Jerusalem 1980-1990

  • 1982 – The final touches were put on the rebuilt Jewish quarter of the old city – the central square was paved with stones, the cardo (Roman “market place”) under the Tzemach Tzedek synagogue was excavated and the large pit to the south of the synagogue was embellished with Roman pillars.  Steps were built leading from the lower street (Rehov Hayehudim) across the Cardo to the upper street (Rehov Chabad) on which is the entrance to the Tzemach Tzedek synagogue.
  • 1984-5 – As a result of the total refurbishing of the Jewish quarter, tourism to the old city increased dramatically, and there was always a stream of Jewish tourists passing through the old city on the way to and back from the kotel (western wall).  Within the walls of the kolel Tzemach Tzedek, though, there were shortages of money to pay the young kolel members, who were mostly from Yerushalmi families.  One of the members of the kolel Chabad administration, R’ Shmuel Schneerson (sh’yichyeh) discovered “irregularities” in the finances of the Jerusalem branch of Kolel Chabad and brought them to the attention of the Rebbe.  The Rebbe agreed with R’ Schneerson, and ordered that the administration of the Tzemach Tzedek be transferred out of the hands of Kolel Chabad and into the hands of R’ Shia Yuzevitch, director of yeshivat Torat Emet.  Nevertheless, the situation of the young Torah scholars did not improve significantly for a long time.
  • 1984 – With the change of administration , R’ Yoseph Segel (uncle of R’ Chaim Shalom Deitsch) became the Rosh Kolel of the Tzemach Tzedek in the afternoons.  R’ Segel had already functioned as Rosh Kolel for some time, but at this point, the Rebbe indicated that there should be full time learning in the kolel.  The stipend was roughly $400 month, sufficient to cover most expenses of a young couple (rent was roughly $250/month at the time), and significantly more than that paid by most kolelim in Jerusalem.  The learning took place from 9 am to 1 pm, with a lunch break for the kolel students to return home, followed by more learning from 4 pm to 7 pm.  This was later changed to full day learning from 9 am to 5:30 pm.  Instructions were given by the Rebbe to limit the learning period to two years, but later instructions from the Rebbe indicated that the administration could allow a student to continue beyond the two years if they saw fit.
  • 1985-6 – As part of the general refurbishing of the Jewish quarter, the Tzemach Tzedek synagogue also underwent refurbishing and renewal, and room for a nice “Chabad House” was created on the lower floor of the synagogue (not the bottom floor, which was also re-done by the municipality and divided into four stores at the entrance to the Cardo).  Until then, several people had tried to create a Chabad House in the Tzemach Tzedek shul, without success (among them, R’ Uri Kaploun, R’ Shmuel Gresiman, R’ David Eliezre, R’ Mendel Deren).  Around this time, a young American ba’al tshuva arrived on the scene and began “teaching.”  Since his own experience with Yiddishkeit at that time was no more than two or three years old, he was limited in what he could pass on to others.  Nevertheless, he proved to be quite charismatic, and the Jerusalem ba’al tshuva scene was thirsty for Chabad input, which had been absent in Jerusalem until that point.
  • 1986 – Several American “new returnees” to Judaism (including the new director of the Chabad House) living in Jerusalem met to discuss the creation of an English-speaking yeshiva for ba’alei tshuva in Jerusalm.  They wrote to the Rebbe, who replied that such a yeshiva had nothing to do with the Chabad House of the Tzemach Tzedek, and that if formed it must be under the auspices of R’ Yuzevitch and Torat Emet.  (Some time earlier, the Rebbe had told R’ Yuzevitch that “there are enough yeshivot for ba’alei tshuva in Jerusalem, and it someone wanted Chabad specifically, they could turn to Kfar Chabad or Tzfat”).  Later, it was explained to R’ Yuzevitch that the Rebbe did not agree with the concept of creating a “separate” yeshiva for ba’alei tshuva, and that any such yeshiva should be part and parcel of a larger Chabad yeshiva (this is also what the Rebbe himself explained in yehidus to R’ Zalman Gafni, Rosh Yeshiva for ba’alei tshuva in Kfar Chabad).
  • 1987-8 – The new American director of the Chabad House succeeded in attracting good numbers of young men and women to his weekly classes as well as to Shabbat meals that he and his wife prepared once every two weeks.  However, it became necessary to raise money to support the activities of the Chabad House, so the director travelled overseas to raise money and was successful in returning with significant amounts to continue the activities.   At this point, the directorship of the Tzemach Tzedek became more interested in the workings of the Chabad house, and R’ Shia Yuzevitz together with his son-in-law, R Yakov Steinberg began to demand the money that was raised by the American director of the Chabad House.
  • 1988 – The director of the Chabad House did not want to “share” the money with R’ Yuzevitz and the administration of the Tzemach Tzedek shul, since he had raised the money himself and spent it on Chabad House activities, and he had to support his family as well.  The administration of the Tzemach Tzedek, for its part, felt that it was responsible for all that occurred in the building, including the Chabad House, and therefore demanded a full report on the fund-raising and expenditures as well as placing the money at the disposal of the administration.  As a result of this impasse, the young director was forced out of his position.  He began to “teach” at another institution for ba’alei tshuva in the old city which was not affiliated with Chabad (Aish HaTorah).  Eventually, he divorced his wife and joined the gay community in San Francisco.

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