Monday, August 29, 2011
תורה ומדע - תורה עם דר"א in Di Bukovina (why not us?)
(a Kol Koreh for the Sereter Trade School)
A good friend of the blog sent us this flyer for a trade school, today's version of IDT, or The Lander Beis HaMedrash (Touro College) that was set up by the late Sereter Rebbe, Reb Burech'l Hager, in Seret, Bukovina before WW2. He asked the question: "How is it different than what Dr. Lander instituted, where students learned half a day and learned a trade the other half, so that they could feed their families once they got married? I have no real answer for him. As many of you know, I myself went and learned a trade after I was married, so that I could feed my family - not that it worked out so great... I never really asked anybody of authority if I should go and do it, I just did. We've discussed this before, don't be so surprised. Maybe what upset some people was that Touro caters to bachurim who should otherwise be learning. In that case so did this Yeshiva; they weren't catering to married men back then, you can be sure of that. So what else can we say is the difference between back and then and today? There are probably several, both, geographic, time period and personality, as well as the people involved today and in der alter heim. Allow me to explain:
Geography is important here for several reasons. Bukovina was a wasteland by that time, as far as Yiddishkeit was concerned. The youth was going downhill fast. His own father, the Rebbe der Ahavas Yisrool left Vizhnitz, Bukovina during WW1 never to return. He said he couldn't bear to watch the youth go astray. He said he did it to save his own children... Not every bachur went to Yeshiva in those parts, not by a long shot, so any one that would come and learn for a half day was a big deal already. The fact that he worked for half a day and was taught by a G-d fearing Jew was a bonus, they were saving lives by having such a Yeshiva. These boys were also needed at home, to work in the fields or to do other work so to help feed the rest of the family, who might have otherwise starved. (Not that today is any different - many families would do alot better if the older boys went to work and helped with the bills, especially some of the boys who are wasting their time in Yeshivos... There, I go again, destroying my own point...) So to compare Bukovina, 1938 to Flatbush, 2009 may be a bit disingenuous. Or at least that's what they'll have you believe. The "time period" difference that we mentioned can be closely related to the "geography" issue, being that the time period has lots to do with the geography... The geography of Bukovina is what - you might say - made Bukovina into what it became, a place of Haskoloh and the abandonment of traditional Judaism en masse. Bukovina was not always that way, it boasted many great Tzaddikim and Rabbonim just a short time earlier, but the time period of post-WW1 was what destroyed it, much like in Poland, Lithuania and Russia.
Then there's the personality issue. The Sereter Rebbe was a gutter Yid who built Torah and made - or at least kept - hundreds of families into Shomrei Shabbos and Chassidishe Yidden. This was the case in Eretz Yisroel after WW2, and I'm sure he had done that in Bukovina, despite the fact that he didn't have all the mosdos that he ultimately built in Haifa. There was a nucleus in Seret that stayed frum despite all the hardships. Such a personality, with such Zchus Avos, has a very strong leg to stand on, no matter how revolutionary the idea that he proposes; (unless, of course, you're a Lubavitcher Rebbe...) So if the Sereter Rebbe wants to start a trade school and teach Bocherim how to earn a living, then so be it.But it's not just about the Sereter Rebbe. In Seret there was no Rosh Yeshiva who decided that he was the רשכבה"ג and that all must heed his words, like there was in Bnei Beraq. Heck, there wasn't even one in Vilna, Mir or Slabodka for that matter. All those Roshei Yeshiva, may they rest in peace, were concerned about their own talmidim and their own problems! So had Dr. Lander done this in Europe chances are that there would be little or no opposition to his school, not that the opposition accomplished much anyway. The place is packed with Chassidishe and Yeshivishe yungeleit and girls, and Lakewood even set one up in a nearby town... So there you have my 2 cents.
The Sereter Rebbe (r) at a simcha, possibly pre-WW2
But in the end it didn't matter much. Even if you had a parnosoh you were rounded up and sent to Transnistria and may have died on one of the Death Trains. Or if you were so lucky, you survived the trains but died later in some death camp... All Jews shared the same fate, no matter your level of observance, and no matter if you stayed away from Torah im Derech Eretz. The Bukoviner and Bessaraber Yidden may have borne the brunt of it all; their culture was totally wiped out, even more so than the Polish and Litvish. At least with the P&Ls the Hungarians rekindled that culture to the best of their abilities (where Litvishe are concerned) and some remnants of Poylishe Judentum remained, mostly from pre-war aliyah. But with the Bessaraber and Bukoviner it's GONE! Well, there was a quasi-renewal after the fall of the Soviet Union, when you could once again hear from an old man how he "iz illemoo'el gegunnen koyfen mutzes in peysikh," and how "er hut ul ding voos er durf..." So was the will of Hashem.
I hope the point was made.