Memory Lane: Rav Aaron Gordon & Louis Kalmanowitz; Bridging the Mir and Boro Park
In Dos Yiddishe Licht (founded by Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt) we read:
“Boro Park Active for Mirrer Yeshivah”
The famed, brilliant Torah scholar, the Rokower Rav, Rabbi Avraham Kalmanowitz, who is now in America along with the Mirrer Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, to rescue the oldest, most venerated Yeshivah, the Mirrer Yeshivah already held two meetings in Boro Park--in the home of the famed philanthropist Mr. Louis Kalmanowitz, 5505 15th avenue.
A committee was formed: Mr. Gedalyah Bublik, editor of Yiddish Taggenblatt; Joseph Goldstein, Vice Chairman; Louis Kalmanowitz, Treasurer; Levi Horowitz, Yaakov Luria, participants.
The plan for rescue is that whoever can should take upon themselves to support one student in the Yeshivah-- a cost of $144 per year. The first donors were; Louis Kalmanowitz; $144....
The hope is that the activists will work energetically to support this great center of Torah which illuminates the world in general and the two countries of Russia and Poland, specifically.
A cable dispatch arrived from the "Mir" relating that the students suffer great poverty and hunger. The address of the office is 109 East Broadway, New York.”
Rav Aaron Gordon, zt”l
Louis Kalmanowitz was the son in law of a great tzaddik, and one the great Rabbonim in America of yesteryear who had lived in his home until his passing 1922, and taught Torah in Shomrei Emunah in this final period of his life.
He was born to his father Rav Meir in Miadzoł (Myadil), a suburb of Vilna, in the year 1845. As a child he learned under his father’s tutelage, and his cheishek soon burst forth… and he would spend his days in the toil of Torah learning together with his cousins. When he came to learn in the yeshiva of Droy, also near vilna, he was known as the “Myadler Iluy.”
He spent a number of years in the great city of Vilna, where he was meshamesh its dayonim, who granted him semicha. After his marriage, he was appointed the rov of Vishnyeva, another suburb of Vilna. In 1910, he crossed the Atlantic to serve as the rov of the Beis Haknesses Hachodosh, which had just been erected in Rochester, New York, by the “Nussbaum brothers.”
He served there for a decade, until 1900 when he came to New York. He assumed the leadership of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem (before Rav Moshe Feinstein would take over that position). As is well-known, this was the (tragically-brief) era of the Rav Hakollel, New York’s chief Rabbi.
He joined the beis din of the Rav Hakollel, and was a forceful, authoritative voice for halacha, kashrus, and Torah observance. He authored three brilliant seforim on halchah, and lomdus.
Following a short stint in the Bronx, he joined his daughter and her husband, Louis Kalmanowitz in Boro Park, and he joined Shomrei Emunah.
Upon his passing in the summer of 1922, the Morgen Zhournal wrote: “Rabbi Aaron Gordon Died Yesterday. The deceased was one of the most prominent Rabbis, authored many books--some yet unpublished--funeral today in the afternoon.
“Having been provided with all of life's necessities, he set about full time Torah study and service of God, authoring his works; "even Meir," "miluas even" "minchas Aaron," she'arei hadas, and many works which are still unpublished. During his years in Boro Park he davened at the Shomrei Emunah synagogue where he delivered a weekly Torah session each shabbos and became known as an activist on behalf of the community. He was also involved in enforcing the kashrus standards in Boro Park, and all of Boro Park's residents lament this great loss.
Close to a century has passed since the aforementioned events, but today we reflect upon the echoes of the Torah and the tzeddaka to which these men were committed in Boro Park of yesteryear.