13/09/2017 22 Elul 5777
On 21 Elul, the yahrtzeit of Harav Yehonasan Eibeschutz, zy”a, Harav Yaakov Shapira arrived in Hamburg, Germany, for a short visit. Rav Shapira was invited by the city’s rav, Harav Shlomo Bistritzky, to come and to give a shiur to the avreichim of Kollel Ohr Yehonatan, which was marking three years since its founding. Rav Shapira was accompanied by RCE Deputy Director Harav Aryeh Goldberg, who is in constant contact with the rabbanim of the Jewish communities of Germany.
The special guest began his day in the kollel, which is situated in Hamburg’s Chabad House and is under the management of Harav Shmuel Havlin. After tefillas Shacharis Rav Shapiro delivered a shiur on the halachos of birchos hanehenin, which the kollel is now studying.
Ten avreichim are currently learning in the kollel. These men have come to live in Hamburg, which in recent years has been transformed into “a city of Torah,” and their influence throughout the city is already quite evident – in the Jewish atmosphere that now prevails there, in their influence on other Jews, leading them closer to Torah and mitzvos, and most significantly, through the daily minyanim that now take place for Shacharis, Minchah and Arvis.
Rav Bistritzky, who has lived in Hamburg for fourteen years, related that for a number of years he had tried to initiate a morning minyan on Mondays and Thursdays, and even this was a challenge. However, since the time the kollel began functioning there has been a daily minyan for Shacharis. More recently, when additional avreichim joined the kollel, bringing its number to ten, there has been a minyan three times every day.
Later in the day, Rav Shapira joined dozens of the city’s Jews, along with many guests who had come from all over the world to daven in the ancient cemetery of Altona (which today is a neighborhood in Hamburg) to commemorate Harav Yehonasan Eibeschutz’s yahrtzeit. Rav Shapira, who is a kohen, stood with several other kohanim outside the fence situated in view of the tziyun. In addition to Rav Eibeschutz, several other great leaders of our nation are also buried in this cemetery, including Rav Yaakov Emden, Rav Raphael Hakohen (author of Veshav Hakohen and other works), Rav Yechezkel Katznelbogen (author of Knesses Yechezkel and other works), Rav Itzik’l of Hamburg, Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (author of Aruch Laner and other works), and many other famous rabbanim.
After a festive meal in which guests from Eretz Yisrael, England, Belgium and New York participated, Rav Shapira toured the various institutions of the Jewish community – the primary school, the kindergarten and the shul. He expressed his excitement at seeing such vibrant Jewish life in the Diaspora and mentioned how happy he was that he had agreed to come to Hamburg, especially in light of the fact that as a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate he deals with issues relating to communities in the Diaspora.
In the late afternoon Rav Shapira visited the nearby city of Bremen where, accompanied by Bremen’s rav, Rav Nesanel Teitelbaum, he made an official visit to the local parliament building and met with Mr. Christian Weber, President of the Bremen Parliament. Together with Rav Bistritzky and Rav Goldberg, the men discussed a number of matters related to Jewish life in Germany and the challenge of anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe.
From the parliament building, the group went to visit the local shul, where they davened Minchah with community members, after which they met with the local Jewish community leaders.