Kollel’s Levitansky celebrates new position at yeshiva

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Rabbi Sroy Levitansky has accepted a new position as the National Director for Community Development for Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. He began his new job on July 1 — from his home in St. Louis.

Levitansky, who had served as the Associate Dean of St. Louis Kollel, and his family are very grateful this new position will hopefully allow them to stay in town.

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“My wife Chumi, who is the principal of Torah Prep Girls School Hebrew Division, and our five children love St. Louis and really didn’t want to move,” Levitansky said. “Of course, people who live on the East Coast have a hard time understanding why someone wouldn’t want to move to the East Coast.”

There are 50,000 Orthodox Jews in Lakewood where the Beth Medrash Govoha is located and the community can’t build day schools fast enough, Levitansky said. The school is the largest yeshiva outside of Israel. The program is home to 5,400 post-graduate students: 4,400 married and 1,000 single.

Levitansky will be doing a fair amount of traveling in his new job. He will be visiting communities to get to know them better as he assists them with creating or growing their own kollels, and matching rabbis to those programs.

“It is the most incredible institution of its kind: a nuclear reactor of Jewish spirituality,” Levitansky said. “Most kollel rabbis have attended it and the school has set up more kollels than anyone else. It is an exciting opportunity to take that energy to help communities across the country.”

Levitansky grew up in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. He received semicha from R’Zalman Nechemia Goldberg after attending yeshivas in the United States and Israel. He was in Israel when Dean of the St. Louis Kollel, Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt called him in 1997 to be “part of the team” in St. Louis.

“I was ready to teach and be part of the community,” Levitansky said. “I jumped in and never looked back.”

Levitansky has accomplished quite a bit since his arrival in St. Louis, said Kollel Board President Mayer Klein. He said the Kollel went far beyond its original focus under the leadership of Levitansky and Greenblatt.

“The original focus of the Kollel was to be more keenly directed at learners who already had knowledge of intricate Torah concepts,” Klein said. “Rabbi Levitansky opened it up to make sure that Jews throughout the community could learn Torah at any level. He totally changed the landscape of Jewish learning in the St. Louis community.”

Levitansky became Program Director of the Kollel in 1999 and worked with pulpit rabbis, day schools and key community leaders to determine how to best bring the resources of the Kollel to the community.

“The purpose of the Kollel is the study of Torah and the dissemination of its ideals so we can grow and learn and become better Jews,” Levitansky said.

He engaged the broader St. Louis Jewish community through programs like the weekly Jewish Singles Hour, Partners in Torah for women, Jewish Unity Live, guest speaker programs and many other learning opportunities. The class he started in 1998 at Washington University will have a full-time rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Schwartz, starting in September.

“It was an incredible experience and I learned so much being a part of St. Louis Kollel,” Levitansky said. “I am going to miss the teaching, the most. It is a wonderful experience to watch when people study, the ideas behind the laws and seeing the concepts grow.”