On Wednesday, February 16, President Isaac Herzog visited Heichal Shlomo, the building championed by his grandfather, chief rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, which was originally intended to serve as a spiritual center for the people of Israel.
The purpose of the president’s visit was to mark the first anniversary of the passing of Moshe “Moshko” Moskowitz, who served as director of the Heichal Shlomo Foundation and who played a pivotal role in establishing the establishment of Yeshivat Har Etzion and Herzog College.
Speaking at the ceremony marking Moskowitz’s first yahrzeit, which was held in the newly remodeled Wolfson Museum, President Herzog said, “My illustrious grandfather had a dream that this building would be the headquarters for Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Sir Isaac Wolfson turned this dream into reality. For many years it has been a symbol reflecting both the Torah and the State of Israel.
“It is no surprise that I feel very emotional here. The memory of my grandfather is engraved on the stones of this building.”
After his death in 1959, Rabbi Herzog’s study was relocated within the Heichal Shlomo Museum as a living memorial. During their tour of the remodeled Museum of Jewish Art, Herzog and his wife, Michal, were shown his grandfather’s study, where visitors to the museum can learn about his achievements and some of the challenges he faced while serving as chief rabbi, scientist and statesman.
They were accompanied on their tour by museum director Shlomit Sebag; Herzog College dean Dr. Ezra Kahalani; and Rabbi Baruch Gigi, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion and a member of the directorate of Heichal Shlomo and Herzog College.
“Entering his study,” said Herzog, “I sense that holiness. When I see the text of the Prayer for the State of Israel in his handwriting – the same text that hangs on the wall in my own office – I reflect on the generations of Jews who dreamed of living at a time when we could pray for the Jewish government in our own land.”
The president eulogized Moshe Moskowitz, saying: “Last year we lost our dear friend Moshko, who was a connection to the memory of my honored grandfather with whom he was friends from their time together on Kibbutz Masuot Yitzhak. He worked humbly all his life, in the tradition of Moses and Aaron.”
Rabbi Meir Nehorai, rabbi of Kibbutz Masuot Yitzhak, who has served in recent years as head of the Heichal Shlomo Foundation, spoke about continuing Moshko’s work and the parallels between him and Rabbi Herzog – their work for the community alongside their unceasing Torah learning, and their commitment to the Jewish people throughout their lives, particularly during the years of the Shoah. Rabbi Nehorai described Rabbi Herzog’s efforts to persuade world leaders to take action to save Jews from the concentration camps and Moshko’s efforts many years later to rescue Torah scrolls that had been saved from the conflagration, stained with the blood of European Jewry, and bring them to the museum as testimony.
He explained: “In recent years, Herzog College has taken on the management of Heichal Shlomo, updating the building and expanding its activities. Today it is once again a significant and influential building. Working together with Herzog College, we are realizing the dream of Rabbi Herzog.”
Herzog College president Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes described the deep commitment of both Moshko and Rabbi Herzog to their dreams, and the practical steps the college is taking to realize those dreams at Heichal Shlomo and in Gush Etzion.
“In his master plan, Moshko presented the college as an institution of higher education placed in the center of Gush Etzion and the communities of the area. Herzog College’s recent transition to full membership in Israel’s Council of Higher Education will allow us to further develop our campuses in Gush Etzion in the spirit of Moshko’s ideology.
“We are breathing new life into this center of Jewish tradition, as envisioned by Rabbi Herzog at its founding, fulfilling another of Moshko’s dreams.”
“Alongside the college’s master’s degree courses, Heichal Shlomo also hosts our Continuing Education program for the wider community, which brings in a broad cross-section of the Israeli public,” he noted. “Last year, we also took a giant leap forward in working with world Jewry when we took on a joint project with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry to support the teachers and principals of 1,500 Jewish day schools around the world.
“This is the best way to commemorate the lives of visionaries and activists – to continue their work and fulfill their dreams.”