This weekend the Chochmei Lublin Yeshiva in Lublin was rededicated as a Jewish place of study and prayer in a watershed moment for Polish Jewry, and Polish Jewish relations (click here for photos). The Yeshiva was the crown-Jewel of pre-war Jewish religious scholarship, and entrance into Chochmei Lublin required an exhaustive test in Talmud that by today’s standards would make the person a talmudic genius. And if they passed thetest, that meant that they got to start in the beginner class.
While Lublin itself has only a few Jews, it is a destination for every Jewish group in Poland. The newly renovated building not only has the prayer hall (shul) but also six stories of classrooms and dormitories. Hopefully the rest of the building will be used for seminars and conferences, for learning camps and other beneficial projectsâ€”not another museum as some have proposed.
I personally have deep connections with Lublin and the Yeshiva. When I first visited Poland in 1991, I was invited to Lublin by a group of actors and musicians to teach Jewish melodies. I ended up spending several weeks around Lublin and developed close friends there. Unbeknown to me at that time, Chochmei Lublin had been reformed after the Shoah in Detroit. The building that housed the yeshiva was purchased by my great-grandfather Shloime Leib Bookstein, a great business man and holy Jew born in Glowno, Poland in 1870.
While I was unable to attend the ceremonies this weekend, a friend and long time mentor the Cheif Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, read the following letter read there, honoring my great-grandparents for what they did to help restore some dignity to the Yeshiva after its demise at the hands of the Germans. Thank you to Rabbi Schudrich and the entire community for this inspiring event.
February 8, 2007
Distinguished guests, Chief Rabbi Schudrich, and friends. I send to you my greetings on this auspicious day, ceremonii otwarcia synagogi w Jeszywas Chachmej Lublin, the Dedication of the Yeshiva in Lublin.
Rabbi Moshe Rottenberg, Z”L, came to my great-grandparents Shloime Leib (born in 1870 in Glowno) and Leah Bookstein, Z”L, for help in building Chochmei Lublin in Detroit. Rabbi Rottenberg knew that Shloime had returned to the religious ways of his upbringing, and davened and studied Torah morning and night. Not only did Shloime Bookstein donate a large sum of money to help purchase the Yeshiva building, but he personally helped oversee the renovations to ensure the quality of the workmanship. He hoped Chochmei Lublin would live up to its namesake, improve the life of religious youth, and provide leaders and teachers for American Jewry.
Among the thousands of students that went through Chochmei Lublin in Detroit was my first Talmud Teacher, Rabbi Meshulam Isaac.
My great-grandfather died suddenly in the winter of 1947, and unfortunately never lived to see the Yeshiva open its doors. His funeral was attended by the entire religious community of Detroit.
My great grandfather understood that Torah study is the backbone of a Jewish community. May the reopening of Chochmei Lublin Yeshiva bring more Torah study to Polish Jewry, and World Jewry, to help strengthen it and revitalize it.
Shabbat SHalom – Gut Shabbos.