(PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
Historically the Jewish community in Cleveland, Ohio has had significant exposure to chassidus. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, hundreds of refugees came from Europe and settled there. During that time, the Helmetzer Rav Z”tl and Yibodel L’Chaim Tovim the Kaliver Rebbe Shlit”a lived in Cleveland for many years. They were preceded by the founder of the Clevelander New York/Ra’anana dynasties, Grand Rabbi Meir Leifer Z”tl, who was the first Rov of Congregation Bnei Yaakov Anshei Marmorosh (currently known as the Green Road Synagogue). To this day, the city is graced with annual visits from the Spinka Rebbe of Boro Park HaRav Naftuli Weiss Shlit”a, and the Rov of Mischkenois L’Avir Yaakov HaRav Avrohom Katz Shlit”a, the son-in-law of the prior Tosher Rebbe Z”tl.
Approximately ten years ago, the Aleksander Rebbe R’ Shneur Zalman Dancyger Shlit”a, the son of the Imrei Menachem R’ Avrohom Menachem Dancyger Z”tl, moved to the University Heights suburb of Cleveland. Ignoring naysayers, specifically those that doubted the potential for the success of a Chassidishe Kehilla, the Rebbe remained steadfast in his resolve. Immediately upon founding the Alexander Kehilla, the Rebbe began to ensure that the principles and staples that he saw in his heilige father’s home were implemented. The Kehilla quickly became an epicenter for Torah, Avodah, and especially Gemillas Chessed, enhancing an existing and flourishing community with an infusion of chassidish warmth.
Several months ago, the Aleksander Rebbe’s daughter got engaged to the grandson of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe R’ Yisroel Hager Shlit”a (Bnei Brak) . Local askanim were ecstatic at the possibility of a visit of the chosson’s esteemed grandfather along with fellow member of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah of Eretz Yisroel the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlit”a, a brother-in-law of the Alexander Rebbe and uncle of the Kallah.
In cooperation with askanim in the Vishnitzer and Modzitz mosdos, the participation in the final sheva brachos in Cleveland was achieved. With the assistance of Agudath Yisrael of Ohio, along with the hanhalas Bais Chinuch D’Rav Dessler (Hebrew Academy of Cleveland) and Yeshivas Derech Hatorah, a pre-Sheva Brachos Kabbolas Panim was arranged with the participation of the area’s tashb”ar.
The Kabbolas Panim took place in the elegant ballroom of the Young Israel of Beachwood.
Opening remarks were given by Rosh Yeshivas Telshe (Telz) Hagaon R’ Dovid Goldberg Shlit”a, who spoke about the zechus of hosting the Rebbes and how the whole city feels the positive effects when a Tzaddik visits.
The Aleksander Rebbe’s son, R’ Yisroel Dancyger, led the attendees in a few chapters of Tehillim for the cholei ha’Ir and cholei h’Am. Included in the audience were cholim from the Chassidic courts of Sanz, Erlau and Belz in Eretz Yisrael, who are in Cleveland for medical care. It was a very emotional moment; 500 voices raised as one.
The Modziter Rebbe then blessed the crowd and shared a Dvar Torah, which was translated by Rav Dessler, the Menahel of the Hebrew Academy. Rav Dessler took the opportunity to share the long history and beautiful relationship between the Modzitz, Dessler and Telshe dynasties in Japan following the War.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe, translated to English by Rabbi Margareten, Menahel Yeshivas Derech Hatorah, relayed his observations about the beauty, emes and amazing achdus in the flourishing community, and how nice it is to see Yidden with so much genuine enthusiasm for Yiddishkeit. The Asifa concluded with children and adults walking past the dais wishing L’Chaim to the local Rabbonim and the distinguished Admorim.
With musical accompaniment by Sruly Werdyger, Duvid Bernatt and the “CLE”Zemer adult choir of Cleveland, young and old joined in song, voices blending together in harmony.
Maariv followed the Atzeres at the newly renovated Beis Medrash. Due to continual growth, the Beis Medrash was expanded to accommodate minyanim that reach over 100 participants on Shabbos. The Beis Hamedrash was opened for Rosh Hashana and is dedicated as “Heichal Ha”Shatz”, after Harav Shimon Tzvi Halpern Z”L, father of the shul’s Baal Koreh.
The evening concluded with a return to the Young Israel Ballroom for Sheva Brachos and simchas chosson v’kallah.
In recent years, the greater Cleveland Jewish community has grown tremendously with the help of Gedolei Yisroel, Rabbanim, Roshei Kollelim and dedicated philanthropists and askanim. Strong advocacy by the regional Agudath Yisrael representatives have delivered concrete results from the Statehouse that support and assist the orthodox lifestyle and the overall growth.
The Kehilla is built on chesed, love, and achdus, with infinite warmth. The only previous visit by the Vishnitizer Rebbe was a brief stay a number of years ago, prior to assuming his current position as Rebbe. The Modzitzer Rebbe visited approximately 5 years ago. These two Gedolim both independently remarked how clear the difference is from their respective earlier visits, including the amazing warmth and chassidus that was shown.
The Vishnitizer Rebbe departed after the Sheva Brachos. The Moditzer Rebbe honored Kollel Ateres Nochum Zev (named after HaGaon Nochum Zev Dessler Z”tl) the following morning just before to leaving to the airport, with a drasha on the inyan of the three cardinal sins where a Yid must be yehareg v’al yaavor. Rosh Kollel HaRav Zev Busel Shlit”a, a Kollel member from a long-standing Modzitzer family, delivers a Dvar Torah every week in the Beis Medrash and assists with the Daf Yomi. The Rebbe viewed the opportunity as a Hakoras Hatov for all the Rosh Kollel’s efforts.
Though the time was brief, from the moment of the Admorim’s arrival till their departure, the Cleveland community was privileged to witness majesty, learn lifelong lessons, and glean tremendous chizuk.
Photos by JDN