Rabbi Mordechai Minkovitch (New York)*
He probably did this to avoid the Evil Eye by not having both sons-in-law located in the New House of Study. Joining the Old House of Study was very beneficial. After getting to know the householders and scholars of the Old House of Study, I was asked to teach a class in Talmud to the congregants, which I was only happy to do. Until them the late R. Moshe Velvel studied the Jewish legal text, Chayei Adam with a few men. The main founders of the Talmud study group were R. Yisrael Ephraim's (Yisrael Tilles), R. Zalman Bunyes and others. The Old House of Study started to come alive. The Talmud study group steadily grew stronger and larger. Our Talmud class between the Afternoon [Minchah] and Evening [Ma'ariv] prayers became popular throughout town, and always drew more participants.
When we completed our first tractate of the Talmud, we celebrated the occasion with a beautiful meal in R. Yitzchak Avigdor's home. Years later, when we completed the entire Talmud, there was a great celebration in the Old House of Study that lasted a whole week. The synagogue was decorated, and festive meals were served every day, where the appropriate blessings were pronounced. Everybody had a real enjoyable time.
[Photo:] The street after the bridge, leading to the Sand.
The Talmud study group continued during the First World War. After the retreating Russian army burned down all the synagogues, the Talmud study group moved to the only remaining chassidic synagogue. I continued the Talmud study group until I left for the United States in 1924. I gave my final class in my home to an overflow crowd. As the wagons stood on the street ready to depart for the train station, the class participants arrived with copies of the Talmud and lamps; I taught my final page of Talmud to them. The study group then offered me a thank-you letter signed by all of the participants in recognition for my lectures over the previous 23 years. Then the participants started a joyous dance and accompanied me with song all the way to the train station on my way to the United States.
The rabbinical disputes
There is an old saying: "Too many isn't healthy." Drohitchin was known as a fine shtetl and a quiet place. No one argued, and everyone lived together in peace. However, Satan found an opening to create conflict in the community. The reason was the young ordained rabbis, as mentioned previously, who were waiting for rabbinical positions. What happened was that the elderly rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Reichman, decided to move to Palestine with his wife, and handed over his position to his son-in-law, Rabbi Isaac Yaakov Kalenkovitch. The old rabbi's opponents came out in the open, recommending that the position be filled by the non-chassid, Rabbi David Mordechai. The friends and family of the third ordained rabbi, Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf Miller, suggested a third choice. However, a wise Jew suggested appointing Rabbi Miller as the head rabbinical judge, and Rabbi Isaac as the community rabbi. Thus, there were now two groups: one group was with Rabbi Isaac, and the other was for Rabbi David. Since neither side wanted to give in, and each stuck by their candidate, a sharp dispute erupted in Drohitchin, leading to violence and informing to the non-Jewish authorities.
There was a scoffer who gave names to both camps: he called R. Isaac the "Russian rabbi," and R. David Mordechai the "Polish rabbi." This is also how he referred to both groups: the "Russian" group and the "Polish" group even though all the Jews were Russian Jews. This stayed this way the entire time. The Russian rabbi prayed in the Old House of Study, and the Polish rabbi prayed in the New House of Study. The Polish group had the upper hand, and it never happened that either of the rabbis would end up in the synagogue of the other.
Where did I fit in all this? Even though I was also ordained, I could have had a group of my own in
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