Tag Archives: Bnei Brak

Jew of the Week: Rav Shteinman

Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman (1914-2017) was born in what is now the city of Brest, Belarus. To avoid being conscripted into the Polish army, the young yeshiva student fled to Switzerland with some classmates. He continued his diligent studies in a Swiss yeshiva until being arrested during World War II and sent to a labour camp. Shteinman was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He settled in Israel after the war. There, the young rabbi quickly made a name for himself as a Torah prodigy, and was soon appointed rosh yeshiva, head of a Torah academy. He would serve as a rosh yeshiva for the next five decades, while also establishing a number of children’s schools for the underprivileged. Meanwhile, Rav Shteinman wrote profusely, authoring dozens of bestselling books and discourses on Torah, Talmud, and Jewish thought, as well as being recognized as an expert in the field of education. While abstaining from politics himself, Rav Shteinman was the spiritual leader of Israel’s Degel HaTorah party, playing an influential role in government. In his 90s, and in frail health, the Rav decided to journey around the world to strengthen Jewish communities. Countless thousands gathered to greet him and hear his wise words in Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Manchester, Odessa, Berlin, Gibraltar, Paris, and many more small towns. On these trips, he would give as many as 10 talks a day.

Rav Shteinman was known for his extreme piety, humility, and modesty. His daily diet was nothing but a cucumber, a boiled potato, and one small bowl of oatmeal. He lived in a tiny apartment, with little furniture but walls lined end to end with books. He slept on the same thin mattress that was given to Jewish refugees upon arrival in Israel for some 50 years. Streams of people lined up at his open door each day seeking counsel and blessings. Rav Shteinman stood only for truth, even when it brought him adversity. This was particularly clear when he supported the Nachal Charedi, an IDF unit for yeshiva students. Even after some backlash from ultra-Orthodox communities, the Rav stood his ground and continued his support. He was widely recognized as the gadol hador, the world’s chief rabbi. Sadly, the great rabbi passed away yesterday, at 103 years of age. (His condition had turned critical two weeks ago after the tragic death of his 72-year old daughter from a heart attack, even though no one had told him of her passing.) Rav Shteinman wrote in his will that it would suffice to have just ten men to carry out his funeral, and requested no eulogies. Nonetheless, the funeral procession brought over 600,000 people. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin stated that Rav Shteinman “bore the entire weight of the Jewish people’s existence on his shoulders… he knew how to convey his ideas gently, in a pleasant manner, and with a great love of the Jewish people… He was a man whose wisdom was exceeded only by his humility.”

Words of the Week

You are also living on a miracle.
– Rav Shteinmanto a doctor that told him the frail rabbi is “living on a miracle”.

The streets of Bnei Brak fill with hundreds of thousands of mourners for Rav Shteinman’s funeral procession.

Jew of the Week: Dr. Malka Schaps

Dr. Schaps

Dr. Schaps

Mary Elizabeth Kramer was born in Ohio and grew up attending church and Christian Sunday school. By high school, she was drawn to atheism and secularism, but ultimately found no solace in those philosophies either. While in university majoring in mathematics, she found herself exploring various religions. Studying in Germany one semester, she had an inexplicable yearning to attend a Passover seder, and there met an Australian rabbi with whom she continued learning, eventually undergoing a proper Orthodox Jewish conversion (and taking the name Malka). Back in college, she met her future husband – David Schaps – and both went on to earn PhDs at Harvard. The new couple then moved to Israel to teach, had two kids and two foster children. Malka Schaps joined Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Exact Sciences, researching advanced quantum spin representations, in addition to founding and running a financial math program. Meanwhile, Schaps has written a handful of popular, best-selling novels under the pen name “Rachel Pomerantz”. Despite being deeply involved in the scientific community, her faith has only strengthened, and she has said, “I always point out that the study of mathematics shares something in common with Judaism. They both seek to discern a greater order of things and the objective truth.” Recently, she was elected to be Dean of the Department of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan, making her the first Orthodox woman in the world to hold such a post. Schaps lives with her family in Bnei Brak.

 

Words of the Week

Why was the Torah given in the desert? For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, “It is ours”; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, “It is ours.” Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it.
– Mechilta D’Rashbi

Jew of the Week: Rafael Halperin

Rafael “Mr. Israel” Halperin

Rafael Halperin (1924-2011) was born in Vienna, immigrating to Israel as a child along with his family who fled rising tensions in Europe. Despite living in Ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, and studying in yeshiva, Halperin was drawn to body-building and exercise. To everyone’s surprise, Halperin’s rabbi, the famous Chazon Ish – one of the greatest Jewish leaders of the last century – actually permitted Halperin to pursue his new passion! After learning the depths of the sport in the U.S., Halperin returned to Israel and opened The Samson Institute – Israel’s first chain of gyms and health clubs. He soon organized the first ever Mr. Israel contest, and drew the attention of a wrestling promoter. As a professional wrestler, Halperin earned the nickname ‘Samson the Second’. Among the most famous wrestlers at the time, he refused to throw matches or participate in match-fixing, which has always been the norm in wrestling. [Click here to see Halperin in action.] Amazingly, he was also the personal trainer for Ethiopia’s emperor Haile Selassie, the father of Rastafarianism. Halperin was adept in business, opening many restaurants and hotels across Israel, as well as the country’s first automated car wash. His greatest success was ‘Optica Halperin’, Israel’s largest chain of optical stores. To the last days of his life, Halperin was a businessman. A year before his passing, he opened ‘Zisalek’, Israel’s newest glatt-kosher ice cream parlour. Devoutly religious throughout his life, Halperin officially received his rabbinic ordination in the 1970s, and in his later years worked to develop a credit card that wouldn’t function on Shabbat. Oh, and he also started his own political party called Otzma, published several books including an encyclopedia, worked as a diamond cutter, was once Israel’s karate champion, and fought in the Yom Kippur War. What have you done lately?

Words of the Week

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
– Albert Einstein