one of the very few Torah giants who contributed mightily to the transformation of the face of American Jewry in the middle of the twentieth century from one of Torah ignorance and mourning over the Holocaust to significant progress in Torah knowledge and partial recovery from the tragedy of the Holocaust. When he arrived in the United States in April of 1941, while the fire of Nazism was raging in Europe, he addressed an audience and that had came to onlyhelp save American Yidden.
He dedicated his life, night and day, to the building of Torah in America and by leadership of an organization called ChinuchAtzmai, Independent Torah Education, in Israel as well.
Known in his youth as the SvislovitzerIlui, the Torah prodigy from Svislovitz, his fame had spread throughout the Torah world of Lithuania, and he had risen to become the head of the Yeshiva of Kletsk. He considered the Vilna Gaon, an eighteenth century Torah genius of exceptional greatness, one of his spiritual mentors. He saw in the case of the Gaon a genuine Divine revelation. He became the son-in-law of Rav IsserZalman Meltzer, another great TalmidChacham, and they had mutual respect to a high degree.
He chose Lakewood, New Jersey, as the site for his new Yeshiva in America, because its location, far from the distractions of New York City, would enable his students to concentrate on their studies. The Yeshiva began very humbly; Rabbi Ezra Novick, one of the earliest students, reports that when he joined the Yeshiva, there were only three students. By the time Rav Aharon passed away, there were hundreds of talmidim, and they were beginning to have a major impact on Torah education in America.
Rav Aharon’s efforts ultimately made a deep imprint upon American Jewry. Many thousands received a solid Torah education in or because of the Lakewood Yeshiva and its many branches during its first fifty years.