By Menachem Ziegelboim
media recently reported about a Lubavitcher yeshiva student
who was struck by an anti-religious Shinui activist following a
demonstration against the growth of the Chabad movement in the
Ramat Aviv neighborhood * We went to Ramat Aviv and found the
youngest Chabad community in Eretz Yisroel growing and blossoming
under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg, along with senior
shaliach Rabbi Dovid Oshaki
following notice was printed as a warning by the “Voice of the
Silent Majority” of Ramat Aviv in the face of plans for
domination by Lubavitcher Chassidim of the exclusive Ramat Aviv
Residents: Lately we have been witness to a growing number of
religious families and groups buying and renting apartments in the
neighborhood. These apartments are on Borodetzky, Noach, and
Brazil streets. More recently, in addition, there is an apartment
on Berliner St. and one on Frankel St. Experience has taught that
sometimes positive intentions are not mutual. Furthermore, we
think that the neighborhood of Ramat Aviv Alef has been
“poisoned” lately by the religious element, as a potential
springboard for dominating the area. Apparently, attempts by the
religious to have the kollel on the roof of the shul
on Borodetzky St. approved, which failed due to pressure from
neighborhood representatives, and the tefillin stand the
Lubavitchers set up each Friday near the mall, are part of this
Chabad community of Ramat Aviv is the youngest Chabad community in
Eretz Yisroel, yet it has been in the papers a great deal. The
papers were full of articles about the demonstrations held by the
Left against Chabad in the area. In order to properly report to
the readers of Beis Moshiach about this flourishing
new community, we went to visit this exclusive northern locale to
visit an old friend from yeshiva days, Rabbi Yosef Ginsberg.
is called Rabbi Yossi in the yeshiva. He is soft-spoken and
deliberate, and when you speak to him, he gives you his full
attention. He came to Ramat Aviv after his marriage in Adar five
years ago. He sought a shlichus in the first Israeli city,
and then he met his friend, Rabbi Shlomo Kalish, who asked him,
“Why don’t you come to us, to Ramat Aviv?” Yossi didn’t
hesitate, despite his awareness of the demographics of the area.
Two weeks before his wedding, he came looking for an apartment.
After getting permission from the Director of the Chabad House of
the Eiver HaYarkon neighborhoods, Rabbi Dovid Oshaki, he has been
there ever since.
you come to a neighborhood that is antagonistic to you, where do
not as bad as it may seem, although the reception has definitely
been unfriendly at times. First I opened a tefillin stand
in the center of the business district. For the people here, it
was as though we had fallen from the moon. It was really
frustrating to stand there for three or four hours and to put tefillin
on only one person, two at the most.”
Ginsberg didn’t despair. In his quiet way, he began breaking
down the wall of apathy and coldness. One day he walked down the
street and encountered a group of teenagers sitting around and
talking. “Perhaps you would like to come with me to my house to
say l’chaim,” he suggested, and they came! He emptied
out his cupboard and served his guests. Then he suggested that
they join him for the Shabbos meal the next day. “That was the
first peula I did,” he reminisces.
Ginsberg and his wife weren’t shocked by the guests who began
frequenting their home on Friday nights. “For two months we had
eaten alone, but from that day on we haven’t had a meal with
fewer than twenty to thirty guests,” they say. One of the
members of the community added that there were Shabbosos with as
many as sixty guests. The Shabbos meals generally last until two
or three in the morning.
the first Purim after their wedding, they gave mishloach manos
to the forty-five families in the building. Ten of them slammed
the door, but the rest were more polite.
your knowing what the neighborhood was like, were you unpleasantly
fact that the entrance to the building I live in still doesn’t
have a mezuza really hurts me. My neighbors are adamantly
opposed to having a mezuza. I was also surprised to hear
the rumors that we paid people off to come and daven, or
that we pay children to come to our events.”
of the tremendous opposition we had heard about, we were amazed to
hear the good news Rabbi Ginsberg reported. “You see the dozens
of bachurim learning here? This is a beautiful yeshiva
gedola. And we have a community of 11-12 Lubavitcher families
who had previously been completely non-religious. We plan to open
a nursery school here next year, too.”
Ginsberg says this all quietly and calmly, but it really is quite
astounding. I exit Rabbi Ginsberg’s unfurnished office and walk
to the yeshiva’s zal. About thirty boys are
sitting and learning diligently, one with a Gemara, another
with a Rashba, a third studying a Gemara for beginners.
Volumes of maamarim are still scattered about on the
tables, left there from the morning’s class in Chassidus.
you expect the work here to be easier or harder?
didn’t come to Ramat Aviv for anybody’s approval. I came here
to work and build a Chabad community and to do the Rebbe
thrilling to see the yeshiva in action. Near the yeshiva
is the Chabad community, both under the leadership of R’ Yossi.
The community is actually an outgrowth of the yeshiva.
“The bachurim marry, and many of them settle here. The
teachers at the yeshiva also live here,” explains Rabbi
Ben-Tzion Schwartz, who joined the staff at the yeshiva.
“In fact, the connection between the community and the yeshiva
is so close that the community is called by the unique
appellation, Kehillas HaYeshiva.”
Ginsberg sees things a little differently: “Yes, there is a
successful union between the community and the yeshiva, but
I still see them as two distinct entities. I see the yeshiva
as the soul and the community as the body. The bachurim contribute
the soul, that’s for sure, and the community contributes
stability and a warm home.”
made you decide to start with a yeshiva, something hardly
any Chabad House has?
is a sicha where the Rebbe connects the idea of a Chabad
House with the idea of Tomchei Tmimim. It really works out
extremely well. When you have a yeshiva near a community,
it automatically helps develop the community. A yeshiva is
a place where you daven and learn Torah all day. It
definitely draws people in.
when you are mekarev someone to Yiddishkeit, you
have a place to send him to learn and progress. When you are mekarev
someone to Yiddishkeit and they have to go learn
elsewhere, or even daven in a shul with a different nusach,
you lose them.
recently started an early morning minyan for baalei
battim of the neighborhood. Formerly, people we were mekarev
davened elsewhere, but now they daven in a
Chabad shul and remain connected to us.”
Ben-Tzion Schwartz: “Before he married, R’ Yossi was on shlichus
in Australia. Long ago, the Rebbe said to conquer Australia
through Torah. R’ Yosef decided to do the same thing here, and
to conquer Ramat Aviv though Torah, turning the place into a makom
ESTABLISHMENT AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE YESHIVA
yeshiva opened only three years ago, albeit under very
limited circumstances. Rabbi Ginsberg worked at Mercaz Tzach in
Kfar Chabad. He began a series of classes for young people in the
neighborhood of Tel Baruch. After a while, it became a
full-fledged learning program, where whoever desired could come
and learn. It finally became an actual yeshiva. This yeshiva
receives tremendous support from the Chabad yeshiva in
Tzfas, headed by Rabbi Y.Y. Wilschansky. He has done much to help
the yeshiva advance spiritually.
the first three years, the yeshiva was in a tiny apartment
in the center of Ramat Aviv. The bachurim learned there for
half a day. Conditions were very limited, and everybody realized
that they had to expand, but Ramat Aviv was no simple nut to
Amir Kahane, menahel of the yeshiva explains: “In
all four neighborhoods of Ramat Aviv (Alef to Dalet), there is
hardly anything available to rent. It is the most sought after
area in the entire country, and everything is taken. I’m talking
about simple apartments, not to mention large, spacious apartments
for a yeshiva.
estate agents laughed at me and said, ‘You must be kidding.
There’s nothing to talk about.’ I looked everywhere, turning
Ramat Aviv upside-down, and saw for myself that the real estate
agents weren’t kidding.
were considering expanding our premises in the yard of the mamlachti-dati
school in Alumot. We prepared architectural plans, but the
city council did not approve them, thanks to political pressure.
So that was that. Our place was too small and there was nowhere to
move to. We were stuck, so we wrote to the Rebbe and presented
three possibilities. Either the head shaliach of Tel Aviv,
Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky (who helps us year-round), would use his
connections at the council so we would get permission to build, or
we should wait for things to work themselves out, or we should
look elsewhere. We asked this question two days after having put
our plans for a building in the Igros Kodesh.
answer we received from the Rebbe was truly amazing. The Rebbe
acknowledged that he had received the map (i.e., the plans for a
building), and the Rebbe added, “the yeshiva should be
located as far as possible from the school…”
was a clear answer for us to stop our classes at the hall of the
school in Alumot. The Rebbe also said that the yeshiva
should be in a place where there wouldn’t be any flooding.
Third, the Rebbe added his usual advice to take a location with
room for expansion. As far as the idea of renting near Ramat Aviv,
the Rebbe said, “to work specifically in your area,” in other
words, not to leave Ramat Aviv.
couldn’t have received a clearer answer. We realized we had to
leave the school and look for a large place for the yeshiva
within Ramat Aviv. There was just one thing we didn’t
understand, and that was what the Rebbe meant by flooding.
something happened. About two weeks later, the area where we
learned in the school was suddenly flooded! This was after forty
years with no flooding at all! The water rose half a meter high!
spurred us on to fulfill what the Rebbe had told us, to get away
from the school. We immediately began a frantic search for a
place, but as I told you before, there was nothing available!
Finally, we found this hall where we are now sitting, which
belongs to the Jewish Agency, but here again, things didn’t go
too smoothly. The agency refused to rent the space to a yeshiva.”
is where Mr. Amos Barzilai came into the picture. He is one of the
distinguished supporters of the yeshiva, a resident of the
area. He, along with R’ Shlomo Kalisch, began a series of
meetings with members of the agency.
weren’t simple. There were quite a few obstacles, but the Rebbe
encouraged us with clear answers in the Igros Kodesh.
Before one crucial meeting with the agency, the hanhala of
the yeshiva asked the Rebbe for a bracha. The answer
was that the Rebbe had received the information that “the Jewish
Agency approved the area for the beis midrash, the mikva
and private dwellings...”
all was concluded successfully, and was reported to the Rebbe, the
Rebbe answered in Volume 18, p. 192, giving directives and
guidance about how to establish the yeshiva in Kiryat Gat.
Naturally, we implemented these directives in developing the yeshiva
program in Ramat Aviv.
soon as the contract was signed, Amos Barzilai renovated the
place. Just last Motzaei Shabbos the yeshiva moved into its
new quarters with great celebration. Rabbi Leibel Groner and other
distinguished people were in attendance.
IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD NEIGHBOR ...
Aviv is the most exclusive district of Tel Aviv. In the four
sections of Ramat Aviv live the economic and political cream of
the nation. Because of this, the residents of Ramat Aviv were not
exactly pleased by the yeshiva’s development. They see it
as the religious element penetrating the stronghold of the
secularists. I witnessed this myself parking my car in the lot of
Beit Milman, a large and imposing building where students live,
when some of the residents told me to get lost.
Rebbe must have been referring to this in one of his letters
before they signed the contract for the new building, saying,
“Surely the Leftist parties won’t sit with folded hands, and
they will start up as they usually do.”
saw that when you moved in this week.
Ginsberg: “Yes. Knesset member Paritzky (whose office is
opposite the yeshiva), along with workers of Am Chofshi and
members of Shinui and Meretz, came to demonstrate, accompanied by
the media. Paritzky burst into the yeshiva building, and
one of the demonstrators struck one of the bachurim. Of
course this was widely reported.”
wasn’t the first time...
we arrived in the neighborhood there was some demonstrating. About
twenty protesters broke into the yeshiva’s apartment. But
after a while things quieted down. Now that we have expanded and
grown, they have woken up again.”
any of the demonstrators ever take any positive interest in the yeshiva?
once went into the local supermarket and a woman belonging to Am
Chofshi began screaming at me. Two or three weeks ago, she began
taking Shabbos candles from the stand that we set up on
bachurim who man the tefillin stand are not fazed by
the curses hurled their way. When I ask them what happens, they
just shrug it off. Though, not everyone can take it unaffected.
Yaakov Baruchman had this to say about going on Mivtza Tefillin
the previous Friday:
stood with the bachurim and went back to the yeshiva
crying. What can I tell you – it breaks my heart. A big guy
blocked the way and didn’t allow anybody to get near us. Some
woman tried throwing the tefillin down. Some people cursed
us. Still, it was davka because of people like these that
other people came over to put on tefillin.
do people in the neighborhood really think?
can only quote the manager of Beit Milman, who rented us the space
for the yeshiva, who said that to the best of his knowledge
the people here don’t view us as a problem. However, there is a
vocal minority who frighten the other residents by telling them
that we threaten people with hell and entice children to come to