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Rav Avraham Kalmanovitch

Rabbi Avraham Kalmanovitch was appointed to a Rabbi in Rakov c 1910. He married the daughter of the previous Rabbi of Rakov, who passed away earlier. Rabbi Kalmanovitch was in Rakov during WWI and you can read about his life during that time in the previous story on this site. ON FOREIGN SOIL An Autobiographical Novel. Folk Zolf wrote the story. Here I’m posting some excerpts from internet sites that are dedicated to Rav Kalmanovitch. I would like to thank Daniel Ewenczyk, who translated a lengthy article that was originally written in French. The articles are only minimally edited for lack of time. —Eilat

…In Rakov, Tikitn and Vilna, in America, Germany and Morocco, his feet were rooted on the ground but because he stood higher than most, he had a clearer and sharper view of the flames that licked at his nation's body and soul. With an unflagging sense of urgency he assumed responsibility and, revered and heeded by Jews and gentiles alike, he worked unceasingly to salvage and nurture the remnant that was spared from the fire and to rebuild Torah….


It is not simple to phrase the tale of the devotion and the acumen of which this eminent personage of the Jewish people demonstrated in everything he undertook. Any distress, any problem of the Jewish people was a concern to him, and found him ready to invest in it all his forces and his very being. No door resisted in front of him, no endeavor was too heavy.

Having been confronted with an immigration question in the United States during the War (World War II), he contacted the authorities, and obtained a modification which saved some thirty thousand Jews.

His private life came in the second place. He sometimes transpired to start the evening of the séder of Pessa'h at 2 a.m. since during earlier hours he had to take care of some predicament involving in saving a Jew. During his life, he wrote thousands of letters, encouraging
there, supporting elsewhere, and inviting in a third place.

His attention toward the entire community was total. It took care of the Jews of Egypt in 1967, became worried about the fate of those of Libya, worked in Lebanon, etc.

His wisdom and his intelligence were accompanied by exceptional compassionate qualities. His policy consisted of launching initiatives, but to bequeath to others the entire credit of the undertaken actions. "Do everything! But if you want to succeed, let others think that they did it themselves", he once advised an interlocutor.

As for his perseverance: he was one day in Fublaines, with Rabbénou (rav Gershon Liebman), who had invited him to speak to the young people, one Friday evening. He asked one of them to seize his handkerchief with force, then he withdrew it towards him in a single blow, which
made the other person to release it, taken by surprise. "No! If you are told to hold something, you should not release it. "This was all his speech. And it entirely defined him as a man; he could spend whole months, years, working towards a goal, unceasingly, day and night,
without ever releasing his hold.

The rav Kalmanovitch launched himself , body and heart, in the rescue of the North African Judaism since the first day that someone told him about the problems faced by those constituents of the Jewish people. At the same point in time, he had to go to Erets Israel, due to a sickness of his father who lived there. He took the advantage of this to seek a person capable of dealing with this project. Having found and convinced the rav Abou (*), it enticed him to stay three years in Morocco. He
continued for more than twenty-five years to take care of the minute details of all that he had set up. His close relations made him realize their astonishment on this subject (the Ashkenazi world needed as much that someone should invests in its favor, and who is better than the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir in the United States to carry it?).
He was indeed then the only one in his status,, (cf Koulmouss haLev p.
127) dedicating himself solely to the Sefardi community.

The young people he would bring back from Morocco would be treated like
his own children, even better. He made them come Friday evening and
questioned them with great rigor.

He finally sent two large groups to the United States: the first of
these groups certainly less successful than the second one, because he
was less prepared for it.

These young people became heads of notable families in the United
States. One of the descendants of these people recently took a
great-granddaughter of the 'Hafets 'Hayim as his spouse (a son of rabbi
Shalom Revaih, of Toronto). To name only a few, rabbi Baroukh 'Harar,
the brothers 'Hannanya and Eliyahou Elbaz of Flatbush, rabbi Shim'on
Cohen, rabbi Shelomo Ouanounou, and others.

During a visit of the rav of Poniewezh in New York, rabbi Avraham
present this group to him, and the rav of Poniewezh decided to bring a
few of them with him, to Bené Braq (one of them is the rav 'Hafouta, of
Tel Aviv). It was difficult to get Kodesh books during this post-world war period. What could one do? Rabbi Avraham took it upon himself to find paper and to print about 200,000 books of Kodesh! He devoted considerable forces to this immense project, and without these books, it
was impossible to start working. He declared once that if he had come in this world only for that, it was enough!
Rabbi Avraham writes in a letter addressed in 1952 to the rav David
Ovadya of Sefrou:
Write back and keep me informed of every detail that "Ozar haTorah" in the entire country
does. It is an organization that I had the merit to set up, my heart and my soul, for which I fought so much "(letter published in Sheeloth veTeShouvoth, Nathan David, published in 1996).

How did rav Kalmanovitch get acquainted with the rav Abou? He had made an appeal to the wise men among the Sefardis of the country, particularly to the rav Ezra Attya, a vibrating call to help. The latter had a presentiment of rav Refaël Abou as being the person able to take on
such a mission, which he would fully confirm in the future. He remained in Morocco from 5707/1947 to 5710/1950. Isaac Shalom proposed him to also bring his family, but he refused.

Amusing detail: the rav Abou knew the Yiddish tongue, and impressed the young Moroccans by this knowledge (Zougari-O'hana).

On his return to Erets Israel, he maintained his contacts with the teachers and the pupils of Ozar haTorah.Behind the active people on the ground, stood Yossef Shama, the secretary of Isaac Shalom. He is one of the inspirational entities of these undertakings, and it is him who will ensure the follow-up of the work of the rav Abou Morocco (Zagouri-O'hana p. 52).

Mrs. Renee Reichman, the mother of the famous Reichman brothers of Toronto, passed the war, herself and her famous family, in Tangier, in Morocco. She also played a significant role, in attracting since 1945 the attention of the leaders of the American Agoudath Israel on the
dangers threatening the Jews of Morocco, in a memorandum of some 36 pages.

The first years of Ozar haTorah in Morocco represent one period in itself, different from the following periods. All occurred so quickly, with such wideness that, after two years of work nearly 10 000 pupils attended the schools created in all the cities of Morocco, and that 400
others entered various structures intended for the teenagers! It is true that this is the fruit of intensive and hard work of the rav Abou and some other notables, but the fact is there, and it does not cease to astound.

The actors of this adventure feel also how the speed of these successes is remarkable, and strive to leave on paper their impressions. -much better than that which will be done later, thus leaving us more information about them (in 1948, Nitsanim and Beth haOtsar appear, then the following year, two very interesting collective works, rich in Tora words and historical information).

The rav Kalmanovitch and the rav Abou come to Casablanca. The first step consisted in joining together the notables of the town of Casablanca in the synagogue named "rabbi Eliyahou". The presence of these two exceptional guests, one coming from Erets Israel, the other from the
United States, did not leave the indifferent public. The audience was large, and included the president of the community, Moshe Ifrah. The latest, whose presence was important, however apologized to Rabbi Refaël Abou: his son was sick, and he had to bring him the drugs that he just
bought for him. This greatly interfered with the course of the meeting, and rabbi Abou begged him to stay despite everything, "G.d would doubtless send a prompt heeling to this child". He remained, and attended the various talks and speeches this evening, the rabbanim wanting to
convince the audience of the importance of the study of the Tora and the interest of the new program that Ozar haTorah wanted to launch. All this, until the moment when the pharmacist came in running:

"Where is Mr Ifrah? " - because a serious error had been made in the preparation of
the drugs for his son, who risked his death had he taken these potions. Needless to defined that the wonderful divine providence directed toward this notable while remaining at this meeting had a great echo and convinced rabbi Abou and rabbi Avraham Kalmanovitch, more than all the
remainder, of the importance taken by their mission.

The rav Kalmanovitch had an impressive, royal appearance, tells the rav Aharon Monsonégo, with a large white beard and especially a rare fervor and strength. Never, absolutely never, did he postpone a thing for to the following day if he could do it on the very same day!!!

. If it was necessary to turn mountains upside down or to find the most insane sums of money, the rav
Kalmanovitch got under way -and succeeded! .

One of the local notables having immediately answered to the call was Yits'haq Elmalia'h (Elmaleh). He was already known for his social work, but on this instance, he devoted body and soul to travel extensively through all Morocco during whole months in order to recruit young
people. He will become a few years later the director of these institutions "If there is a Yeshiva or a Talmud Tora in the cities or the villages, the merit is his" will write later the rav Refaël Abou.

Mr. Elmalia'h also offered part of an industrial building belonging to him thus enabling the opening in Casablanca of the first Ozar haTorah school with three classes.

The trio made up of Rav Abou, Rav Kalmanovitch and Mr. Elmalia'h started by making a tour of the town of Casablanca. The rav Abou writes:

"How much we were disturbed by what we saw, shame, pain, feeling of anger. Any person who was gifted with a sensible disposition and a pure soul could only ponder and be contrite by this unanticipated and terrible spectacle which was in front of us, leaving us with our mouth
gaping. Dark rooms that sunbeams never come to visit, a foul and rotted air emanating from it, being smelt from far away; a crowd of children pressing themselves in the room, an odor of putrefaction and rot met the guests. Incompetent in all aspects, or very unqualified persons, inapt for work supervised these young children, poor and suffering children. Many children were assigned to them. Armed with sticks and thin straps of many kinds, he keeps them as within a prison. People call him "Rabbi"!…."

Rabbi Abou was certainly not a non-Jewish delegate sent by any European humanitarian association?
The OSE attests that 80 % of the young people who attended the old institutions were suffering from skin and eye diseases.
The rav Kalmanovitch writes for his part:

I found over there, in Morocco, in Algeria and Tunisia, approximately 60,000 young people. 20 000 among them were taken from us and transferred the Alliance's schools, where they will not feel the least breath of Tora. The 40 000 others attended for the majority the'hadarim and
Talmudei Tora; a minority, strong all the same of a few thousands of young people, was completely left to themselves. But even in the'hadarim and Talmudei Tora they were completely forsaken: no books, no correct teachers, not place where to accommodate them. I found 120 pupils piled up in a small room, sitting on the ground, with only two'houmachim for
the whole class.
The rav Abou concludes:
Morocco benefited from a great merit that suddenly, at the most desperate and most dangerous moment, Ozar haTorah appeared, because one or two years later, Tora would have disappeared from Morocco!

"Now, everyone is conscious of the fact that the center of the spiritual life of the Jewish people in Morocco, and the source of his forces, lies in this institution". Testifies, in perfect Hebrew, one of the pupils of the first year: "Without it, there would not remain any memory of the
Jewish culture in this exile ground" (Nitsanim p. 17).

Obviously, it was henceforth necessary to invest much larger efforts than that the preceding generations had been able to produce. Ozar haTorah had some means, the Joint, in spite of its relative youth, will play an essential and capital role. Even if its basic vocation were the
social work, local personalities such rabbi Aharon Monsonego will succeed in convincing the leaders of this institution with time. The education was an integral part of the action plans then necessary in order to enable the Jews of Morocco to leave their misery. The OSE will
also help to solve the immense difficulties, which arose. Buildings were rented the medical dispensaries and the essential canteens were started. The teachers also received enough for their subsistence, which changed their way of life completely and, by consequence, their spirit,
with study and teaching.

Another innovation: the pay depended on age and on the number of people in their family. The level and the devotion of each one are also taken into account (Zagouri-O'hana p. 60).

Furthermore: the young people, instead of being delivered to themselves, or to pass half of their day to work, were taken in hand: studying is compulsory, and a completely serious monitoring is assured.

Rav Refaël Abou, lthe living soul of this institution, was gifted with a very good contact with young people, and could follow each one among them in a personal way. This capacity has certainly contributed to the success of Ozar haTorah, all the more so that these young people were not acquainted with this kind of relations (id. p. 61).

The first year, seventeen schools and vingt-sept primary institutions were open in all Morocco, with an annual budget of 15 million francs (of which two thirds were then ensured by Isaac Shalom). A management committee was founded in Casablanca: it was responsible for the whole of Morocco. The pupils came first of all from Yeshivath Kéter Tora from Casablanca and other schools, but were also recruited among the poor young people, who then received at best some instruction near the local synagogues 'hazanim. This new opening which was presented to the poor public of the city was quickly known, and the rush was formidable: hundreds of pupils parents came, sometimes waiting 24 hours in the schoolyard to be received, so that eight hundred new elements were finally accepted.

EM haBanim was not anymore able to meet the needs for the community, even if its teachers, "emanating from the older generation, filled with a sincere faith and with the fear of G.d, stood their ground and no storm could shake them" according to the description of rabbi Abou.

The about six thousand pupils from Em haBanim, in Casablanca, but also in Fez, Sefrou, Marakech and Meknès, soon joined Ozar haTorah. -In certain cases, in particular in Casablanca, the passage did not go through without teeth grinding on the part of the leaders of Em haBanim,
who saw their best elements leaving them.

It was also necessary to encourage the young people to study in another
manner than by the traditional blows! In a first phase, the financial reward formula was selected: in addition to a monthly help, these young people received 100 F for any page of Guemara they knew by heart, and 150 F if they also knew the tossaphists commentaries. For a
whole chapter: 1 500 F. The budget of Ozar haTorah, with this accounting,
reached a million francs per annum ("old francs")!

The fact is that this method made it possible to develop an interest, of course at first extremely material, but leading these pupils to immerse themselves again in study -when the light emanating from it was quickly going to insufflate life and spirituality in them.
The rav Abou did not restrict himself to the only town of Casablanca, in spite of the remarkable successes that Ozar haTorah had gathered there, but travelled extensively through the whole country during 82 days accompanied by Yits'haq Elmalia'h and of Moche Ifrah, as well as by
Yossef Choukroun. Creating schools and institutions everywhere, and knowing at each place how to choose a responsible person with whom the general direction remained in continuous contact. As in the case of
Marrakech, Reduction, Salted, Safi, Oujda, Port Lyautey, etc.

The results were not always equal. In Mazgan, a recent city, with 3 800 Jews, the welcome had been rather cold:

"Do not waste your efforts here, Sir, it's been already a long time since one is no more able to study Tora in our city"

This was not the kind of speech one had to hold in
front of rabbi Refaël Abou! He ended up winning the case, and a Yeshiva of twelve young people as well as a primary school of fifty other young people was founded.

In Meknès, the toranic institutions had succeeded in preserving a level worthy of a town of a strong tradition in Tora of its rank. Yeshivath Kéter Tora and the Yeshiva of Rav Baroukh Tolédano, included several tens of young people. , For the majority young people gathered in the area of Meknès, placed and adopted by the families of the city (with the manner of Central Europ), like the school Em haBanim, with its 2000 pupils. The whole, with the eyes of foreign visitors as were rabbi Abou and, at first, Rabbi Avraham Kalmanovitch, was maintained on a certain level, but the decline started to be felt. The person in charge of these institutions, Yossef Berdugo, also discussed at length with these guests, without immediately arriving at a conclusion. But thereafter Talmud Tora will pass indeed under the direction of Ozar haTorah

Yeshiva of Rav Tolédano passed under the control of the rav Lipsker, of Loubavitch, on his arrival in Morocco.

In Fez, town of Tora, with the Sarfaty family (descending from Rabbénou Tam, writes rabbi Abou), Denan-Leoth family (affiliated to Rambam) and others, Tora was always studied. Em haBanim had created a school, directed exclusively by women who, precisely, were at the end of their strenght. The proposal of Ozar haTorah to take these institutions under its protection arrived at the good moment -but the persons in charge of Ozar haTorah had to come back in order to come to the final agreement. The school counted 1400 pupils.

In general, agreements were made with the old institutions, which fixed reciprocal commitments regarding the financial organization. Often Ozar haTorah would provide half of the budget of the institution which it took" under its wing", but the buildings belonged to Ozar haTorah.

Ozar haTorah consequently directed the education provided by the institution.One can only wonder at the perseverance and the devotion of these men: "How many days of tiredness and nights of exile have we suffered, Yits'haq Elmalia'h, himself, his car and his driver, and myself. We passed from one village to the other, arriving sometimes at two or three in the morning, awaking people of the place, and discussing with them until dawn -many nights, we did not even close our eyesl! But, with G;d's help, we succeeded in the majority of the localities to install
Yechivoth and schools ". A first car broke down, a second vehicle belonging to Moshé Ifrah was placed at the disposal.

"From there, rav Abou writes in a letter to rav Kalmanovitch, we arrived at 'Hemdana, a poor village, where the Jews reside in clay houses and sit on plaits. We found there 26 pupils left to their fate, when their Master taught them one hour per day, then went to work. Forsaken
children, some of which have not been the hairdresser for two years. I sincerely cried. I gathered together the community and explained to them that we want to take their children for them to learn with rabbi David haLévy, and they accepted, because all loveTora with all their heart. We
chose 17 pupils, and brought them to rabbi Lévy ".

Rav Abou told later than in a certain village, in the region of Agadir, the results had remained null. When the famous earthquake caused the eradication of the said village, he could not help reminding of their refusal. Ozar haTorah organized great public examinations about the knowledge of the young people. The first one took place at Pessa'h of the year 5708/1948 in Casablanca, in the presence of the dayanim of Casablanca (rabbi 'Hayim Shoushan, rabbi Ya'aqov Berdugo and rabbi Shi'mon Cohen, as well as rabbi Baroukh Toledano from Meknes). Many young people obtained exceptional results.

At Lag Ba'omer of that same first year, the traditional pilgrimage on the tomb of rabbi David haLevi Dera was the opportunity to invite young people from the villages far away from Casablanca to a session of taking-up. "In the presence of thousands of guests, these pupils were
questioned on 48 pages. Their answers were excellent and their knowledge deep. It was truly a sanctification of the divine Name to see these young villagers who had no experience of the matter, and which, until then, had been abandoned to their fate, succeed in such a way. Many, in
the public, were seen wiping their tears... "

However, during this first year of work, Ozar haTorah did not succeed in establishing schools in all Morocco, but received requests for many Jewish communities. Let us note in particular this letter of Rav Sale (Baba sale), rabbi Israel Abou'hatséra, who requested to be helped in the creation of a Yechiva and a talmud Tora in his city, or of the mails coming from Jewish communities of the towns of Debdou, Oujda, Larache and Tangier.

It should be noticed that the relations between large Yeshivoth from Western Europe and the USA and, on the other side, the Judaism of Morocco, were very much developed in these years. Many English or American personalities visited the Moroccan communities, and invited
young people to come study with them. The reason thereof is simple: Central Europe was practically empty of Jews, whereas many were the young people from North Africa who were ready to receive a religious education deep and motivating.And, indeed, many of these young people who then left for America or England (in Sunderland especially), or even in France at Aix-les-Bains and Fublaines), became thereafter prominent members of the Jewish

In Mir, in the United States, they received very special attention from rabbi Avraham Kalmanovitch, who took them under his own protection. Rav Dessler, which spent six months to New York, personally took care of this group. The fact is that a large 'Alya was then organized towards Erets Israel, but unfortunately the young people who took part in it did not find
structures allowing an integration going in the direction of their traditions and their religious sensitivity. The religious institutions in Erets Israel were not accustomed to accommodate young Sefardi people. A few notable exceptions all the same: the rav Ya'aqov Perets will pass directly from Meknes, where he studied near the'hakham Dahan (recently deceased) in Poniewezh, or the rav David Bouskila in 'Hadera.

These first steps were outstanding. Other ones, modern and accessible replaced the old structures, allowing a good formation in Qodech and serious basic profane matter concepts.

It is clear however that choices were made: the rav Kalmanovitch wanted that the young people of Morocco would be sufficiently trained in order to be able to go afterwards to large Yeshivoth.-at the point to reproach
even rav Abou his lack of zeal in this direction (the notable Morrocans request the latter to answer the rosh Yeshiva of Mir: "Here, this is no America, this is only Morocco, and one does not leave it so easily").

As for the teaching programs in Morocco, rav Kalmanovitch required that the first three years be entirely devoted to Qodech - and after that only, he accept that one devotes one half-time to the profane topics -in the afternoon-. This policy was not always easy to realize, and, at certain periods, was threatened - to the regrets of rav Kalmanovitch.

These problems will not leave any more Ozar haTorah, and it applies until to-day. must it be an institution answering to the mass needs, allowing them access to a correct religious education, all the same time ensuring a good profane formation, not to mention social work of first
importance, for, until now, the leaders of Ozar haTorah speak of about 25 % of social cases saved by their schools. It is also the spirit of pedagog entities, such as 'Hinoukh 'Atsmai in Erets Israel, or Tora ouMessora in the United States.

Or must it prefer elitist schools, enabling to reach the highest levels of Tora ?
The debate is since then launched, and caused certain crises among the executives of Ozar haTorah, as will see we it thereafter.

When a person addressed reproaches to regarding the level of the schools of the'Hinoukh 'Atsmai in front of the rav of Brisk, rabbi Yits'haq Zeev Soloveitchiq Z. ts. L, the latter answered: "please, you create schools in Beth She'an and Beer Sheva, then we'll talk! "
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This is the gist of one of Reb Leib's wartime letters to the yeshiva's president HaRav Avrohom Kalmanovitz zt'l, who had been laboring unceasingly in the United States to extract the bnei hayeshiva from the Far East.

In 1941, Rav Kalmanovitz succeeded in obtaining forty- one Canadian visas which would have enabled a large contingent of bochurim to leave Shanghai. Reb Leib nevertheless wrote to him that, "the main reason [for their not having traveled immediately] is that all of us who have visas, are bound heart and soul to the other bnei hayeshiva. Our hearts' desire and our souls' deepest longing are to see -- and to be part of -- our holy yeshiva in its wholeness . . ." In this letter, Reb Leib also notes that, "despite all the wanderings that Yeshivas Mir has undergone, its spirit and innermost soul have not diminished by one iota . . . "

This resolve to maintain the chaburoh intact led to the subsequent decision to turn down this opportunity to leave the Far East altogether, until the entire yeshiva could go.

Early on in the war when the Russians expelled the yeshiva from the town of Keidan, it became necessary to split the yeshiva into several groups, each of which would learn in a different location. A committee was formed to decide who should be in each group -- by no means a straightforward task, for the yeshiva's survival depended on each contingent being able to function fully as a self contained unit until they could reunite…..


In Tempestuous Times: The Life And Achievements Of HaRav Avrohom Kalmanovitz, zt'l

by Rabbi A. Gefen Rescue And Relief To the Last

Rav Kalmanovitz was constantly active. Even as he was aging, he made a second trip to Morocco in 5713 (1953) to try to help out the Otsar Hatorah educational system that he had founded only a few years earlier. Here are some incidents and details of that trip.



Memories of Rav Kalmanovitz on the Road

Rav Kalmanovitz himself wrote that because of the exertions of this trip, he fell ill. "And I am still busy with medicines and doctors, who found an ulcer in the intestines which comes as a result of great vexation and irritation. I am hoping for Hashem yisborach's kindness, for a complete recovery."

While convalescing, Rav Kalmanovitz spent several weeks as a guest in the home of HaRav Refoel Boruch Toledano, av beis din of Meknes. The memories of Rav Refoel Boruch's son, HaRav Yosef Toledano, of Rav Kalmanovitz are presumably from that visit.

He remembered their guest's beaming countenance, his tall stature and his comely face. "I accompanied Reb Avraham to the doctor on the yom tov of Shavuos. The doctor was Jewish and the goy told him that if he needed any medicine he would be glad to accept it but without chas vechalilah writing anything down."

HaRav Aharon Monsonego, chief rabbi of Morocco, also made his first personal acquaintance with Rav Kalmanovitz on this visit. In an interview with Yated, he described how he accompanied Rav Kalmanovitz as he travelled around the country.

"We travelled to all the cities, up hills and down valleys, a very difficult journey . . . he needed a shochet to provide him with food. Rav Avraham went to the faraway towns and places and he would only eat from shechitah that he himself had supervised. I joined him as a shochet. Everywhere [we went] I would slaughter a chicken for him to eat for his health. I also slaughtered calves for him and we visited all the institutions in the country. (Emotionally,) He was a great man. He spoke with a very fiery delivery."

YN: We heard that people didn't understand how he spoke.

Rav Monsonego: "It was difficult to understand his talks, true, but he didn't speak without an interpreter. At least that was how it was in all the places where I went with him. I would always translate the drashah for the congregation. Rav Moshe Lasry would also translate . . .

(Emotionally) "When the situation with Otsar Hatorah and its activities was difficult due to a number of different factors, Reb Avraham would repeat the words of the posuk about Dovid Hamelech o'h, in Shmuel (I 30:1- 6), in the episode of Tziklag. Dovid was in a very difficult position, `And Dovid and the people with him raised their voices and wept until they no longer had strength to weep.' The great problem was the fact that the people wanted to stone him, for they were very embittered. Referring to this, R' Avraham would tell me, `And then the novi says, "and Dovid strengthened himself in Hashem his G-d!" ' Dovid Hamelech fortified himself in Hashem, and thereafter the salvation came, as the pesukim there describe.

"Reb Avraham knew all of Tanach by heart. He always had a small volume of Tanach in his pocket and while travelling he would review it constantly. His whole style and manner of speaking was from Tanach. He would regularly adduce proofs from Tanach for every problem that arose (as befit his breadth of mind and his greatness in Torah and fear of Heaven), as in this example of Dovid in Tziklag, when he wanted me to draw strength from Hashem.

"In connection with his always carrying a Tanach, he once told me that he had learned this from his teacher the Chofetz Chaim, who kept a Tanach in his tefillin bag."

A unique talmud Torah opened in Casablanca for the school year that began at the end of 5712 (1952), in which one-and-a-half thousand pupils were taught in forty classes, an average of more than 37 children per class. In this institution, which replaced all the city's small chadorim, half the day was spent on limudei kodesh, while teachers from the Alliance taught limudei chol in the other half. Rav Monsonego was called back from Aix-les-Bains, where he had been learning under HaRav Yitzchok Chaikin zt'l, to head the talmud Torah. (The Brisker Rov zt'l, whom Rav Monsonego met in Switzerland, urged him to return to Morocco.) This was also Rabbi Dovid Turgeman's first teaching post with Otsar Hatorah. He recalls one incident from Rav Kalmanovitz's visit to the school:

"When he visited the classrooms, he paid a visit to the class of Rav Yitzchak Chazan zt'l, who taught Talmud in breadth and in great depth to one of the higher classes. Rav Kalmanovitz was very impressed by Rav Yitzchak and he asked him a hard question on the gemora with which great rabbanim had had difficulties. Rav Yitzchak showed him an answer in a Tosfot in a different masechet. Afterwards, Rav Kalmanovitz told the menahel, Rav Aharon Monsonego, that Rav Yitzchak was fit to head a yeshiva gedolah in Klal Yisroel, not just to be a regular teacher in a talmud Torah."

Summit Meeting in Paris

Rav Kalmanovitz initiated a meeting with the heads of the Alliance in Paris, apparently following his visit to Morocco and as a direct consequence of what he had witnessed there. The meeting was to advance two objectives: first, to have the Alliance's influence removed from Otsar Hatorah schools, and second, to obtain their consent to introduce minimal Torah studies into their own schools.

Rav Kalmanovitz's escort and translator in France was Rav Yehuda Alkayam zt'l, who was then learning in a French yeshiva. As a result of this trip, a strong bond developed between them. Rav Alkayam gave the following description of the meeting:

"To start with, the leaders of the Alliance were not moved by the gaon's entreaties and they did not mean to accede to his requests. But then his emotions boiled over. Rav Kalmanovitz burst into stormy tears and said -- in a language that they did not understand at all -- ` "And their father Yaakov said to them, `You have bereaved me; Yosef has gone and Shimon has gone and [now] you would take Binyomin; all the losses are mine," (Bereishis 42:36). The dreadful Holocaust, when a million Jewish children were slaughtered and annihilated, was not enough. That was a physical holocaust. But now you are continuing with a spiritual holocaust of tens of thousands of Jewish children!' These words, emanating from his pure heart with hot tears, softened the icy hearts of the participants, who then agreed to part of his requests."

A protocol drawn up as a result of this meeting, which is dated the second of July 1953, concludes:

"Our opinion follows the various details of the agreement that have taken shape between us and various communal councils of Morocco. A working agreement such as the one we have discussed, between our organization and the Alliance, will be considered by us as affirmation of the effectiveness of the work that we have already been putting into it during six years of tremendous effort.

"In the mishnah in Pirkei Ovos Chazal say that the world stands upon three things: on Torah, on service and on doing kindness. Many projects of kindness have been carried out on Morocco. We aspire to provide what is lacking: Torah and serving Hashem."

A measure of Rav Kalmanovitz's greatness can be discerned in the following lines, which he wrote immediately after his return to the United States. "Boruch Hashem, I have already given a shiur on maseches Gittin here in the holy yeshiva (i.e. Mir). Although I have not yet fully regained my health, I wait to become stronger among the rest of Klal Yisroel's sick, in Hashem yisborach's kindness. Everyone is obligated to learn Torah though, even the aged and the sick, for `they are our lives and the length of our days.' "

A French Connection

In 5712 (1952) twelve thousand pupils were learning in Otsar Hatorah institutions. Further growth took place until 5723 (1963), when there was large scale Jewish emigration from Morocco. In 5716-7 (1956-7), against the background of the disturbances that preceded France's granting of independence to Morocco and unrest in Algeria, there was general violence as well as anti- Jewish rioting. Thousands of Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan Jews fled to France, whose Jewish population doubled within a short time. The only religious group that was well-prepared to welcome the newcomers were the Christian missionaries. Rav Kalmanovitz sprang into action and set about organizing a religious day school, within the Otsar Hatorah system. Here is an account of that institution's precarious first steps, as recalled by Rav Tzvi Padida, upon whom Rav Kalmanovitz called to open and run it.

"The mission had representatives at every air and seaport, which extended material assistance to the destitute refugees. They transported them to out-of-the- way villages, where there was no Jewish population. I can personally testify about an entire family that was fully converted." (Rav Padida displays photographs showing the conversion ceremony and the family's ultimate return to their heritage under the influence of Rav Padida, who was a young avreich at the time.)

"We raised the alarm and our cry was picked up by the amazing radar of Rav Kalmanovitz, who took in the situation and immediately dispatched two emissaries, one from Mir and another from Lakewood. They came to look and their eyes were darkened by what they saw. In every city [where Jews lived] there was maybe a single beit haknesset. For example in Lyons, where I was active, there was just one kosher butcher, in whose shop both kosher and treif meat were sold. There were no kosher food products; the neglect was tremendous.

"These avreichim visited the yeshiva in Aix-les- Bains and told HaRav Chaikin about their mission from America and about the bad conditions that they had witnessed. They asked him if one of his talmidim could accompany them to see what could be done. It thus came about that they asked me to join them, but I refused because I was too young. When they completed their work, the two returned to America and delivered a precise and exhaustive report. Rav Kalmanovitz issued a heart-rending circular declaring France a `meis mitzvah', for which even a cohein godol may become tomei.

"The avreichim mentioned my name to Rav Kalmanovitz and we started to correspond, until the point where two more emissaries were sent from the American Pe'ilim and Rav Avraham's urging pushed me to accompany them . . . and it was resolved that the first priority was to start doing something. The gedolei Yisroel decided that a talmud Torah should be opened in Lyons. The task was entrusted to me, when I was just nineteen years old, after pressure from HaRav Chaikin, HaRav Aharon Kotler and HaRav Kalmanovitz zt'l, who gave me no peace. (Once he called in the middle of the night and cried, `A Yid is still asleep? Get up!')

"Rav Avraham obtained funding for the talmud Torah through Yitzchak Shalom, who supported the Otsar Hatorah institutions in Morocco. He was a wealthy man, from the Syrian community, who lived in America. They called him `king of the scarves' because of his worldwide business in the manufacture and marketing of scarves. This was the beginning of an interesting episode of ups and downs in the progress of pure Torah outlook."

An Entire World!

With the implementation of the infamous Zionist Aliyat Hanoar program (which arguably played a greater role in tearing Sephardic youth away from their religious heritage than even a century of the Alliance's influence had done) Torah institutions in Morocco began closing. The accounts by Rav Padida which follow, of Rav Kalmanovitz's handling of some of the crises that beset his work, are every bit as instructive as they are startling.

"Rav Kalmanovitz told Yitzchak Shalom that he should direct resources instead to Lyons. Thus, the talmud Torah in Lyons was established at the end of 5723 (1963) with a single pupil. People told me that under such circumstances there was no call for opening a talmud Torah -- a school with just one pupil has no right to exist [they said]. I insisted on hearing Rav Avraham's opinion. He responded, `You have an entire world [there]. For him [alone], you must run everything normally. Bring a principal and teachers, studies, recesses, games and even a bell to ring.'

"I followed his instructions and that was what we did with our `entire world.' In the evenings I would go out and make the rounds of people's homes together with the child to enroll more pupils in the talmud Torah. Jews heard that the school was actually operating and, after a time, and with special effort, there were sixty talmidim.

" . . . Rav Avraham pressured me both verbally and in writing to reach an enrollment of a hundred! And indeed, when we sent notice to America that we had one hundred-and-twenty pupils, the gaon was overcome by tears and said, `What joy there is in the heavenly entourage! If Rav Tzvi Padida were here, I would go into the streets with him to dance!'

"With our expansion and the opening of a branch in Marseille, the Torah department of the Jewish Agency decided that it was time to put their hands on these holy endeavors. They worked in several different ways, the main one being to pressure Yitzchak Shalom [who supported Torah causes warm-heartedly, both earning and providing others with many merits, but whose own understanding of Torah was such that he could be swayed] to discontinue his support. This would have brought them into the picture to give financial assistance and would have handed them control of the tinokos shel beis rabbon.

"Messengers from the Jewish Agency also persuaded Yitzchak Shalom that I was a young bochur who lacked experience and that I had no `right' to be running such an enterprise without them. What's more, they told him, `You cooperate with us in many places; how come you don't afford us any entry over here?' One way or another, I eventually realized that the money was taking a while to arrive.

"Rav Avraham investigated and discovered that the irreligious folk from the Agency were behind the problems. He wrote to me, to strengthen me and to encourage me not to let them gain a foothold under any circumstances: ` "A person who aspires to purify himself is assisted." A person is granted Heavenly assistance according to the way in which he orients himself. If you dedicate yourself to safeguarding the purity of the flask of oil, you will be assisted and all the future products in generations to come will be to your credit.

"On the other hand, if you let them gain the slightest entry, you can't be considered as aspiring to purity and they will take ever bigger strides and will wreak destruction . . . '

"And indeed, boruch Hashem [we have continued] as we started. Today there is a network with over ten thousand children run according to pure Torah outlook, under Heaven- fearing Orthodox Jews . . . Rav Avraham betook himself to bold action and he also went to Yitzchak Shalom's home. The magnate apologized to him: `I cooperate with the Agency in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Turkey and in other places? How could I not listen to them here?'

"Rav Avraham trembled and raised his voice in pain, `Do you wish to close the school that I, together with the gedolei hador, worked so hard for?' -- and he let himself fall to the floor as if in a faint.

"In alarm, Yitzchak Shalom cried, `Ambulance! Quickly, an ambulance!' but the distraught Rav Avraham opened his eyes and said, `Not an ambulance -- a check for Padida!'

"From the floor he continued, `Listen Mr. Yitzchak Shalom. I don't know what is in store for me in the near future [this meeting took place only a few months before Rav Kalmanovitz actually passed away]. But if I arrive in the World of Truth, I will stand at the gate to Gan Eden and I won't let you inside! Everything you've done for Otsar Hatorah and all the charity you've given won't help you. The way something ends up reveals the nature of its beginning. If you want to close the Torah institution in Lyons -- you will have no share in the World to Come!'

"The magnate said, `Get up and take a check.' Rav Avraham asked that the check be sent to the school's account and added, `I won't come to give you my blessings until Rav Padida informs me that he has received the money and until you promise not to withhold money again.' And so it was.

A Fateful Moment

"The Agency did not rest, however. They continued their campaign, pressuring him constantly to get me to bring in at least one other person, `to help me.' Things reached the point where they managed to instigate a meeting between the heads and workers of the Agency and Mr. Yitzchak Shalom and I. The meeting was arranged after conducting all kinds of visits and wielding pressures and influences . . . until it was resolved that a meeting would be held in a luxurious Paris hotel.

"There were important people present, as well as a number of Jews who were termed `talmidei chachamim' who had been brought along by the Agency on purpose, in order to show me that they too, cooperated with them, so why was I being so stubborn? Rav Avraham found out about this and he called HaRav Gershon Leibman zy'a and agitatedly asked him to go along and encourage Rav Padida, who would have to face a whole crowd of people on his own. `He mustn't be left alone!' he cried at them into the telephone.

"They managed to arrive several minutes before the meeting was due to start -- HaRav Leibman and several others -- and they said, `Just a moment, we have a message for you from Rav Kalmanovitz.'

" `Rav Avraham wanted us to tell you the following: "We, here in America, feel the tremendous pressure which you are under, several fold. Normally, it is extremely difficult to resist such pressure and even if you fail, we will understand you. But be aware of one thing: the moment you enter that meeting, you are like the Cohein Godol entering the Kodesh Hakodoshim . . . a single unfit thought was enough to cause his death. So! If you so much as entertain a thought of cooperating with them in any substantial way, or even if you agree that they should come and visit every month, or participate as guests in any of the talmud Torah's events, these too, are forbidden. [for you to agree to,] with no compromises. Be strong!" '

"Rav Gershon continued, `We will stay here and, as Rav Avraham asked us to, will wait for you however long the meeting lasts, until you come out and tell us the verdict: guilty or innocent, dead or alive. And we shall immediately report to Rav Kalmanovitz.'

"Baruch Hashem I was adamant in maintaining my position, rejecting their involvement in the institution that I myself had established and [repudiating] their right to join me on my own turf. Yitzchak Shalom was convinced by my address and by the justice of my arguments and he called me aside and said, `My eyes saw [even] more than my ears heard. From now on, don't worry. I will continue sending money and will increase my support so that you won't need to solicit funds elsewhere.' Thus, we progressed and developed, with great success."

In Midstream

Rav Padida never got to meet Rav Kalmanovitz personally. The bond between them developed over the years in the course of the many letters and phone calls that they exchanged. Rav Kalmanovitz invited Rav Padida to the United States in 5724 (1964) to raise funds in order to establish a solid financial basis for the Torah institutions in France. He placed a large notice in the local Jewish press, welcoming Rav Padida in the name of all the American Jewish organizations. -- Even the Mizrachi (so that later, they would at least not hinder the drive) -- but sadly, several days after Rav Padida's arrival, before they had had a chance to meet, Rav Kalmanovitz was called to the yeshiva shel ma'aloh.

Crowds came to hear the Hesped delivered by the visiting French bochur, in the course of which Rav Padida read out the last letter that Rav Kalmanovitz had written him. It was filled with encouragement, with strategies for rescuing and protecting Torah and with the pure Torah outlook that passes from one generation to the next. By the time of his petiroh, Rav Kalmanovitz too, whose tutelage in self-sacrifice for the klal had included witnessing the conduct of the Chofetz Chaim, Reb Chaim Brisker and Reb Chaim Ozer zt'l. He had trained, by personal example, a new generation of men who were selflessly dedicated to preserving and furthering Torah.

In Conclusion

In being a maspid of his father, HaRav Shraga Moshe Kalmanovitz asserted,

"Maybe the reason that my father zt'l, merited playing a part in the rescue of virtually all the gedolei Torah who were saved, from the gaon HaRav Aharon Kotler zt'l and HaRav Reuven Grozovsky zt'l, to the Rebbe of Satmar (zt'l), was that his self-sacrifice was of a very special type. As I heard from him in his last address.

"He asked a question on Chazal's statement that Chanania, Mishoel and Azariyoh adduced a kal vochomer from the conduct of the frogs in Egypt, and reasoned that they too, should certainly agree to be thrown into the furnace (Pesochim 53). Why couldn't they have learned from Avrohom Ovinu, who sacrificed himself in the same way in Ur Casdim?

"He answered that Chananya, Mishoel and Azariyoh were not being asked to actually serve an idol. They were only obligated to sacrifice themselves so that there would at least be some individuals who refused to bow to the idol, so as to lessen the chilul Hashem. This obligation did not devolve on any particular individual. Such was the self- sacrifice of Chananya, Mishoel and Azariyoh -- to decide that `I will be that individual' -- and this could only be learned from the frogs, whom Moshe only generally said would be `in your ovens' (Shemos 7:28), without specifying any particular individuals.

"My father zt'l, practiced this special kind of self- sacrifice that did not acknowledge the idea of `let someone else do it.' On the contrary -- [he held] `Let me be the one to do it!' Even if the work played havoc with every aspect of his life, even if all norms and standards dictated that others ought already to be doing it, he did not excuse himself from aspiring to, `Let it be done by me!' That is why he merited what he did -- to have a portion in virtually all the Torah existing in the world. Happy is his lot."

Many photographs depict Rav Kalmanovitz involved in this or that project, at many different times and at many different locations around the globe. If one wanted to pick out a single, symbolic image to sum up his life, it would be none of these however. The most evocative scene would be the one described by Chaim Shapiro z"l who knew a young Rav Kalmanovitz as rov of his childhood town, Tiktin, when a fire broke out there one motzei Shabbos:

"Soon the Rov appeared on the roof of a house near the blaze, his imposing figure illuminated by the leaping flames. Up there, it appeared, not only did he get a better view of the rescue operations, but by the flow of his tzitzis and his kapote he could judge the direction of the wind.

"Like a field marshal on a battlefield, he stood erect in his kneehigh boots. . . . His high velvet yarmulke was tilted to one side and his hands were moving frantically. With a single command . . . he took personal charge. His orders were obeyed to the letter by Jew and Pole alike.

"Amidst the panic and commotion, the Rov stood out like a tower of calm stability and authority."


Note: It should be pointed out that in focusing on the broad themes of Rav Kalmanovitz's hatzoloh work, these articles have not dwelled on his role as Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva and his work within the yeshiva which was also extensive. And even with all that has been written, the full extent of his hatzoloh activities has still not been revealed. An account of the many other rescue projects that he carried out worldwide, on behalf of both individuals and entire communities, could easily fill another article, while one can only guess at the extent of that part of his work that did not go on record.