From Pittsburgh to Ashdod
The Holy Dynasty – from the Tzikas Yosef to the Current Rebbe, SHLIT’A
The previous Rebbe, Reb Avrohom Abba zt’l, was the son of the First Pittsburgher Rebbe, Reb Yosef zt’l, known by the name if his sefer, the Tzidkas Yosef. In 1926, Reb Yosef, a direct descendent of the Nadvorna dynasty, moved from Hungary to the American city of Pittsburgh. Reb Yosef gained fame for remaining a Rebbe of European style, serving his Creator in his quiet corner and ascending to high levels of holiness.
Every day Reb Yosef would say the following prayer: “Ribono Shel Olam, I realize that I am in America. Please save me and my children from becoming influenced.” In this way, the Rebbe raised his children in the atmosphere and manner he brought from Europe. When his sons reached Yeshiva age, he would send them back to learn in Europe. Indeed, two of his sons were in Europe when World War II broke out, and they perished during the war.
Reb Abba, the lone survivor lived in Tchernowitz, Romania and married the daughter of the Nadvorna Rebbe, Reb Isomor zt’l. They emigrated to America shortly after the war. He started his leadership in Newark, New Jersey, where he built a large Shul and Community Center.
Although he was a Rebbe from a previous generation, one who could have led a group of eminent Chassidim, he preferred to spread Judaism amongst secular American Jews, and inspire them with his warmth and love of his fellow Jews.
Under his inspiration, many Jews chose Torah education for their children, and many generations of Torah Jews owe their Judaism to the “Tchernowitzer Rebbe” as he was called in Newark, New Jersey. After his father’s passing in 1966, Reb Abba moved to Pittsburgh. From then on he was known as the Pittsburgher Rebbe.
While still in Pittsburgh, his great love for the Land of Israel motivated the Pittsburgher Rebbe zt”l to open a Kollel in Jerusalem in the name of his late father. In a letter to his students he expressed his “jealousy” of those who study Torah in Israel. However, his sense of mission did not let him leave Pittsburgh. Only some years later, when he felt the time was right, he moved to Israel.
He settled in the port town of Ashdod. In this secular town, the few religious Jews residing there tried not to draw too much attention to themselves. The Pittsburgher Rebbe, however, as a continuation of his efforts to spread Judaism, decided to change this town for the better.
By means of love and warmth, he drew more and more secular Jews to Judaism. On Shabbos, he would go from Shul to Shul and convince the religious Jews to wear their Taleisim openly in the streets on Shabbos. This way, he explained, the presence of Shabbos and Judaism would become evident. He would gather children attending public schools and organize activities for them where they would be introduced to the warmth of Torah.
In 1981, Rabbi Avrohom Abba called his son, Rabbi Mordechai (the current Rebbe Shlit”a), requesting that he move to Israel and open a Chassidic Yeshiva in Ashdod. The Rebbe Shlit”a answered his father’s call, and in the winter of 1981 the Yeshiva opened. Through the difficult years of building the Yeshiva together with his father, the Rebbe Shlit”a was the Rosh
Yeshiva. They built an elementary school for boys and a full time Kollel which attracted newlywed couples to the town, and can thus be considered the cornerstone of the third-largest Chareidi community in Eretz Yisroel.
Rabbi Avrohom Abba’s fame started to spread far and wide, and many flocked to him to seek his guidance and blessings. Stories of miracles, especially for those who were childless, became well publicized. His heartfelt Tefilos attracted many, and this Tzadik who had tried all his years to hide his greatness became a famous figure.
Upon his passing, the Rebbe zt”l, was succeeded by his only son, the current Rebbe, Shlit”a. Under the Rebbe’s leadership, the Mosdos have expanded and flourished. Even in today’s Chareidi Ashdod, with its many communities and institutions, Pittsburgh is still a center for Torah and Judaism.
The uniqueness of the Pittsburgher Institutions is that they serve all segments of the community. In the Pittsburgh center for Torah, Shiurim are given by the best lecturers of the various Chassidishe and Litvishe communities. In the Beis Horoah, the Dayanim of the Belz, Gur and Viznitz communities, unite to serve the entire town. The Talmud Torah, which just recently completed a new spacious building, is staffed by teachers of different backgrounds, and the Yeshiva has mobilized the most capable scholars of the various communities to serve as Magidei shiur and Mashgichim. Indeed, the Dayan of Gur is the Pittsburgh Rosh Yeshiva! The Rebbe himself, joins the students during their learning sessions, delivers shiurim, and observes from close the development of every student with encouragement. A special program encourages the students to memorize and to be tested on hundreds of pages of gemara by heart. Those who achieve are crowned with honorary titles like “Moreinu” and “Chover.” Indeed the Yeshiva has earned a reputation for its high standard of in depth and broad learning that are instilled along with Chassidus and good character, which has made it an attraction for better students from all over.
The Institutions include a network of Kollelim at all hours of the day and an institution for publishing the Divrei Torah of the Rebbes. Together all the Pittsburgher Institutions form a united fortress of Torah and Chassidus from which the entire Chareidi community in Ashdod benefits.
Being the largest Chasidishe “court” in Ashdod, the Rebbe’s tishen attract many Chassidim whose Rebbes do not reside in Ashdod but who still want to be elevated by a warm and inspiring tish on Shabbos and Yom Tov. In addition, the tishen attract many traditional Jews, immigrants and even secular Jews, who taste Chassidus for the first time, in addition to the many families of Pittsburgher Chassidim themselves. Pittsburgh is now considered a large and influential Chassidus with many followers and admirers.
The Pittsburgh Chassidic community has been growing constantly. Most of the families live in Ashdod; however, there are Pittsburgher Chasidim in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beis Chilkiya, London, New York, New Jersey and California. Each Chassid has a unique relationship with the Rebbe Shlit”a, yet all feel that the Rebbe Shlit”a is their loving father. The Chassidim are in constant contact with the Rebbe Shlit”a, asking for his guidance and receiving the Rebbe’s advice and blessing.