Part 9-Yeshiva Torah Vodaath at 100: Talmidim of the Mesivta Speak

Rabbi Yeruchom Shapiro served as an assistant principal in Mesivta Torah Vodaath, and was the executive director of Bais Yaakov of Boro Park for four decades. His lifelong dedication to mosdos hachinuch is a testament to the education and training he received in the home of his illustrious parents, Harav and Rebbetzin Aharon Yeshaya Shapiro, z”l, and in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath.

Why did your parents choose to send you to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath?

Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, demonstrating Hilchos Treifos to his talmidim from his Masechta Chullin shiur. (1960) (R-L): Mr. Avraham Landesman; Mr. Harvey Rosenfeld; Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky; Rabbi Yeruchom Shapiro; Harav Shmuel Dishon, shlita; unidentified; and Mr. Dave Orlansky.

I was born in Riga, Latvia, and my parents were able to procure visas to enter the United States through my mother’s parents. My zeide, Harav Yisrael Zev Stamm, z”l, was a Kelmer baal mussar who was a Rav on the West Side of Manhattan at the time. When we first arrived, we stayed there, and when I entered yeshivah, I went to Manhattan Day School.

My father, z”l, was the first of the European Rebbeim who came over during the war who was hired to teach in Torah Vodaath. He began as Mashgiach in 1941, and I understand that he made quite a mark with his shmuessen, which were in the style of his Rebbi, Harav Yeruchem Levovitz, zt”l, the Mashgiach of the Mir. [Incidentally, I was named after him.]

This style, which attracted many bachurim, was nevertheless not the style that Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, had in mind, so he was given a shiur in the mesivta.

When I was in third or fourth grade, we moved to Williamsburg, and I transferred to Torah Vodaath. Reb Meyer Apfelbaum would pick me up in his station wagon and bring me to yeshivah.

When I attended elementary school, the Menahel was Rabbi Dovid Stern, z”l, aka Dr. Stern, who was also the founder of the Young Israel movement. The Sgan Menahel was Rabbi Avrohom Pincus, z”l, who had traveled from America to Europe to learn in Mir and Kamenitz. Rabbi Dovid Bender, z”l, was the Menahel of the older division, which included the seventh and eighth grades.

When I was in mesivta and beis medrash, we had 500 talmidim, and there were five parallel classes.

Which Rebbi, Menahel or Rosh Yeshivah did you associate with while in the yeshivah?

I was close to Harav Gedalia Schorr, zt”l, as well as Harav Moshe Rivkin, zt”l. I remember that Rav Schorr would often come and daven Minchah in the beis medrash kattan, where my father was in charge. I was in Rav Rivkin’s shiur when the Stoliner Rebbe, zy”a, was niftar. Rav Rivkin asked me why I came to yeshivah that day, since he knew our family were Stoliner Chassidim. When I said I would be going to the levayah later, he insisted that I belonged there early, and told me to go.

Do you keep up with your classmates and friends from YTV?
Rabbi Yeruchom Shapiro (front row, C) om Purim with his classmates in his father’s shul.

I kept up with several of my friends from yeshivah throughout the years. Harav Yitzchok Meir Schorr, Harav Shmuel Dishon, shlita, Reb Dov Goldbaum, Reb Simchah Schorr and Reb Chaim Guzik are still dear friends. [I remember that before 1967, Rav Shmuel Dishon wanted so badly to go to the Kosel that he dressed up in a keffiyeh, the Arab headdress, and snuck into the Jordanian section of Yerushalayim and was able to make it to the Kosel. This is the teshukah for ruchniyus that he has.]

Who was your role model?

I had the zechus to drive Rav Schorr, and at times he would ask me to sing some special niggunim. I also remember watching how Rav Schorr would spend hours upon hours in the library talking in learning with Harav Moshe Steinwurzel, zt”l, who was one of the top bachurim in America at that time.

Eventually, after learning in Bais Medrash Elyon for a number of years, he was the first Rosh Kollel of the yeshivah’s kollel. Later, he became Rosh Yeshivah of Bobov.

I worked closely with Rabbi Moshe Lonner, z”l, for many years, and he was a mentor to me. He was an exceptional and meticulous person, and he worked tirelessly to procure visas for foreigners to enter the country.

He taught sixth-period math, which was an advanced class for those who wanted to learn it. After class, he would say a shiur in mussar. He actually had Latin as a choice for language classes, in addition to French and Spanish.

At the beginning, he was the assistant to Rabbi Sender Linchner, but when Rabbi Linchner left to start Boys Town in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Lonner became principal, and I became his assistant. I also taught two periods of history, and I had some wonderful students during that time, including Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Dr. Dovid Ziemba, and Rabbi Gedalia Weinberger.

What is your fondest memory of your Yeshiva Torah Vodaath experience?

There are many, but some of my favorites involved the annual Purim shpiel put on by some of the talented bachurim. Rabbi Nosson Scherman put on a superb play, and I remember Harav Yisroel Belsky, zt”l, acting as King Saud. I recall another one with Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald, z”l. They were funny, and it was all done without anyone getting drunk, and there was an uplifting spirit on Purim.

I’ve been told by many people that they remember the way my father would daven and lein on Asarah B’Teves. My father had yahrtzeit on that day, and many times, former talmidim would return just to hear him. He was the baal korei in the Mir, and he had a special way of leining the haftorah of the taanis.

Another memory is from the year I was in the shiur of Harav Elya Chazzan, zt”l. We were learning Maseches Gittin, and our class finished the entire masechta by Pesach. We wanted to learn a different masechta after Pesach, but the hanhalah overruled us.

In the end, Rav Chazzan said a shiur on the third perek of Maseches Gittin, in the morning, and Rav Schorr said a special shiur for us in Maseches Nedarim in the evening in my father’s classroom. That was a special year.

What would you like to see in the future for Yeshiva Torah Vodaath?

I wish that it could replicate the atmosphere when I attended. They produced model students, filled with middos and eidelkeit. I hear many times that people involved in shidduchim are looking for “the old YTV-style boys.” It is meant as a compliment. I would like to see the yeshivah be successful and produce many more such talmidim.