Telshe Yeshiva

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Telshe Yeshiva
Telshe Yeshiva 1.jpg
Old photo of Telshe Yeshiva, Telšiai, Lithuania
28400 Euclid Avenue

, ,

United States
Coordinates41°35′39″N 81°29′0″W / 41.59417°N 81.48333°W / 41.59417; -81.48333Coordinates: 41°35′39″N 81°29′0″W / 41.59417°N 81.48333°W / 41.59417; -81.48333
TypePrivate, high school
Religious affiliation(s)Haredi Judaism
Enrollment130 (including the rabbinical college)[1][2]

Telshe Yeshiva (also spelled Telz)[3] is a yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio, formerly located in Telšiai, Lithuania. During World War II the yeshiva began relocating to Wickliffe, Ohio, in the United States and is now known as the Rabbinical College of Telshe, commonly referred to as Telz Yeshiva, or Telz in short.

It is a prominent Haredi institution of Torah study, with additional branches in Chicago and New York. It is the successor of the New Haven Yeshiva of Cleveland.


Telshe yeshiva building, Telšiai, Lithuania

In 1875[4] this famous Eastern European yeshiva was founded in the town of Telshi (Russian: Тельши, Lithuanian: Telšiai, Yiddish: טעלז, romanizedTelz) in Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire, in order to provide for the religious educational needs of young Jewish men in Telshi and its surrounding towns. By 1900 it was "one of the three largest yeshivot in Imperial Russia."[5]

The yeshiva was established by three important Orthodox rabbis and Talmudists:

They received financial assistance from a Jewish banker in Berlin, Mr. Ovadyah Lachman.

Rabbi Eliezer Gordon[edit]

Rabbi Eliezer Gordon

In 1883, Eliezer Gordon was appointed as the (head rabbi) of the town of Telz and in 1884, rosh yeshiva (dean) of the yeshiva.[3] A student of Yisrael Salanter, he was a brilliant Talmudist and expert in Torah law who had been appointed by Rabbi Salanter as a maggid shiur (lecturer) in Salanter's yeshiva at a young age. Gordon also served as rabbi in Kelm, and for a brief time in Slabodka (a suburb of Kaunas/Kovno known in Lithuanian as Viliampole). Although Rabbi Salanter strongly held that everyone required mussar study, he made an exception for Rav Laizer.

Gordon was not satisfied with a yeshiva that served only the younger students in Telz and the vicinity. It eventually became one of the largest in Imperial Russia.[5] He added his son-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch to the faculty and in 1885 he acquired the talents of Rabbi Shimon Shkop. Both Bloch and Shkop were innovators in the field of Jewish education, each pioneering new methods and approaches to the study of the Torah (Hebrew Bible), Talmud and Halakha (Jewish law). Together, their methodical formulae set down the foundation for what became known in the world of Torah study as the Telzer Derekh ( the "Telzer approach").

Innovations brought a rapid increase in the student body. Among them were designating lectures for specific student levels. Whereas other contemporary yeshivas provided one level of study for all students, Telz provided students with lectures commensurate with a student's age and understanding. When a student's standard had advanced, he would advance to the next shiur (class-level). This system was soon integrated into the structure of almost all yeshivas and remains the accepted structure in most yeshivas worldwide.

There were five different shiurim at Telz; Rabbi Gordon delivered the highest shiur. Telz was especially noted for its ability to develop its talmidim in lomdus (analytical study). Rabbi Laizer Yudel Finkel once stated that every talmud student would be best off studying at Telz, where he can develop his learning skills, for two years, and then studying in another yeshiva.

The yeshiva eventually outgrew their Telz community-provided building and in 1894 moved into a new facility. That year they added a new subject of study—mussar ("Jewish ethics"). Until then the study of mussar was a students' personal prerogative; now, it was a part of the yeshiva curriculum. A new faculty position was created: mussar mashgiach (teacher of ethics). Telz's first mussar mashgiach was Rabbi Ben Zion Kranitz, a student of Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv. Kranitz was mild mannered, and did not force his students to accept the mussar approach. In 1897, however, Rabbi Gordon engaged a new mussar mashgiach—the dynamic Rabbi Leib Chasman, who instituted a very strict mussar regime in the yeshiva. Many students opposed this approach. Chasman later achieved world renown as the senior mussar mashgiach at the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem.[6]

In 1902, Rabbi Shimon Shkop left to become the rabbi of Breinsk, Lithuania. In 1905 Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz joined the yeshiva to fill this void. Rabinowitz had served as rabbi to the town of Meishad, and later as a maggid shiur ("lecturer") at the Knesses Beis Yitzchak yeshiva in Kovno, Lithuania. As with his predecessor, Rabinowitz innovated a unique style of Talmudic analysis.

In 1910, while fundraising for the yeshiva in London, Rabbi Gordon suffered a heart attack and died. He had stamped his imprint onto the lives of hundreds of young men. Among his students, now rabbis, were: Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Elchonon Wasserman, Zvi Pesach Frank, Yehezkel Abramsky and others who in turn left their imprint on Jewish society and culture.

Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch[edit]

Rabbi Gordon's 1910 passing saw his son-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch assuming the mantle of leadership as both rabbi to the community and rosh yeshiva.[3] Not only was Bloch an innovator in the realms of Talmudic analysis, he also possessed a unique approach to Torah study and Jewish philosophy. In 1920, he established in Telz primary schools for both boys and girls, and also added a mechina ("preparatory school") to the yeshiva.

Previously, older students would tutor younger students who entered the yeshiva but were not up to the standard of the lowest class. The mechina was structured in the same fashion as the yeshiva itself with four levels of classes commensurate with the different levels of student advancement. At the time, the notion of a yeshiva possessing its own preparatory school was novel. Today, however, it has become an accepted norm, something Rabbi Bloch pioneered.

Parallel to an easier version of the yeshiva curriculum, the mechina also featured secular studies, another innovation at the time. This was cause for opposition from the ranks of many rabbis, who were unaccustomed to the idea of secular studies occupying a position in any form of yeshiva. In 1924, however, the Lithuanian government announced its decision to accredit only those rabbinical colleges that possessed a secular studies department. The Rabbinical College of Telshe was the only such institute, although secular studies were only in its mechina.

A kollel ("postgraduate institute") began in 1922, to train graduates for the rabbinate. Admission required that a student display great promise. Bloch's son-in-law Chaim Mordechai Katz served as dean (rosh hakollel).


In 1918, a teachers training institute had been established in Kovno; however, the seminary did not achieve much success. The faculty of the academy turned to Rabbi Bloch, renowned for his pedagogical prowess, to take it over, and, in 1925 The Yavneh School for the Training of Teachers reopened in Telz under the auspices of The Rabbinical College of Telshe. This served as a postgraduate institute, with the charter of producing teachers for Jewish schools. The curriculum at the teacher's institute included educational skills, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, the Hebrew language and literature and mathematics. The school succeeded in supplying qualified and trained teachers of a high caliber not only to the communities of Lithuania, but also to those of greater Europe.

Yavneh Girls High School Building in Telz, Lithuania.

For many years the Jewish community in Lithuania had lacked a structured educational system for teenage girls. Rabbi Bloch felt that such a concept was called for and in 1927 a high school department for girls was established in Telshe. The school found immediate praise and support from many rabbis and community leaders who saw the immense value that such an institute had to offer.

In 1930, a sister institute to The Yavneh Teacher's Training Institute was opened by Rabbi Joseph Leib Bloch of Telz, who hired Kovno-born Dr. Yitzhak Raphael Etzion (Holzberg) to run it.[7] The school offered a two-year course to young women who wished to enter the field of education. Like its male counterpart, the female division of the Yavneh school succeeded in producing many high quality teachers who branched out across Europe. See also: Sarah Schenirer#Teacher's Seminary; Seligman Baer Bamberger's Bais Medrash L'Morim.

Bloch legacy[edit]

These various schools were all incorporated as a part of The Rabbinical College of Telshe. Thus, under Rabbi Bloch's leadership, the yeshiva grew to include young primary school students through to qualified professionals, ready to embark on careers in the rabbinate and Jewish education.

A committee (made up of mostly family members; one of the few compilers who was not family was Rav Dov Yehuda Schochet[8]) was established for the publication of the lectures (shiurim) known as Shiurei Da’at, which were lectures on musar and basic principles. Four volumes of such lectures were published. He also had an original approach to halacha and some of his lectures have been published as Shiurei Halacha. delivered in the yeshiva and subsequently, the lectures of Rabbi Bloch and Rabbi Rabinowitz were circulated and studied in other yeshivas. The popular acceptance of their novellae in the yeshiva world today, is due much to their circulation in the pre-Holocaust yeshiva world.

In October 1930, Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch died, and his second oldest son, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch succeeded him as both Rabbi to the community and rosh yeshiva.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch[edit]

Students of Telshe on Purim 1936.

At the time of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch's passing, his son Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch was only 38 years old; however, he had been lecturing in the yeshiva since 1926 and had already acquired a name as one of the greatest minds in the rabbinic world.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch's two brothers: Rabbi Zalman Bloch and Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch also occupied positions within the yeshiva. All remained dedicated to continuing with their father's educational methods and approach.

In 1931, a committee was established to maximize traditional Jewish education to as many Jewish children as possible. Schools were made in small towns where there had previously been little or no structured schooling. Older students in the yeshiva were selected to teach for periods of time at these schools, following which, they would return to continue their studies at the yeshiva. Beyond providing many communities with new educational options, these schools also gave Telzer students another opportunity for self-development and growth.

Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz died a year and a day after the death of Yosef Leib Bloch. Rabinowitz's son, Rabbi Azriel Rabinowitz, a mere age 26, was appointed as a rosh yeshiva.

In 1933, the yeshiva built a new building to house the mechina ("preparatory school"). Until the onset of World War II, the yeshiva continued to offer traditional Jewish education to all ages. The establishment of schools outside of Telz had furthered this goal.

The Holocaust[edit]

In the Fall of 1939, the Russians were allowed to bring troops into Lithuania on the pretext of defending the country. In June 1940, the Russians seized control of the country and quickly transformed it into a "soviet socialist republic." As part of this transformation, private Jewish organizations and schools were disbanded and the yeshiva was closed. Most of the students dispersed, with only about a hundred students remaining in Telshe. The learning was done in groups of 20-25 students, studying in various batai medrashim ("small synagogues") led by the rosh yeshivas.

During the early years of World War II, Rabbi Elya Meir Bloch and Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz were in the United States on a fund-raising mission. As the war broke out, their only option to ensure the continuity of the Yeshiva was to transfer the whole yeshiva to American soil.

In October 1940, a group of students led by Rabbi Chaim Stein escaped from war-ravaged Lithuania as it was overrun by the Nazis. This daring flight took place on the Sabbath. While travel is ordinarily prohibited on the Sabbath, one must transgress this prohibition in order to save lives and escape great peril. The original faculty, their families and most of the student body who chose to be left behind in Europe, were killed in Lithuania by Nazi forces and Lithuanian collaborators.

Escaping to Russia as the war ravaged Eastern Europe, another war was taking place in the Pacific - the very direction that the students led by Rabbi Chaim Stein were headed. The students achieved safe passage via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Far East. The group had somehow acquired visas from the renowned Chiune Sugihara, and became beneficiaries of his admirable action to risk his life to enable people from war-torn Europe to seek refuge elsewhere in the world.

Shortly after, the students traveled to Australia. Since some of the students were British subjects in possession of British passports, such as Rabbi Shlomo Davis, their visas were granted.

Upon arrival in Australia, they were greeted by the small but vibrant Jewish community in Brisbane. As they planned out their next course of action, the group of students reached out to improve the Jewish quality of life in the local Jewish community. Among this group was Rabbi Chaim Stein, who later became Rosh Yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio, Rabbi Shlomo Davis who became a teacher and later a senior administrator for the students registrar (retired and living in Lakewood, New Jersey), and Rabbi Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, who later became mashgiach ruchani of Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. The local Jewish community, afraid that these scholars would cause a flourishing of orthodoxy, paid for their transit to the US.[citation needed]

This group found their way to the United States in early 1941.[9] Once reunited with their Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbi Elya Meir Bloch and Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz, they eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

Telshe in the United States[edit]

The yeshiva was opened in Cleveland in the house of Yitzchak & Sarah Feigenbaum on November 10, 1941.[10] As of 1954,[1] it became officially titled the Rabbinical College of Telshe. They relocated to the present Wickliffe location in 1957.[5]

Telshe consists of a high school, college and post-graduate school. The yeshiva is a non-profit and is accredited through the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools.[11] The yeshiva has a department of secular studies that grants a high school diploma.

In the United States, the yeshiva was initially led by a faculty including the late Rabbis Elya Meir Bloch, Chaim Mordechai Katz, Boruch Sorotzkin, Mordechai Gifter, Chaim Stein, Aizik Ausband, and Pesach Stein.

The 2013 student count of 130 included 80 in grades 9-12;[1] the highest student count, in 1966, was about 425.[5][12]

Notable alumni[edit]

Among the well-known alumni of the yeshiva are:



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "about 130" (2013). Ed Wittenberg (August 23, 2013). "Telshe Yeshiva hidden gem in Lake County". Cleveland Jewish News.
  2. ^ Grades 9-12 had 57 in Fall, 2009. "Total Headcount Enrollment at Private Ohio Institutions, Fall 2000 to Fall 2009" (PDF). Ohio Department of Higher Education. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Shaul Stampfer. "Telz, Yeshiva of".
  4. ^ YIVO says "around 1870" but 1875 is when it became more than a minor local institution. "Telshe".
  5. ^ a b c d "Telshe Yeshiva". 5 February 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  6. ^ Lusch, L., ed., The late Rabbi Leib Chasman, People and Personalities, in The Shtutshin Community [1]
  7. ^ "Dr. Yitzhak Etzion, Pioneer Educator, Dies at 96". October 28, 1981.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ 1941: Marcy Oster (June 30, 2011). "Rabbi Chaim Stein of Cleveland's Telshe Yeshiva dies". JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  10. ^ Keller, Chaim Dov. "Rabbi Eliahu Meir Bloch: He Brought Telshe to Cleveland". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Marking 70 Years Since the Rebirth of Telshe in America". COMMUNITY Magazine. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Rabbi Chaim Katz, President of Famed Telshe Yeshiva, Dead; Was 70". November 19, 1964.
  13. ^ "Rabbi Dov Yehuda Schochet | Ontario Jewish Archives".
  14. ^ "Telshe".
  15. ^[bare URL]
  16. ^[bare URL]
  17. ^ Rose, Binyamin. "The Prince of America's Torah Renaissance: An appreciation of Rav Mordechai Gifter, ztz"l, on his tenth yahrtzeit". Mishpacha, 29 December 2010, pp. 33–34.

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