Yeshivas Ner Yisroel

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Yeshivas Ner Yisroel (Ner Israel Rabbinical College) (also known as NIRC) is a yeshiva in Baltimore, Maryland founded in 1933 by Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman a brilliant Talmudist and one of the primary disciples of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, dean of the famous Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania, and is now led by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, one of the foremost disciples of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman. The yeshiva was named for Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter, the founder of the mussar movement and teacher of Rabbi Finkel.

It is an all-male Lithuanian-style Talmudic Charedi college, and ranks from the larger schools of its type. It presently consists of a high school numbering over 250 students, a post-high school Beis Medresh program numbering about 400 students, and a kollel post-graduate rabbinical division numbering about 180 students.

The yeshiva is on a self-contained scenic campus located at Mt. Wilson Lane, Pikesville, Maryland, just Northwest of the Baltimore city limits. Ner Yisroel consists of two central study halls, one for the high school and one much larger for the beis medrash and the kollel (also doubling as the main prayer sanctuaries), lecture halls, classrooms, libraries, dormitories, a dining hall and much outdoor recreational space. Also on campus is housing for its faculty and their families in a close knit community setting, called "Yeshiva Lane". It is one of the largest Yeshiva campuses in the world.

Apart from its Talmudic studies program, Ner Yisrael is also recognized as an accredited college by the state of Maryland, and has agreements with Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, Community College of Baltimore County, Loyola College in Maryland, University of Baltimore, and University of Maryland Baltimore County whereby after a six month period of exclusively religious study, the yeshiva's students can, on a limited bi or tri-weekly basis, take night courses at these colleges and universities in a variety of academic fields, and in turn gain academic credits for their religious studies. This is a feature which appeals to many Orthodox young men who seek to have the basis for becoming future professionals, without compromising the yeshiva experience. Students who choose to pursue a professional career often enter several fields such as medicine, dentistry, business, law, and accounting after graduating from NIRC.

Ner Yisroel Beis Medrash
Ner Yisroel Beis Medrash


[edit] Curriculum

The yeshiva's studies are founded upon the classic concept of "Torah Lishmah" or study for its own sake, and therefore are primarily Talmudic texts and relevant rabbinic literature .The yeshiva has a rotating cycle of eight different tractates it covers in the course of eight years. The day, aside from prayers and meals, is divided into three primary sections in which a "sugya"/section of the Talmud is studied in depth. Smaller time slots are allotted daily to both mussar/Jewish ethics and halachah/practical Jewish law. Most undergraduate students attend a lecture three or four times a week on the relevant topic, given by the faculty. The Rosh Hayeshiva also delivers a weekly lecture to the general student body once a week. Senior students and most members of the kollel are part of various chaburahs/ informal study groups, of which some are studying the same tractate as most of the student body, while others study other tractates or the Shulchan Aruch for rabbinically inclined students. Also, RabbiYissocher Frand has a unique class where the emphasis is on studying "aliba d'hilchisa" or learning with an emphasis on practical Jewish law.

Degrees granted by Ner Israel are a Bachelor of Talmudic Law (four years), Master of Talmudic Law (six years), Doctorate in Talmudic Law (ten years and authoring a commentary on Talmudic or Rabbinic texts). Semichah/Rabbinic ordination can also be conferred in NIRC.

The high school spends its afternoons engaged in regular general studies, which are accredited by the State of Maryland, leading to a high school diploma.

An innovation found in NIRC is its Machon program. Offering courses to produce religious instructors and educators in Jewish communities and schools, students can earn a Torah Umesorah recognized certification upon taking classes in psychology, classroom management, public speaking, Jewish history and the Hebrew language, allowing them to serve the larger Jewish community in a vital educational context. The disproportionate number of congregational rabbis along with day school, high school and Bais Yaakov principals and educators who learned in NIRC and graduated from the Machon bears witness to Ner Yisrael's success in these fields. .

[edit] Past leadership

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, the son-in-law of Rabbi Sheftel Kramer founded the yeshiva in 1933 with six students. He had a vision, to build a yeshiva in the European style on American soil and his herculean efforts, continual nurturing and inspiring and brilliant personality is what allowed the yeshiva to survive infancy and grow. He authored the Avodas Levi on ritual sacrifices.

Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger, Rabbi Ruderman's brother-in-law, was the president of Ner Israel, beginning in 1940 until his passing in 2005, and was instrumental in creating the flourishing yeshiva and beautiful campus which both he and Rabbi Ruderman envisioned. He was also a prominent lay leader in American Jewry at large.

Rabbi Dovid Kronglass of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe was brought in by Rabbi Ruderman to be the yeshiva's first mashgiach until his passing in 1973. His personality and fiery ethical lectures strongly influenced the yeshiva's character.

Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, a descendant of prominent hasidic personalities and son-in-law of Rabbi Ruderman, served on the Ner Yisrael faculty for nearly 50 years. Upon Rabbi Ruderman's passing in 1987, Rabbi Weinberg a person who's breadth of knowledge in all disciplines and how it fits into the Torah was legendary, took over at the helm of the yeshiva, a capacity he held until his own passing in 1999. Rabbi Weinberg was married to Ms.Chana Ruderman, the only child of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman.

After Rabbi Weinberg's passing, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, a leading Talmudist in Ner Israel, took over the rosh yeshiva position, which he retained until his passing in late 2000. His influence in the yeshiva was noticeable in his passionate love for and diligence in studying the Talmud.

Other prominent Rabbis who served on the faculty include Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt"l, later rabbi of the German-Jewish Frankfurt Kehillah/community in Washington Heights N.Y., Rabbi Simcha Zissel Broide zt"l of the Chevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Ephraim Eisenberg zt"l, the son-in-law of the Telshe Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Gifter zt"l, Rabbi Moshe Eisenmann, prolific author of many books on Jewish topics, who served as its second mashgiach ruchani and is presently retired, and Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, presently Rav of the Agudath Israel of Baltimore and Star-K the kashrus organization.

[edit] Present leadership

A student studying inside the Bais Medrash
A student studying inside the Bais Medrash

The yeshiva today is headed by Rabbi Aharon Feldman, who serves as the rosh yeshiva and is a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and Rabbi Beryl Weisbord, the yeshiva's mashgiach ruchani and the husband of Dr. Aviva Weisbord, daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg. Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger is the nasi (president) of the yeshiva; he succeeds his father, Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger, who held the same position. Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz teaches the largest shiur, which numbers over 100 students. The menahel (principal) of the mechina (high school) is Rabbi Yosef Tendler.

[edit] Student Body

Drawn from all over the world Ner Israel attracts students from Australia, Belgium, England, Israel, South Africa, Russia and many other countries. The bulk of the yeshiva however, is from Baltimore, the New York area, and the rest of the U.S.A. and Canada. Due to Rabbi H. Neuberger's close association with the Persian-Jewish community and assistance in helping them escape Iran and re-settle in the U.S.A., Ner Israel possesses a large contingent of students of Persian background. South American Jewry is also well represented in the yeshiva.

Most undergraduate students in NIRC will have studied in Israel for two or three years prior to their arrival, or plan to upon completion of their studies in Ner Israel. Yeshivos most commonly attended in Israel are the Mirrer Yeshiva, Toras Moshe, Mercaz Hatorah, Birchas Mordechai, Kol Torah and Bais Yisroel.

Major student projects include "PROJECT YAHUD", a spring break fundraising effort where older students disperse across North America to Jewish communities to fundraise for the religious schools in the impoverished and primarily Sephardic city in Yahud, Israel.

[edit] Branching out

In 1964, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg went to the branch of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Toronto that had been established by Rabbi Sholom Gold in 1959 in Toronto where he served as rosh yeshiva until 1971. This branch still serves Toronto's Jewish community, but it is no longer affiliated with Ner Israel in Baltimore.

More recently, Ner Yisrael has sent many married men and their families to "out of town" kollelim. Though not officially affiliated with NIRC, the kollelim in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Colombus, Phoenix, Providence and St.Louis are filled with many NIRC alumni, and on an informal level are very much connected to Ner Yisroel.

[edit] Prominent alumni

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