Rabbi Jacob Eskolsky

Rabbi Jacob Eskolsky

Rav Eskolsky was descended from R. Shlomo Zalman Mirkes, Rav of Mir and author of the Shulchan Shlomo, who in turn was descended from R. Moshe Isserles. R. Eskolsky was also descended from the Mahara"m Padua and the Mahar"i Mintz. He was born in Mir in 1875 and learned in yeshiva there until around the age of 13. He then learned in Slonim for several years and became a close talmid of its rosh yeshiva and town Rav, R. Yosef Shluffer.

R. Eskolsky later learned at the Kovno Kollel and received semicha from its Rosh Kollel, R. Zvi Hirsh Rabinowitz (son of R. Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor) and from R. Moshe Danishevsky, Rav of Slabodka. He also received semicha from R. Chaim Ozer Grodzensky and R. Shlomo HaKohen of Vilna.

R. Eskolsky became the Rav of Rublie in 1903 and then Rav of Kazan-Horodok from 1904 to 1906. In late 1906, the Eskolskys immigrated to the the USA where R. Eskolsky served as Rabbi of the Penn Avenue shul in Scranton, PA for three years. In 1910 he accepted a position at the Slutzker shul in the Lower East Side of New York City and would remain there until late 1917. He then became the Rabbi of the Bialystoker shul in the Lower East Side and served there until his passing.

R. Eskolsky served on the executive committee of the Agudas HaRabbanim for many years and would also serve as secretary of the Vaad Harabbanim of the Kehilla of New York City. In 1926, he would found the Degel HaRabbanim organization and would be its leader until his passing.

In 1910, R. Eskolsky, his rebbetzin and others formed Tomchei Torah, an organization that seemed to be a New York area precursor to the Ezras Torah fund. During World War I, he was indeed one of the founders of Ezras Torah and served as its secretary for ten years. He was one of the founders of the American Mizrachi organization and worked with R. Meir Berlin to raise funds for the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisroel. R. Eskolsky was chairman of the American committees for the Slutzk Yeshiva and for Yeshivas Or-Torah in Tiberias. He also founded the Slutzker shul's Ridbaz Talmud Torah. R. Eskolsky published and edited a monthly Torah journal called HaMitzpe with his cousin, R. Avraham Aharon Yudelovitch, between 1910 and 1911. (All six issues are available on www.hebrewbooks.org)

In 1915 he authored a pamphlet called Sefer HaBris which outlined the basic laws of mila and detailed the skills a proper mohel should possess. In 1919, he edited a book called Sefer HaZikaron which described the important work that Ezras Torah was performing. In 1926 he authored what was intended to be the first volume of a comprehensive work on the 613 commandments called Taryag Mitzvos. It contained sections on halacha, taamei hamitzvos and drash. Due to his early passing, this was to be the only volume that he would publish. (Taryag Mitzvos is available on www.hebrewbooks.org)

R. Eskolsky was a major contributor of articles to the Degel Yisroel journal that was published by R. Shmaryahu Leib Hurwitz for the Degel HaRabbanim between 1927 and 1930. (Two of its 34 issues can be seen on www.hebrewbooks.org) R. Eskolsky would write many articles for other publications as well.

Rav Eskolsky passed away on 30 Shevat, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar of 5691 (February 17, 1931). He was buried at the Mount Lebanon Cemetary in Queens, NY in the plot of the Bialystoker shul.

The above biographical information was submitted by Michael Escott (Great-Grandson of Rabbi Eskolsky).

Picture of the Matzeiva taken Shevat 5763 (January 2003)