Wednesday, Aug 4, 2021

Excitement Mounts for Historic Yovel Anniversary Dinner of Mesivta of Long Beach

50 years of a remarkable odyssey in the annals of one of the world’s premier mosdos Torah will culminate on February 8, in the much anticipated Mesivta of Long Beach Yovel Anniversary Dinner. As reservations and journal ads pour into the office, it is obvious that the yeshiva’s marking of a half century of harbotzas Torah strikes a deep chord in hundreds of Long Beach alumni, parents, friends and supporters.

The event is expected to draw record numbers, including alumni spanning the five decades of the yeshiva’s existence, in some instances including three generations of talmidim from a single family. Throngs of yungerleit from all parts of the country and even overseas will converge to pay tribute to the mosad that imbued them with a derech halimud and derech hachaim. The dinner will be a manifestation of hemshech hadoros, an affirmation of the eternal promise, “ki lo sishokach mipi zaroh.”

Fittingly, the Yovel Anniversary Dinner will honor its roshei yeshiva; first and foremost Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock, whose consummate leadership and wisdom built the yeshiva into the high-ranking bastion of Torah and avodas Hashem it is today.

As a talmid muvhak and close confidante of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, Rav Feigelstock nurtured his talmidim with his rebbi’s passion for limud Torah lishmah, inspiring them to scale great heights in their own Torah achievements. Scores of talmidim have since gone on to assume vital posts across America and overseas in chinuch, rabbonus and askonus, helping to transform the spiritual landscape of the Torah world.

The Yovel Dinner is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that the lofty vision of Rav Aharon, who infused an entire generation with the concept of the primacy of Torah and the chashivus of a ben Torah, vibrantly lives on in the talmidim of Mesivta of Long Beach.

Despite changing times and shifting values, those ideals, exemplified by Rav Feigelstock and implanted in his talmidim, remain as vital and transformative as ever. Within the halls of the Yeshiva, b’nei Torah who not only embody excellence in learning but also pour energy into refining their middos proclaim the living legacy of Rav Aharon.

The yeshiva will also honor the roshei yeshiva Rav Chaim Yehoshua Hoberman and Rav Mordechai Respler, master mechanchim who assumed the mantle of leadership at the request of Rav Feigelstock. Mesivta of Long Beach’s distinctive ruach haTorah owes its energy in great measure to the roshei yeshiva’s ameilus b’Torah, their immense dedication to their talmidim and their ability to create a climate where excellence in learning is admired as much as perfection of character.

Rav Hoberman and Rav Respler have not only galvanized the yeshiva’s growth but have taken to new levels its achievements in molding young men into refined b’nei Torah. The “magic” of that transformation lies in the dynamic rebbi-talmid bond, a conduit of inspiration, guidance and chizuk from rebbi to talmid that extends far beyond a talmid’s beis medrash years.

The desire to publicly recognize and pay tribute to that wellspring of influence in their sons’ lives prompted parents of alumni of the yeshiva, Dr. Chaim and Mrs. Shanny Gejerman of Passaic, New Jersey, to sponsor the historic Yovel event.

“We feel tremendous hakoras hatov to Rabbi Hoberman and Rabbi Respler for the roles they played in raising our sons,” said Dr. Gejerman. He and his wife expressed their gratitude for the profound impact the yeshiva has exerted on their children and by extension, the entire family.

“The roshei yeshiva understand the boys on a deeper level, spurring their growth in learning and middos,” they noted. “But it’s the lifelong relationship they maintain with their talmidim that makes us feel, in a sense, we are not former yeshiva parents but current ones, as we continue to benefit from the roshei yeshiva’s care and concern.”

The Dinner Event will be held in a new venue in Holdmel, New Jersey, the site of the former research and development facility Bell Works. The property with its massive facility was recently purchased by Mr. Rafael Zucker, a Mesivta of Long Beach alumnus and current member of the board. Recognizing the need for a much larger venue for the Yovel Anniversary Dinner, Mr. Zucker, with his signature generosity and creative resourcefulness, invited the yeshiva to use the magnificent Bell Works facility at no charge.

The roshei yeshiva view the Yovel Dinner as an opportunity for the yeshiva’s vast ranks of alumni to strengthen their ties with their alma mater to the mutual enrichment of all.

“It’s a precious moment in time for all to take stock of the yeshiva’s impressive growth and achievements,” said Rav Hoberman. “But perhaps even more significant, it’s an opportunity to take the simcha and hakoras hatov at this wonderful milestone and turn those sentiments into an even stronger partnership in building for the future.”

He noted that no appraisal of Long Beach’s contribution to the olam haTorah can be complete without an appreciation of the yeshiva’s earlier history, and the mesiras nefesh of those who founded the mosad.

Some of these individuals, notably Rav Chaim Zelikovitz, the yeshiva’s first menahel, took on the mission of building the mosad from its infancy at a time when so few on the American scene appreciated the value of a Torah chinuch. Rav Avrohom Cooper assumed a pivotal role in helping to establish the yeshiva on firm footing in that early period.

Several years later, Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock took the helm of the yeshiva, assisted by executive director Rabbi Shlomo Lesin. Over the course of 35 years, they shouldered the responsibilities of the yeshiva with unstinting dedication.

“Classes were small and parents had to be coaxed and begged to send their sons,” Rav Hoberman recounted. “Every additional talmid represented a separate victory.”

For every institution that succeeds, many more fail. “Mesivta of Long Beach could not have survived those early years without the priceless contributions of these leaders,” Rav Hoberman remarked. “In their devotion to harbotzas Torah and hachzokas Torah, they overcame countless obstacles and setbacks until they built the foundation stone upon which the yeshiva first acquired stability.”

Awareness of one’s roots is crucial to understanding who we are and where we are going in life. The same can be said of a mosad Torah, Rav Hoberman reflected. “One needs to appreciate the quality and purity of the early roots that were planted with so much sacrifice, and that grew into the flourishing mosad in which we take so much pride today.”

In that vein, it is important to recall the stellar contributions of four early pillars of Mesivta of Long Beach; Rav Avrohom Cooper, Rav Elimelech Willner, Rav Shimon Alster, and Rav Ozer Yonah Kushner. These individuals blazed a trail in a semi-wilderness. Their accomplishments echo across the decades.

Rav Cooper, an accomplished lamdan and acclaimed mechanech, left an indelible impression on the talmidim with his outstanding koach hasborah, his fatherly concern and awe-inspiring demeanor. His soul-stirring tefillos on the Yamim Noraim are forever seared into the neshomos of hundreds of Long Beach talmidim.

Rav Willner, one of the most brilliant talmidim of Rav Ahron Kotler, raised the nascent yeshiva to a higher league by virtue of his gadlus b’Torah and unquenchable delight in learning and machshovah. A half century later, the madreigah of ameilus b’Torah in the yeshiva as well as the ideal of stretching one’s intellectual resources to the utmost to achieve one’s best still recall the enduring impact of Rav Willner.

Decades of talmidim were enriched by the influence of Rav Shimon Alster, who joined the hanholah as a kollel yungerman. His talmidim witnessed him grow into a world-renowned gadol b’Torah and manhig Yisroel, and were forever changed by his power to transmit his hashkofas hachaim to young, searching minds.

Rav Ozer Yonah Kushner, a premier mechanech, dazzled his talmidim with a phenomenal storehouse of yedios haTorah, hashkofah and mussar. Exposure to his teaching and influence was life-altering. He took all-American teenagers and forged them into choshuveh b’nei Torah, with many going on to become significant figures in today’s olam haTorah.

The Mesivta of Long Beach recognizes the immense role of its honorary dinner chairman, the quintessential patron of yeshivos, Rabbi Avraham Fruchthandler, in ensuring the viability of the mosad over many decades.

“Rabbi Fruchthandler’s hachzokas haTorah throughout the Torah world is legendary. His faith in Rav Feigelstock led him to devote significant resources to guarantee the kiyum of the yeshiva,” said Rav Hoberman. “His unfailing support throughout the history of the mosad and his ability to see the bigger picture made the critical difference at various junctures. He is, in a very real sense, an architect of the future.”

In addition, the yeshiva salutes the indefatigable efforts of a group of unsung heroes: its Board of Directors. All its members are talmidim of the yeshiva whose dedication to Mesivta of Long Beach’s growth and development knows no bounds.

They are joined by other machazikei Torah who generously shoulder the burden of this premier mokom Torah. First and foremost among these nidvei leiv is Reb Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, an alumnus of Long Beach and a world-renowned patron of Torah. A bold initiator and visionary, Mr. Rechnitz has a finger on the pulse of many issues of burning concern to the Torah world. Mesivta of Long Beach is not only grateful for his unparalleled support but counts itself fortunate to be associated with one of the most remarkable askonim and Torah philanthropists of our generation.

As the countdown commences to the historic Yovel Anniversary Dinner of Mesivta of Long Beach, the perspective of hindsight, with its illumination of the yeshiva’s history, merges with an appreciation of the immense challenges going forward.

“B’nei Torah are coming of age today in a challenging world in which Torah and kedushah are under assault from all sides,” Rav Hoberman noted. “This generation needs as never before the guidance and protective merit of yesterday’s roshei yeshiva and manhigei hador. They personified gadlus b’Torah and ahavas haTorah, and anchored these sublime forces within their students, today’s eminent roshei yeshiva.”

With the passing of the torch, these giants of the past also bequeathed the wisdom of how to keep the flame burning and how to use its spiritual fire to mold hearts and minds for Torah. Viewed through the prism of 50 years of harbotzas Torah interlaced with responsibility for the future, that shining legacy defines the vision of Mesivta of Long Beach.

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