Oholei Torah Class of 5753 Reunites Thirty Years Later

The graduating class of Oholei Torah 5753 gathered at the Ohel for a Shabbos of Achdus and reconnecting, 30 years after they graduated. Read three amazing stories that were shared over the weekend.

By Rabbi Aryeh Citron

This past Shabbos (Parshas Tazria-Metzora), the graduating class of Oholei Torah 5753 gathered at the Ohel for a Shabbos of Achdus and reconnecting, having graduated 30 years ago.

We spent Friday afternoon, Shabbos and Motzei Shabbos learning, davening, and farbrenging together with very little sleep in between.

The event was coordinated by dedicated members of the class; Simcha Backman, Mendy Deitch, Pesach Tzvi Schmerling, Yanky Telsner, Yossi Deren, Levi Jacoboson and Yossi Wilhelm.

The classmates gathered from around the world; 

One from Arizona: Mendy Deitch.

Three from Sydney, Australia: Motty Feldman, Yehudah Niassoff and Levi Wolf.

Five from California: Simcha Backman, Zalman Ahron Kantor, Yossi Gordon, Yossi Greisman and Yakov Litvin.

One from Chicago: Elya Nosson Silverberg.

Two from Cincinnati: Mendy Kalmanson and Yossi Levy

Two from Connecticut: Yossi Deren and Sholom Ber Katz.

Eight from Crown Heights: Levke Kaplan, Hillel Laufer, Choni Lesches, Chaim Elya Levinson (also from Kharkov), Yankel Lipsidge, Mendy Schmerling, Yanky Telsner, and Levi Wilhelm.

Two from Florida: Aryeh Citron and Yossi Lebovics.

Three from New Jersey: Boruch Binyominson, Sholly Leverton and Levi Schapiro.

Five from New York State: Mendy Heber, Yossi Hirsh, Yossi Ives, Mendel Rubin and Mendel Serebryansky.

One from Seattle: Elazar Bogomilsky.

One from Tennessee: Yossi Wilhelm.

One from Texas: Yossi Lazaroff.

One from Toronto: Levi Jacobson.

Special tribute was paid to the classmates who passed away; Mendel Brickman, Shimon Potash, Moshe Muller, and Yakov Dimochovsky.

Here are two of the personal stories that were shared during the course of the farbrengens.

Passports, Just in Time

Rabbi Chaim Elya Levinson Shliach in Kharkov Ukraine, shared about their family’s miraculous escape from Ukraine in the beginning of the Ukraine war. 

After they moved there on Shlichus, over 23 years ago, they had to arrange the necessary papers to become residents. At age 45 they needed to renew their papers as per the law of the land.

When they went to do so, they were told that their papers had not been done properly, there had been no basis for them to receive them, and that they were invalid. They needed to begin a long process to reinstate their residency in court with the assistance of a lawyer. Throughout this time they could not leave the country to avoid problems upon reentry.

With Hashem’s help, on Feb 23, 2022, they signed and received the court order upholding their original residency documents. The next step was for them to give in their US passports to be translated into Ukrainian so that their new residency cards could be issued.  It was nearing the end of the day, and they weren’t sure if they should pick them up that day or wait until the next day. But Chaim Elya’s wife decided to pick them up that day, which she managed to do just before the office closed.

The next morning (less than 12 hours later) the war began, and that office was closed for many months. Baruch Hashem, they had their US passports with which they were able to leave the war-torn county.

The Lulav Shake that Saved from Cremation

Rabbi Mendy Kalmanson, Shliach and chaplain in Cincinnati, Ohio, recounted the following amazing story:

Rabbi Kamanson was contacted by a woman whose brother was in a nursing home. She asked him to pay her brother a visit. When the Rabbi got there, the nurses warned him that this person was very belligerent. This man had been a successful doctor when he was younger, but at this point in his life he seemed to be angry with everyone. In fact, Rabbi Kalmanson could hear his screams from down the hall. Nevertheless, he made his way to the man’s room.

Surprisingly, when Rabbi Kalmanson entered, the man was pleasant. They had a nice conversation, and Rabbi Kalmanson shook lulav and esrog with him. He also took a picture of this, which he sent to the man’s sister to give her some nachas. A short time later the man passed away. There was a Christian group who claimed that this man had converted to Christianity, and they wanted to have him buried according to Christian rites and in a Christian cemetery. His family, including the above-mentioned sister, disputed their claim and wanted to have him buried as a Jew.

The case was heard by a judge who asked the sister if she could prove he was still a practicing Jew. She remembered the photo taken a few days earlier where he was shaking the lulav with a rabbi. When she showed it to the judge, he sided with her, and the man received a proper Jewish burial.

Don’t Forget the Address

Rabbi Levi Wolff, Shliach in Sydney, Australia, and rabbi of the Central Synagogue, recounted the following about his grandfather:

Rabbi Efrayim Wolff was the Rebbe’s representative in Israel. As such he was in constant communication with the Rebbe. He would have a daily phone call with Rabbi Hodakov, the Rebbe’s senior secretary. Oftentimes, the Rebbe would be on the line during the phone call although he would not speak directly to Rabbi Wolff.

The Rebbe once told him that if he ever had to make a decision on a matter and was not able to get through to his office (due to the time difference between Israel and the US, the Rebbe’s office was often closed during the Israeli daytime), he should study a “blatt Gemara” and Hashem would help him come to the right conclusion. (Rabbi Wolff had a daily chavrusah in Gemara both in the morning and in the evening.)

When he would come to New York, Rabbi Wolf would have a yechidus (private audience) with the Rebbe which would often go on for an hour and a half as they covered many issues facing Chabad in Israel. The Rebbe gave Rabbi Wolff permission to record these audiences as it would be impossible for him to remember (or write down in detail) everything the Rebbe said during the audience. For this reason, his yechidus was usually scheduled as the last one of the night, so as not to hold anyone up.

The Rebbe once remarked to him that, when it comes to “tzaros” (troubles), everyone knows my address. But when it comes to giving good news, people forget my address…

Many good hachlatos came about as a result of this Shabbos. But the ikar was that everyone was reinvigorated by connecting to their old chaverim and by remembering the special times we spent in the Rebbe’s holy presence and doing (and continuing to do) his holy shlichus. We are all looking forward to celebrating the 40-year reunion in Yerushalayim!

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