A palpable electricity filled the air on Sunday morning, June 7th, as over 200 people gathered for the 7th Chag HaSmicha of the renowned Kollel Ayshel Avraham. Eight musmachim were joined by family, friends and a distinguished array of Talmidei Chachomin and Rabbonim at the Synagogue of the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn as they celebrated the completion of their course curriculum for their rabbinical ordination diplomas.
Introducing the musmachim and guiding the olam through a historical retrospective of Kollel Ayshel Avraham of Monsey in a captivating multi-media presentation was Rabbi Moish Schmerler. Having received semicha himself from Kollel Ayshel Avraham, Rabbi Schmerler recalled the words of the esteemed Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Shlita. “Rabbi Spivak told me that semicha from this kollel is not just a certificate to be hung on the wall, or something to use for pomp and circumstance, but he told me that semicha is for me to go out to Klal Yisroel and do HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s work,” he intoned with resounding emotion reverberating in his voice.
As such, the long and hallowed tradition of Kollel Ayshel Avraham (that was named after Rabbi Spivak’s late father) is to provide an opportunity for professional men of all ages and backgrounds to study for the rabbinate as well as actively engage in such time honored vocations as the chaplaincy, kashrus, kiruv rechokim work and educational innovation, among other fields of endeavor.
Rabbi Schmerler also paid homage to the infinite contributions of the man that served as both an inspiration to him and to Kollel Ayshel Avraham. “I was first introduced to Rabbi Spivak and the kollel by a true odom gadol, the gevaldige talmid chochom, Rabbi Saul Eisner, ZT’L,” he said. He added that Rabbi Eisner exhorted him to obtain semicha even though his schedule was tight. “Rabbi Eisner told me that everyone has time to learn Torah and there is no excuse for not doing so,” recalled Rabbi Schmerler.
Rabbi Eisner, zt’l was the executive vice president and driving force of the Igud HaRabbonim during his lifetime.
Prior to announcing the names and brief descriptions of each musmach, Rabbi Schmerler distributed the haskoma and divrei brocha on the Chag HaSmicha from Rabbi Dovid Lau, Israel’s chief rabbi.
Rabbi Yitzchok Noach Borenstein hails from a family of rabbis, and his father has served as a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University since 1967. His grandfather, for whom he is named, studied at the Mirrer Yeshiva and arrived in the United States via Shanghai with the rest of the yeshiva after World War II.
Rabbi Yechiel Greenberg of Staten Island is an outstanding and exceptionally involved member of his Staten Island community. As a certified public accountant, Rabbi Greenberg is an active member of Hatzolah and has served as a board director for numerous communal organizations and as a liaison for the New York Police Department.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel Kaplin is an Assistant Professor at The College of New Jersey and an Adjunct Professor at the College of Staten Island. He also holds a Masters Degree from Queen’s College in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience. He has published 27 journal articles and is currently co-authoring a book on strategies to cope with anxiety and depression.
Rabbi Dr. Mark Horowitz is a practicing dentist and a graduate of Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch in Washington Heights. During his time spent in dental school at Temple University in Philadelphia, Rabbi Horowitz headed the Mikvah Project and was the gabbai and president of his shul.
Rabbi Yaakov Feller of Flatbush is a life insurance agent who arrived on these shores from London, England on his third birthday. After attending the Brighton Beach Yeshiva during his elementary school years, Rabbi Feller learned at Toras Emes Kaminetz and the Mesivta at the Mirrer Yeshiva. While in college pursuing a degree in computer science, he attended Yeshiva Netzach Yisroel.
Rabbi Dr. Levi Reiter is a Professor of Audiology and Hearing Sciences at Hofstra University and received his PhD in Psychology from the University of Rochester. He did a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is a certified Shalom Bayis Coach at the renowned Twersky Institute and is the inventor of the Shabbos friendly hearing aid called “EMET”
Rabbi Dovid Simcha Sorscher hails from a long line of prominent Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshiva, Marbitzei Torah and distinguished educators. His father, Rabbi Sroya Sorscher, and his uncle Rabbi Mordechai Sorscher, founded the first yeshiva high school in the Bronx. His great uncles, Rabbis Yaakov and Yechiel London, zt’l were pioneers of the Kiruv Rechokim movement. Rabbi Sorscher attended Yeshiva Toras Emes and then went on to Mesivta Torah Vodaas.
Rabbi David Toback is a practicing accountant and studied for many years at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore. He also attended Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s shiur. Rabbi Toback is an accomplished talmudic scholar who has made a siyum on shas. He also serves as a Mashgiach for United Kosher Supervision.
Among the honorees at this year’s Chag HaSemicha was the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Harobbonim for its 73 years of rabbinic leadership. Founded in 1942, its 800 plus members are congregational leaders, religious teachers, chaplains and leaders of Jewish and communal organizations who are united in their commitment to upholding Torah values throughout the world .
Rabbi Dov Aaron Brisman was recognized on his appointment as the Rosh Beth Din of the Beth Din Zedek of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He is currently the Mora d’Asra of the Young Israel of Elkins Park in northern Philadelphia.
Rabbi Brisman is the descendant of a long line of great rabbis, was raised in Los Angeles and attended the Yeshivat Ohr Elchonon there. Rabbi Brisman attended the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem under Harav Chaim Shmulevitch, zt”l, and Harav Nachum Portzovitz, zt”l, and received semichah yoreh yoreh yadin yadin from Rabbi Schneur Kotler, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ.
Rabbi Brisman is a noted editor and author of many Torah pamphlets, articles and multiple seforim, including Shalmai Chagiga and two volumes of halachic responsa titled Shalmei Chovah. Rabbi Brisman serves as the Chairman of Publications for the Rabbinical Alliance of America.
Honors were also bestowed upon Rabbi Gavriel Zinner, the Author Michaber of the Nitei Gavriel. He was accordingly recognized for his appointment as the Chairman of the Halacha Committee of the Rabbinical Alliance of America.
Rabbi Zinner studied at the Pupa Yeshiva and is a student of the Grand Rabbi Yosef Greenwald.
With deep emotion, Rabbi Spivak bestowed the “Flame of Israel Award” upon Mr. Charles Srebnik. A resident of New City, New York, Mr. Srebnik was a child survivor of the Holocaust and has dedicated his life to ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust never be forgotten. He has also been in the forefront of the ongoing campaign to seek economic restitution for other Holocaust survivors in the form of restoring insurance policies that were stolen from them by the Nazi regime.
Mr. Srebnik was literally snatched from the jaws of death by his mother during the nightmarish days of the Holocaust when she removed him from a Catholic orphanage that he had been placed in to escape the Nazis just two days before the Gestapo arrived and murdered all the children. With tears in his eyes and his voice breaking, Rabbi Spivak said, “Charles has always told me has spent the last 70 years thanking Hashem for those two days of life during which he was saved.”
The “Beacon of Israel Award” was bestowed upon Dr. Naomi Vilko, a board certified psychiatrist. Raised in Manhattan, Dr. Vilko received her BA from Barnard College, and her MD from New York Medical College. She was trained at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Since 1985, Dr. Vilko has worked as a psychiatrist in solo private practice in Princeton, New Jersey.
Often standing alone in her defense of Israel as it is consistently maligned on college campuses and in the media, Dr. Vilko challenges the alarming escalation in global anti-Semitism through her impressive compendium of articles and lectures. Her website, www.drnaomionisrael.com offers visitors information on the current crisis.
Fern Sidman, a veteran journalist and Jewish activist received the “Israel Advocacy Award.” As the former national director of the Jewish Defense League in the early 1980s, Mrs. Sidman was recognized for her commitment to Jewish causes and her willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of the survival of her people. As an avid activist, she was arrested on numerous occasions at demonstrations for Soviet Jewry, Israel and oppressed Jews around the world. She has personally battled anti-Semitism. She is currently the news editor of The Jewish Voice and former New York correspondent for Arutz Sheva. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including The Jewish Press and many news portal web sites.
Her award was presented to her by Rebbetzin Phyllis Eisner, the wife of Rabbi Saul Eisner, zt’l.
Also addressing the convocation was Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, the executive director of Kollel Ayshel Avraham, who delivered an inspiring D’var Torah on Parshas Be’haloscha. “Be’Haloscha in its own right was a Chag HaSmicha, he stated.”Up until this time the Bnai Yisroel were involved in the preparations for becoming a nation, and now Aharon HaCohen was tasked with lighting the menorah, of completing this process,” he said.
Being accorded honors at the Chag HaSmicha were prominent members of the Igud HaRabbonim including Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, shlita, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Shlita, Rabbi Schmaryahu Shulman, Shlita, Rabbi Shmuel Greenhouse, Shlita and Rabbi Michoel Chazan, Shlita.
Rabbi Chazan has been employed by Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center since 2001 where he serves as the Director of Chaplaincy Services for the hospital and the Rutland Nursing Home. His many responsibilities include visiting and organizing religious functions for patients, residents and staff. He is a member of the hospital’s Ethics Committee and the Institutional Review Board. His professional affiliations include an Associate Membership in the Young Israel Council of Rabbis and memberships in the Igud Harabanim (Rabbinical Alliance of America) and Central Committee of Rabbinical Chaplains.
Rabbi Yaakov Klass is the Torah editor at The Jewish Press, where he and his uncle Rabbi Sholom Klass created a vibrant publication dedicated to the furtherance of Torah Judaism. He is also the Rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the long time director of the Igud HaRabbanim – the Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park.
Rabbi Schmaryahu Shulman, author of Meirish B’Birah and magid shiur is known by his colleagues to have been a favorite student of HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Ruderman, zt’l, the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Baltimore’s Ner Yisroel. Because of his instant recall of Shas and Poskim, Rabbi Shulman is often consulted for resource material.
Rabbi Shmuel Greenhouse is a musmach of Kollel Ayshel Avraham and an expert in Yoreh Deah. He has served in numerous engineering capacities as a civilian working with the US Army and NATO forces in Europe. He is also Chief Field Mashgiach of United Kosher Supervision.
Rabbi Sroya Sorscher, a rosh yeshiva and the father of musmach Rabbi Dovid Simcha Sorscher, expressed his hakaras hatov to the kollel and praised the legendary kiruv efforts of his two uncles, Rabbis Yaakov and Yechiel London, zt’l.
“Smicha is not only achieved by the men who assiduously prepare for it but also the wives; the Rebbitzens who sacrifice day in and day out. We want to thank them as well,’ said Rabbi Schmerler in conclusion.
Offering Divrei Brocha at the conclusion of the Chag HaSmicha was Chacham Amar who praised the steadfastness of the musmachim and called for unity in Klal Yisroel.