Monday, July 4, 2011
Among the signs of the coming apocalypse was the Kovod Akhron accorded to the Telsher Rosh HaYeshiva Hagaon Rav Chaim Stein OBM last week.
Initial reports had it that after the levaya in Wickliffe / Cleavland the Aron would be flown to the east coast and a levaya would take place at the Telsher Minyan on 16th Avenue in Boro Park. In fact this never occurred. Instead the Aron was taken to Lakewood for a Levaya en route to Eretz Yisroel for one last levaya prior to interment.
A mere 10-15 years ago skipping (and slighting) Brooklyn/ the tri-state Metropolitan Area / Hymietown in this way would have been unthinkable. After all the Telsher Minyan is in Boro Park and the Yeshiva of the Telshe Alumni is in Riverdale (though that institution is more closely related to Brisk than to Telshe...that's a post for another day...or maybe not). Why go to Lakewood?
For those not willfully blind the answer is quite simple. Brooklyn is Oisgespheelt for Litvisha B'nei Torah. BMG is 8-10 times bigger than all the major "Ivy" New York Yeshivas combined. Any bokhur returning from study abroad who chooses to return to his alma mater rather than BMG is deemed a יוצא דופן oddball and has put himself at a serious shiddukh market disadvantage. No one under 30 seems to be buying homes in Brooklyn anymore. Boro Park, a neighborhood that used to boast several vibrant Agudah Minyanim, Telshe, Mirrer, Lakewood and Torah V'daas Alumni minyanim, Pinters, Pallers, Beis Yosef and Netzakh Yisrael has been almost completely Litvak-rein for years now. Sure, some of the above-mentioned minyanim still bear the names mentioned but they are all inundated with Khasidisha khevra. Soon the bell will toll for Flatbush which, increasingly, resembles a Moshav z'qaynim.
Those who discern which way the wind is blowing have already established beachheads in other up and coming communities, e.g. Torah Temimah has a Mesivta in Lakewood and Torah V'Da'as has a pre-school in Mill Basin. A number of years ago one of the Ramim in Bais haTalmud-Bensonhurst moved to Lakewood and started a Yeshiva Gedolah there as well. The Rosh Yeshiva of the BM division of Mesivta of Lakewood is, arguably, the rightful heir and Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Cleavland. Meanwhile Yeshivaleit in Brooklyn are increasingly isolated, dispersed and aging.
That BMG refers to the fund-raising Shabbosos in Brooklyn as "Shabbos-of-Chizuk" says it all. It wasn't really that long ago when the perception was that Brooklyn provided material and human-resource chizuk for Lakewood. Moreover, the august "Ivy" Yeshivas of New York, Cleavland, Philly, Montreal and Baltimore , and especially their Roshei Yeshiva, provided spiritual chizuk for Lakewood. But all that's changed now and the Yeshivisha spiritual center of gravity has shifted.
Recently I attended the annual Kollel Dinner for one of the New York based Ivies. All the speakers acquitted themselves well and all spoke in very glowing, rhapsodic terms about the past present and future of the Kollel. But the evening left one Lakewood yungermahn (who had come in because of one of the honorees) completely underwhelmed. "Big deal!" he poo poohed, "So they've got the biggest out-of-town Kollel. Ottawa has six yungerleit, Chicago has 14 and Toronto has 20 and change. So they've got 150...big deal!" For this young fellow, who grew up in Flatbush himself, a Kollel with fewer than a thousand yungerleit and less than 10-15 simultaneous Chaburos hardly rates. Furthermore, in his organization of reality Brooklyn is now "out-of-town" compared to Lakewood! For ages New York was THE "town" with the ה"א הידיעה and the balance of so-called urbanity, was on the outs!
So while unnerving, it is really unsurprising that the powers that be chose to accord Rav Stein ZT"L his Kovod Akhron where the Bnei Torah population that truly appreciated him live. Why hold it in Boro Park and have ten buses drive in from Lakewood when you can hold it in Lakewood and draw ten times the crowd that you would have in Boro Park?
For Yeshivisha Brooklyn the end is near.