An aerial view of Berlin, Germany..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This week, Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the founder and president of Dirshu, the world’s largest Torah organization that brings the study of Halacha (Jewish law) to Jews from all walks of life, all around the world, went on a European mission. He visited the Jewish communities in Vienna to take part in a historic celebration, Budapest to offer support to a heterogeneous group of students and Berlin to participate in the inauguration of Dirshu’s Berlin branch. The Berlin branch will be the 60th European Dirshu branch.
Who would have ever thought that communities so decimated by the Holocaust could one day see a resurgence of Torah study?
Rav Dovid, as he is called by many, wants the Jewish communities throughout the world to know they are never alone. Dirshu supports them and encourages them to continue their studies of the Talmud and Mishna Berurah (the work of Rabbi Israel Meir Kagen, better known as the Chofetz Chaim). His trip began in Vienna where approximately 400 participants took part in a siyum (celebration) to mark the end of the study of the tractate of the Talmud that deals with damages and to support their Daf Hayomi B’Halacha program that involves daily study.
What an emotional and miraculous event this was. It took place in a famous music hall that a very large group of observant Jews had met in prior to the Second World War. The hall then was used for Nazi events during the war, but this past Sunday
Hebrew and Yiddish were flowing in the air as Rav Dovid and others celebrated and danced.
Dirshu fosters the concept that regardless of where a Jew lives, they are a part of something larger and are never alone. This is the message that Rabbi Hofstedter worked to spread during this trip. In 2016 there was a rise in antisemitic incidents in Austria. Austria has approximately 9,000 Jews.
From there Rav Dovid and others with Dirshu moved onto Bratislava, which was once known as Pressburg. Pressburg and the Jews have a long history and while not all of it was positive, it is sacred to many Jews because Rabbi Moses Sofer founded the Pressburg Yeshiva there centuries ago. That yeshiva was a major influence on scholars for years to come.
Next stop was Budapest. Rav Dovid’s parents were from a town one hour outside of Budapest and while they were fortunate to survive the Holocaust, much of their family perished, so this stop on the trip had special meaning to Rav Dovid. He was greeted by Jews of all walks of life. Unfortunately, during communist rule many Jews lost their ability to study Jewish educational topics, but this has been changing and now Dirshu has a branch there.
Europe as a whole today is a place where many Jews do not feel comfortable. There have been antisemitic attacks in Copenhagen, Paris and Belgium. Iceland has talked about legislation to prevent Jewish circumcision and many groups are trying to have laws passed throughout European countries to prevent kosher slaughter of animals, and some have already succeeded.
However, there is probably no city in the world that has had a more complicated relationship with European Jewry then Berlin. That is why Rav Dovid and others from Dirshu were grateful for the opportunity to participate in the inauguration of Dirshu’s Berlin branch on Tuesday
night. Now a very high level of Jewish study will be able to thrive in a city that tried to wipe out all traces of Jewish life and learning.
Despite a history of European antisemitism, the Jewish people survived, as did our texts and millennia of rabbinic discussion and interpretation.
Rav Dovid feels that one of the best ways we can preserve the memory of those who died in the Holocaust is to cherish and preserve what they cherished. More than anything else, for the majority of the Jews who perished, that was the study of Torah and all the sacred books that interpret the Torah.
For Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, supporting Jewish education in Europe preserves our people because Jews are not only tied together because of our genetic pool, but primarily because of Torah.The author is a frequent contributor to The Daily Wire, NOQ Report, the Resurgent, and has had pieces published in
The Jerusalem Report and
The American Spectator.