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*** Aharon Kotler was born in 1892, in Sislovitz, Russia, and at a young age he was known as an , a prodigy.He studied at the famed yeshiva in Slobodka, Lithuania, and then at the yeshiva in Slutzk, where he married the daughter of its head, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer.The yeshiva seized the occasion as an opportunity to celebrate the phenomenal success of the institution Kotler had founded 70 years before.Hundreds of alumni from all over the globe returned to their alma mater for the weekend in a type of homecoming. Leaders and representatives from various segments of the Haredi Ultra-Orthodox community came to pay their respects in a demonstration of the universal esteem the Lakewood Yeshiva seems to enjoy.Through its affiliate institutions, the reach of the yeshiva is geographically extensive.In a glossy, marketing-savvy brochure put out by the yeshiva in conjunction with the , a large map of the United States identifies 165 yeshivas and schools, 48 kollels, and 106 synagogues, all founded by alumni of Lakewood.
But it is these , or householders, and others like them who provide the substantial financial support necessary to keep the Lakewood yeshiva, as well as the many other community institutions, going and growing.Continue reading: Explosive growth Kotler’s vision captured the imagination of a segment of the younger generation of American Orthodox Jews who thirsted for the intellectual and spiritual excitement and the purity of purpose that his yeshiva promised.From 14 students, most of whom were refugees themselves, the yeshiva grew to 200 students by the time Kotler died in 1962.Although Reb Aharon (as the founder is referred to within the yeshiva world) was radically countercultural, an uncompromising opponent of the American pursuit of wealth and pleasure, his yeshiva has made its peace with American bourgeois values.
Many of Lakewood’s alumni sacrifice financially to pursue vocations as educators and community rabbis, and a few do spend their lives in penurious full-time study, but most enter the business world and build lives of white-collar respectability and commercial success, with the attendant trappings of a comfortable suburban lifestyle.
He crossed the Pacific with the help of a refugee assistance organization, arriving in San Francisco with his family in 1941 at the age of 49.