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KOLLEL AYSHEL AVRAHAM HOLDS 6TH CHAG HASMICHA
BY: FERN SIDMAN
On Sunday morning, June 24th, over 150 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Suffern, New York to attend the 6th Chag HaSmicha (rabbinical ordination) of the renowned Kollel Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary of Monsey, New York. Joining the hanhalah, graduates, alumni and guests, were a veritable litany of esteemed Rabbonim who were honored for their highly significant contributions to the Jewish community at large.
Serving as masters of ceremonies were Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik and Rabbi Moish Schmerler, members of this year's KAA graduating class. A palpable electricity filled the air, as Rabbi Schmerler described the hashkofa of its Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak. "Rabbi Spivak has consistently stressed that his kollel graduates use their smicha in the most practical sense. It is not a diploma to be mounted on a wall. We, the graduates of Ayshel Avraham must go out and change the quality of people's lives for the better and we must be in the forefront of making a profound difference in Klal Yisroel."
Distinguishing itself from other rabbinic seminaries, KAA attracts men from all facets of the working world; men who are chronologically older than most smicha candidates, but who wish to attain ordination in order to utilize their vast experience and knowledge of the contemporary world to assist others, to extol the timeless and eternal wisdom of the Torah and to spread gemilus chassadim to those who are in need.
Seated on the dais with Rabbi Spivak, were honorees and such Torah luminaries as Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Rabbi Chanania Elbaz, Rabbi Ephraim Karp and Rabbi Michoel Chazan. As a recipient of the Rabbinic Leadership Award, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Menahel of the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim and the rabbi of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Among others receiving this prestigious honor were Rabbi Yaakov Klass, the Torah editor of The Jewish Press, the Shoel Umashiv of KAA, and rabbi of Khal Bnei Mattisyahu, and Rabbi Chanania Elbaz, rabbi of the Ahi Ezer Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, a vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim and a Dayan with the Beth Din Tzedek of the RAA.
"Today we are witnessing 13 men who are graduating from Rabbi Spivak's kollel, but we must realize that these men are in actuality 13 walking and breathing sifrei Torah," declared Rabbi Elbaz. "These talmidim have been infused with the fire of Torah, with the love of Torah, with the love of Hashem and Klal Yisroel by Rabbi Spivak. Just as Yaakov Avinu had a dream of ladder reaching the heavens, he knew that one cannot stand still on the ladder; either you go up or down. And Rabbi Yaakov of this kollel exhorts his talmidim to keep going up, to reach for the highest and most loftiest of goals," he continued.
"To dedicate their lives to helping Klal Yisroel through practical, concrete means. And that means pastoral care in nursing homes, of serving as chaplains in government positions, of guiding and educating youth at risk, of consoling widows and orphans, and other such ventures. To take on challenging posts that require mesiras nefesh; of never flinching when called upon to sacrifice for their people. That is what they've learned under the leadership of Rabbi Yaakov Spivak at Kollel Ayshel Avraham," he added.
This year's graduating class of freshly minted rabbis included, Rabbi Menachem Behrend, Rabbi Yitzchok Noach Borenstein, Rabbi Frank Buchweitz, Rabbi Shlomo Ettlinger, Rabbi Oren Finkel, Rabbi Dr. Mark Horowitz, Rabbi Joseph Kirsh, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Rabbi Moish Schmerler, Rabbi Dovid Stein, Rabbi Shlomo Swartz, Rabbi David Toback and Rabbi Abraham Wurzberger.
Alumni of KAA were also bestowed with befitting honors, and this year's recipients of the Chaplain's Award were Rabbi Ephraim Karp, the Director of Religious Services at the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, Ohio, and a Musmach of KAA, and Rabbi Michoel Chazan, the Director of Chaplaincy Services at the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York and a Musmach of KAA.
The event also accorded honors posthumously to those outstanding rabbonim whose exemplary achievements have defined their legacy. Memorial tribute awards were presented to the families of Rabbi Saul Eisner, ZT"L, who was the Executive Vice-President of the RAA/Igud HaRabbonim, the President of the Council of Jewish Organizations (COJO) in Staten Island and a Chaver HaNhala of KAA, and Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT"L who was a senior faculty member and magid shiur of KAA, the vice president of the RAA/Igud HaRabbonim and the Rav of Beis Medrash Hagadol of Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Rabbi Avrohom Hecht, shlita, the internationally renowned Talmid Chocham and rabbinic trailblazer was presented with the auspicious Nasi's Award. Holding the position of Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Zion of Brooklyn, New York, Rabbi Hecht is also the President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America/ Igud HaRabbonim. Known as a dynamic orator, Rabbi Hecht has inspired countless non-affiliated Jews to engage in the study of Torah and the observance of the mitzvos. He has been a frequent contributor for over fifty years to various Jewish publications in English, Hebrew and Yiddish and has authored two books, entitled, "Spiritual Horizons" and "Spiritual Freedom" as well as a recently published autobiography.
Rabbi Hecht was a disciple of the last Lubavitcher Rebbi, Menachem Schneerson and of the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhok Schneerson and had the distinction of being one of the first 10 students of Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in America. He also served as a shaliach in Boston, Buffalo, New York, Newark, New Jersey and New Haven, Connecticut; establishing Yeshiva Achei T'mimim elementary schools for both boys and girls.
Accepting the award on behalf of his father was Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, who expounded on his father's innumerable accomplishments in the RAA. Wishing his father a refuah shleima, he said, "We are rewarded in our lifetime to be connected to greatness, to receive honor and to give honor, and my father epitomizes a man who ran from honor, but honor ran after him."
Other honorees included the following: Rabbi Frank Buchweitz, a KAA graduate, who is the National Director of Community Services and Special Projects of the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Yehuda Frankel, the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of Spring Valley, Rabbi Ronald Greenwald, the founder of Camp Sternberg for Girls and a highly respected Askan, and Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kensington in Brooklyn, New York, who is the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of the RAA.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, is the executive vice-president of the National Council of Young Israel and an outspoken proponent for the freedom of Jonathan Pollard. Rabbi Yehoshua Lustig is a Dayan with the Beth Din Tzedek of the RAA. Rabbi Aron Mirocznik has served as the rabbi of several prestigious pulpits including The Ashford Street Synagogue, Congregation Ateret Tiferet Yisroel, Congregation Derech Emunah of Arverne and the Young Israel of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Mirocznik was also an esteemed Raam at Yeshiva University High School for Boys (BTA) in Brooklyn, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Yeshiva of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Isaac Schmerler is a founding member of the VAAD of Staten Island. Raabi Shmaryahu Shulman is a senior faculty member and magid shiur of Kollel Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary, and was a favorite talmid of Rabbi Ruderman, ZT”L, the legendary Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore. Rabbi Shmuel Boruch Tress is a highly respected Askan and a driving force behind the Yated Ne'eman newspaper.
Special recognition was accorded to the Sephardic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Brooklyn, New York for its many years of compassionate care for the elderly and infirmed. Rabbi Avraham Amar, the Morah D'Asra and Michael New, the executive director of the Sephardic Home were lauded for their tireless dedication to those most vulnerable in the Jewish community.
In honor of the Chag HaSmicha, the Kollel received the following words in a letter from Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel: “Kollel Ayshel Avraham has been well known in the Halachic world for many years as a powerful lighthouse of Torah that fortifies and strengthens the walls of Judaism, and as an institution that ordains worthy Rabbis who project their spiritual imagery to their congregations wherever they may be.”
Offering his remarks at the conclusion of the Chag HaSmicha, Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Spivak, the beloved Rosh Kollel of Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary told those gathered, "Our Torah tells us that trumpets were sounded to gather the people, and every time a new leader arose there were new trumpets made in place of the previous ones. Trumpets call people to do great things, and every generation responds to its own particular trumpet sound. These men receiving smicha today know how to sound the new trumpets for their generation. They know how to relate to those who are challenged by the tribulations of today's world. They will go forth with the courage and determination it takes to champion the cause of our people and, please G-d, our world will be infinitely better for it."