Rabbi Emanuel Schwartz entered Yeshiva Torah Vodaath for seventh grade in 1940, and continued through beis medrash, eventually beginning his career in chinuch in the yeshivah. Today, as a resident of Monsey, he shares with us some memories and experiences from his illustrious career.
How did you end up coming to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath?
I was raised on the Lower East Side, and for elementary school, I attended Yeshiva Rav Shlomo Kluger. For the uninitiated, Yeshiva Rav Shlomo Kluger served the residents of the Lower East Side, and it was organized by Galicianer Yidden. The Rosh Yeshivah was a tzaddik and gaon olam, Harav Yankele Flantzgrabben, zt”l. Harav Moshe Steinwurtzel, zt”l, who went on to learn in Torah Vodaath and Bais Medrash Elyon, and eventually served as the first Rosh Kollel in the Yeshivah, was a noted talmid of Rav Flantzgrabben.
My family moved to Williamsburg when I was 12 years old, and I entered Yeshiva Torah Vodaath while I was in seventh grade. I graduated from the elementary school, and I went on to the mesivta on South Third Street.
Which Rebbi, Menahel or Rosh Yeshivah did you associate with while in the Yeshivah?
I was zocheh to have many great Rebbeim, some of whom are legends today. Harav Shachne Zohn, zt”l, who wrote several sefarim named Ateres Yaakov and established a kollel to learn Kodashim in Eretz Yisrael, was one of my Rebbeim. Another Rebbi was Harav Baruch Kaplan, who eventually established the first Bais Yaakov in the United States together with his wife, Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, a”h. Harav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, who taught in the mesivta at the time, was also my Rebbi.
I graduated high school in 1945, and I went on to learn in the beis medrash. I heard shiurim from Harav Eliyahu Moshe Shisgal, Harav Moshe Dov Ber Rivkin, Harav Simcha Sheps, Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, and the Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Reuven Grozovsky, zecher tzaddikim livrachah. I also developed a close relationship with Harav Gedalia Schorr, zt”l.
Who inspired you to enter the field of chinuch?
Once, Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, called me into his office and asked me why I was taking courses at night. I told him that I planned to major in mathematics, and I hoped to teach limudei kodesh in the mornings and teach math in yeshivos in the afternoons. He bentched me to be matzliach. I believe that this is what brought me hatzlachah all these years.
You also had a relationship with two of the lesser known Rebbeim, namely Harav Shmuel Kushelevitz, zt”l, and Harav Yitzchok Schneider, zt”l. Can you share your impressions of these Gedolei Torah?
After spending some time in the beis medrash, I began studying for semichah, which was signed by Harav Shmuel Kushelevitz, zt”l, and Harav Yitzchok Schneider, zt”l. Rav Kushelevitz was a talmid in the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshivah in Radin, and he wrote sefarim named Nesivos Shmuel. The second volume, on Masechta Chullin, is a classic. He was also a Rav in the Bronx, and he wrote a sefer consisting of his drashos, which is also called Nesivos Shmuel. I kept up my kesher with Rav Kushelevitz, and in fact he was mesader kiddushin at my wedding.
Rabbi Yitzchok Schneider was a great gaon and a tremendous pike’ach, and he was an assistant menahel to Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz , zt”l. He was revered for how he understood each bachur and how he dealt with them with such wisdom. He left his position in 1947, when Rav Mendlowitz was ill and gave over the hanhalah to Rav Schorr and Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky.
Although these great Geonim were no longer involved in the day-to-day shiurim, they did give the farhers for Yoreh De’ah, and I was zocheh to have them sign my semichah.
You became a Rebbi in the yeshivah while you were still a bachur. How did this come about?
In 1948, a fifth-grade Rebbi was niftar in the middle of the year. Harav Gedalia Schorr, zt”l, was aware that I had plans to enter the field of chinuch and he recommended me for this position. This was a rare opportunity, and I was interviewed by Dr. Stern, zt”l, and Harav Avraham Pincus, zt”l, the Menahalim, and I was hired. In the mornings, I taught the fifth grade in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath for six years, until 1954, while I continued learning in the beis medrash in the afternoon.
When I got married, I invited my fifth-grade students to attend my wedding, which was quite unusual in those days. Many of them showed up, and they are included in my wedding pictures.
After you left Torah Vodaath, where did your career in chinuch take you?
I accepted the position as a teacher in Bais Yaakov–Esther Schonfeld, where I taught Navi in the mornings, and math in the afternoons. Since I had an M.A. from Hunter College and I was licensed as a principal, I was appointed as principal of Esther Schonfeld, where I remained for 10 years. Afterwards, I served as the principal of the Junior High School and High School of Bais Yaakov Bais Miriam in the Bronx, which was run by Harav Yeruchem Gorelick, zt”l. I remained there for four years, until 1967.
We moved to Monsey in 1965, and I began teaching math at Spring Valley High School. I assumed that my days in chinuch were over. I applied to myself the words of Yaakov Avinu, who told Lavan that he worked 14 years for his daughters, and six years for his sheep. I, too, worked 14 years with the daughters of Klal Yisrael, and six years for the tzon kedoshim, the “holy sheep,” the young boys.
Yet at that time, a new opportunity presented itself. A new mesivta opened in Monsey, which was first known as Monsey Mesivta High School. I served as principal of the secular studies department, and I taught math as well. Nine years later, it became Yeshiva Shaarei Torah under the guidance of Rabbi Berel Wein. I continued as principal until 1994, when I retired as principal, but continued teaching pre-calculus for several more years.
Can you name some of your contemporaries in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath who went on to serve Klal Yisrael?
Rabbi Osher Lemel Ehrenreich, shlita, who went on to lead Bais Yaakov of Boro Park for over half a century, was a classmate of mine, and he is pictured in my wedding photos.
What would you like to see in the future for Yeshiva Torah Vodaath?
As someone who experienced Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in its relative infancy, I hope the Ribbono shel Olam grants them the ability to continue educating tzon kedoshim until we greet Moshiach.