Aharon Kotler (1891–1962) was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and a
prominent leader of
Orthodox Judaism in Lithuania, and later the
United States, where he founded
Beth Medrash Govoha
Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood
Township, New Jersey.
1 Early life
2 World War II and move to the United States
5 Notable students
7 External links
Rav Kotler was born in Śvisłač,
Russian Empire (now Belarus) in
1891. He was orphaned at the age of 10 and adopted by his uncle, Rabbi
Yitzchak Pinnes, a Dayan in Minsk. He studied in the Slabodka yeshiva
Lithuania under the "Alter (elder) of Slabodka", Rav Nosson Tzvi
Finkel, and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein. After learning there, he
joined his father-in-law, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, to run the
yeshiva of Slutsk.
World War II and move to the United States
After World War I, the yeshivah moved from
Belarus. With the outbreak of World War II, Rav Kotler and the
yeshivah relocated to Vilna, then the major refuge of most yeshivoth
from the occupied areas. Reportedly Rav Kotler encouraged the yeshiva
to stay in Vilna despite the approaching Nazis. Most of his students
were murdered by the Nazis. Some did not listen to him and escaped to
China. He was brought to America in 1941 by the
Vaad Hatzalah rescue
organization, and guided it during the Holocaust. At first, he
settled in New York City's Upper West Side, and in 1949, he moved to
the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
In 1943, Rav Kotler founded
Beth Medrash Govoha
Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood Township,
New Jersey, with 15 students.
By the time of Rav Kotler's death in 1962, the yeshiva had grown to
250 students. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Shneur Kotler, as
rosh yeshiva. As of 2011,
Beth Medrash Govoha
Beth Medrash Govoha is run by his grandson,
Rabbi Malkiel Kotler, and three of his grandsons-in-law, Rabbis
Yerucham Olshin, Yisroel Neuman, and Dovid Schustal. By 2007 the
yeshiva had grown into the largest institution of its kind in America
with 5,000 college and advanced-level students, while the surrounding
Lakewood community supports a network of 50 other yeshivas and over
100 synagogues for an Orthodox population estimated at 40,000.
A committed anti-Zionist, Rav Kotler also helped establish Chinuch
Atzmai, the independent religious school system in Israel, and was the
chairman of the
Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel. He chaired
the Rabbinical administration board of Torah Umesorah, and was on the
presidium of the
Agudas HaRabbonim of the U.S. and Canada.
Upon the death of his father-in-law, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, he
inherited his father-in-law's position of rosh yeshiva of Etz Chaim
Yeshiva of Jerusalem. In an unusual arrangement, he held this position
while continuing to live in America, and visiting Jerusalem
occasionally. Today, his grandson, Rabbi Zevulun Schwartzman, heads a
kollel located at Etz Chaim Yeshiva.
Rav Kotler died at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York
City on November 29, 1962. A funeral service for Rav Kotler at the
Congregation Sons of
Israel Kalwarier on Manhattan's Lower East Side
drew 25,000 mourners, with 200 officers from the
New York City
New York City Police
Department assigned to the event, which was described by the
congregation's president as the largest gathering of mourners in his
experience. The 700 seats in the sanctuary were reserved for notables.
In an atmosphere described as being reminiscent of Yom Kippur,
eulogies for Rav Kotler were delivered by Rabbi
Moshe Feinstein and by
Satmar Hasidic leader Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, among others. Following
the funeral, Rav Kotler's body was transported to Idlewild Airport to
be flown to
Israel accompanied by two dozen of his students. After
arriving in Israel, the plane carrying Rav Kotler's coffin was greeted
by a crowd of 5,000 at the airport.
Jerusalem traffic was brought to a
standstill by crowds of 30,000 people who lined the path of the
procession transporting Rav Kotler's body from the airport to Etz
Chaim Yeshiva, where thousands of mourners from throughout
to offer their final respects before his burial on Har HaMenuchot.
Shu"t Mishnas R' Aharon
Mishnas Rabbi Aharon on various tractates of the Talmud
Rabbi Kotler's students include:
Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi
Rabbi Elya Svei
Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky
Rabbi Moshe Hirsch
Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch
Rabbi Yisroel Taplin
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann
Rabbi Meir Stern
Rabbi Yechiel Perr
Rabbi Shlomo Miller
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
^ a b c d e f Staff. "Rabbi Aaron Kotler Dead at 71; Jersey Rabbinical
School Dean", The New York Times, November 30, 1962. Accessed August
^ Ami. No. 65. Apr 4, 2012. p. 84.
^ Fahim, Kareem. "As Orthodox Population Grows, So Do Tensions", The
New York Times, December 10, 2007. Accessed August 29, 2011. "Many
Orthodox Jews have been drawn to Lakewood by the prestige of the
town's yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the largest rabbinical
colleges in the world. The yeshiva was founded in 1943 by a
Polish-born rabbi, Aaron Kotler. In 1962, when Rabbi Kotler died, the
school had 250 students. It now has about 5,000. The wider yeshiva
community includes more than a hundred temples, and about 50 schools."
^ Shaul Magid (2013). American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a
Postethnic Society. Indiana University Press. p. 169.
ISBN 0-253-00802-6. R. Elhanon Wasserman, who is featured
prominently in the ArtScroll series, was one of the most vehement
anti-Zionists in the wartime period. R. Aaron Kotler, the founder of
Yeshiva and architect of
Yeshiva Orthodoxy in America,
was also a committed anti-Zionist.
^ Staff. "25,000 MOURNERS AT KOTLER'S RITES; Crowd Pays Tribute to
Rabbi at East Side Synagogue", The New York Times, December 3, 1962.
Accessed August 29, 2011.
^ Staff. "30,000 March in Funeral Of Rabbi Kotler in Israel", The New
York Times, December 5, 1962. Accessed August 29, 2011.
Aharon Kotler Site
Rabbis of Beth Medrash Govoha
Past roshei yeshiva
Past mashgiach ruchani
Nosson Meir Wachtfogel
ISNI: 0000 0000 6694 6465