Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Hijacked Sage

Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1906, Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner was raised in a family that had roots in both the world of Chassidut (Ger) and Lithuanian Jewry. After receiving a private education, Rabbi Hutner joined the famous Slabodka Yeshiva of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel and earned the designation “the Warsaw Illui” (prodigy).

When a branch of the Slabodka Yeshiva opened in Hebron in 1925, Rabbi Hutner was inspired to study in the Holy Land. While there, he studied with Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine. After the tragic destruction of the Hebron Yeshiva during the Hebron Massacre of 1929, Rabbi Hutner returned to Warsaw and then moved to Berlin to study at the University of Berlin. In Berlin, he befriended Rabbi Joseph Ber Soleveitchik (who eventually became a prominent Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University) and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the seventh and last Lubavitch Rebbe).

Rabbi Hutner came to America in 1935 and, after one other brief teaching position, he began teaching at the new Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, which he eventually led. Rabbi Hutner gave the young men of his yeshiva an intense yeshiva education that responded to the needs of the growing religious population in America. However, unlike many other yeshivot, the students of Rabbi Chaim Berlin were permitted to attended classes at a local college in the evenings while pursuing their study of the sacred texts during the day.

In 1970, Rabbi Hutner, his wife, daughter and son-in-law were aboard a New York bound flight from Israel that was hijacked by a Palestinian terror organization. The terrorists released the non-Jewish passengers and, after one week, the Jewish women and children. Rabbi Hutner and the rest of the men aboard the flight were held captive for a total of three weeks. This did not deter Rabbi Hutner from returning to Israel frequently and even establishing Yeshivat Pachad Yitzchak there.

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner passed away on 16 Kislev 1980.

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