The Bostoner Chassidus
The Bostoner chassidus is a relatively young dynasty in comparison to those of other chassidic courts – yet even during the short period of its existence, the Admorim of Boston have succeeded in making remarkable achievements in Yiddishkeit in the United States of America.
Already in his youth, when he was just twenty years of age, the Rebbe Rabbi Dovid’l detected the great potential of his nephew, although he tried to conceal his greatness – and Rabbi Dovid’l was certain that Harav Pinchas Dovid had the ability to disseminate the light of Yiddishkeit – and therefore he commanded him to travel across the sea to the continent of America, known to many in those days as ‘Am Reika’ – a people devoid of mitzvos and yiras Shamayim. Rabbi Dovid’l knew that Harav Pinchas Dovid would be able to achieve wonders and that he would ignite a spark of kedushah in a land mired in the material pleasures of life.
Despite the request of his uncle, Harav Pinchas Dovid refused to travel to America and instead remained in Eretz Yisrael. However, ‘rabos machshavos b’lev ish, v’atzas Hashem hi sokum’ – man makes many plans, but it is Hashem’s plan that will be executed. Over ten years later, a dispute broke out between the kollelim of Yerushalayim, a dispute that was eventually to cause Harav Pinchas Dovid to travel to America as his uncle Rabbi Dovid’l had originally requested of him.
During this period, the Jews of Yerushalayim were extremely poor, and in order to support themselves with the bare minimum of bread and water, they were mostly registered with one of the various kollelim established there, usually the kollel associated with their town or country of origin. Thus in Yerushalayim there was the kollel “Chibas Yerushalayim” for those from Galicia; kollel “Shomrei haChomos” for those from Hungary; and many additional kollelim. These kollelim would dispatch emissaries to the countries of the Diaspora in order to gather donations for the poor of Yerushalayim, and when they returned, the roshei kollelim would distribute the funds to the members of their kollel.
When Harav Pinchas Dovid was thirty-five years of age, a dispute broke out between the various roshei kollelim, regarding how the funds collected throughout Europe should be distributed. Eventually it was decided to send a group of Yerushalmi Yidden to Galicia to resolve the dispute, and Harav Pinchas Dovid was appointed as a member of the group to be sent. Harav Pinchas Dovid thus set out for Western Europe, and after the matter of the dispute was satisfactorily resolved, he decided to remain in Galicia for a further few months, in order to make the acquaintance of the gedolei haTorah and the chassidic giants there, and also to visit the kevarim of gedolei Yisrael who were buried in Galician soil. The days passed swiftly and in the year 5674 the First World War broke out. Galicia was then on the border of the warring sides, and it changed hands several times during the course of the war. There was no way to return to Eretz Yisrael, and Harav Pinchas Dovid found himself stuck in Galicia with no possibility of returning to his hometown of Yerushalayim. Once he realized what had transpired, he decided to travel to America, as his uncle had requested of him almost twenty years previously.
Thus, it was in the same year Harav Pinchas Dovid arrived in Boston in the United States and there founded a chassidic court. Many Jews gathered around him in Boston, and he even attempted to establish a yeshivah there – however, after a short while he was forced to close it down. Once Harav Pinchas Dovid realised that the Torah institutions in Boston were insufficient for his needs and did not appear to have a prospect of improvement in the near future, he began to worry for the chinuch of his two sons, and he decided to uproot himself once again, and move to New York, to the Williamsburg area in Brooklyn. In Williamsburg Harav Pinchas Dovid continued to conduct himself as an Admor and many Jews gathered around him. Harav Pinchas Dovid was extremely active in his efforts to spread the light of chassidus in Brooklyn, and he founded the first mikveh for men in the area, in order that the chassidim should be able to immerse themselves every day, according to chassidishe custom.
|First Chassidic Center in Boston [צלם]|
On the 8th of Kislev in the year 5702 Harav Pinchas Dovid was recalled to the Heavenly Yeshivah at the age of just sixty-eight, during twenty-eight years of which he had served as the first Admor of Boston.
Harav Pinchas Dovid married twice. After he was widowed from his first wife, without having children, he married a second time – his second wife was Sora Shosha, who was descended from the holy Baal Shem Tov. From this marriage Harav Pinchas Dovid had two sons – the Admor Rabbi Moshe ztz”l and ybl”cht the Admor Rabbi Levi Yitzchak shlit”a.
|The Bostoner Rebbe's Center in Brooklynן [צלם]|
After the petirah of Harav Pinchas Dovid, both sons became Rebbes. The elder son, Rabbi Moshe, took over his father’s position in Williamsburg, and the younger son, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, returned to the city of Boston. In time Rabbi Moshe transferred his court from Williamsburg to Crown Heights, and founded a shul and a Talmud Torah there. Despite the fact that he moved, his court retained the name of ‘Boston-Williamsburg’ after the previous locations of the chassidus. When he was still young, Rabbi Moshe had a heart attack and was niftar. The institutions he had established in Crown Heights were closed down – in recent years, his descendants have been attempting to re-establish them.
The younger son, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, known as the Bostoner Rebbe of Boston, settled in Boston and re-established his father’s court there. Much of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s energy was devoted to spreading the light of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus to the students learning in Boston. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was blessed with an exceptional eloquence that attracted people to listen to his words, and he was able to find the path to the hearts of his listeners, although most of the students were far from Yiddishkeit. He managed to ignite the embers of Yiddishkeit that had all but died out within them. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak would invite many of these students to spend Shabbos in his court, and after they had tasted the special flavour of Shabbos, many of these students would eventually accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah and mitzvos and would become fully observant.
Apart from his efforts in the area of kiruv rechokim, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak also established many mosdos haTorah in Boston, including two mikvaos which were built to extremely high specifications; an association of trained and experience mohelim; a centre for the checking of garments for shatnez; and many others.
In the city of Boston there are many world-renowned hospitals which treat various illnesses, and the city is considered to be a world medical centre. Therefore, numerous sick people constantly arrive there for treatment, including many Jews. Many of these Jews would turn to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak when they arrived, where they found hospitality both in physical and spiritual terms. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak would concern himself with all the needs of his visitors, the sick people and those accompanying them, and thus these Jews found a shoulder to lean on in their time of need. In time, Bostoner chassidim founded an organisation called ‘Rofeh’, which provided services including medical advice to the sick and help with many other matters.
After the Six-Day War and the unification of Yerushalayim, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wished to ascend to Eretz Yisrael and found there a chassidishe neighbourhood. In the year 5689, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s father Harav Pinchas Dovid had purchased a large tract of land near the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood, and this was where Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wished to build his chassidishe neighbourhood. However, the years dragged on without the municipality coming up with the required building permits, and so eventually Rabbi Levi Yitzchak decided to instead build on another tract of land that he had been given by the Yerushalayim Municipality, in the Har Nof neighbourhood. In the year 5744 the Beis Medrash of Chassidei Boston was founded amidst much fanfare in the Har Nof neighbourhood of the holy city of Yerushalayim, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak left his residence in Boston and came to live in Yerushalayim.
Yet despite his move, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak did not entirely desert Boston and the many institutions he had established there, nor did he desert the students who he sought to draw closer to Yiddishkeit. In the winter months he would generally return to Boston in order to continue his work of kiruv rechokim among the students, and during the summer he would return to Yerushalayim.
In recent years Rabbi Levi Yitzchak fell ill several times and was confined to bed – however his spirits remain undimmed and his efforts for his fellow Jews continue. He is also active on the board of the ‘Moetzes Gedolei haTorah of Agudas Yisrael’ of which he is a member.