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gifter

Mordechai Gifter

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter (1915 - 2001) was the rosh yeshiva of the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland and among the foremost religious leaders of Orthodox Jewry in the late 20th century. He studied in yeshivas in Lithuania and held several rabbinical positions in the United States of America.

Biography

Mordechai Gifter was born in 1915, in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was raised in Baltimore, Maryland where his father owned a grocery. He attended the Baltimore City Public Schools and received his religious education in after-school programs. He had a younger brother and sister, both who predeceased him.

As a young man Rabbi Gifter studied in the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University in New York, New York. His uncle, Dr. Samuel Saar, was the Dean of the Seminary. In 1932 at Dr. Saar's advice, Rabbi Gifter traveled to Lithuania to study in the Telshe Yeshiva.

Rabbi Gifter was immediately accepted for admission and placed in advanced classes. He developed a strong bond with Rabbi Zalman Bloch, the Dean of Students at the yeshiva. He eventually became engaged to Rabbi Bloch's daughter. In 1937, prior to his wedding, Rabbi Gifter returned home to the United States to visit his parents in Baltimore. He planned on returning to Lithuania for his wedding and to resume his studies.

When it became obvious that he would be unable to return due to the political climate of the late 1930s, he arranged for his bride's family to join him in the United States. Only his bride came; the family chose not to abandon their community in its time of greatest need. The Gifters married in Baltimore, with Mrs. Gifter's family still in war-torn Lithuania.

Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Gifter was appointed to the pulpit of the Nusach Ari Synagogue in northwest Baltimore. He soon became well known as an invigorating speaker and refined orator. His lectures and addresses became popular throughout the Baltimore area, and his national reputation began to grow as well. In addition to his rabbinic position Rabbi Gifter was appointed an adjunct lecturer at the expanding Ner Israel Rabbinical College headed by Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman. He was the first native Baltimorean to lead a congregation in the city.

In 1941 Rabbi Gifter moved to Waterbury, Connecticut and assumed a rabbinic pulpit in that community. In 1944 Rabbi Gifter was called to moved to Cleveland, Ohio to join the faculty of his alma mater, the newly re-established Rabbinical College of Telshe, which was moved from Telshe, Lithuania to Cleveland. The original school and Telshe community were almost completely destroyed by the Nazis and Lithuanian militia. In 1964 he was appointed assistant Dean to Rabbi Boruch Sorotzkin.

In 1977, Rabbi Gifter moved to Israel and founded a branch of the college in the village of Kiryat Telz-Stone near Jerusalem, leaving Rabbi Sorotzkin in charge of the Cleveland campus.

Following Rabbi Sorotzkin's passing in 1979, Rabbi Gifter was sent back to the United States to lead the Cleveland campus. He never recovered from the tremendous loss that he felt for his first love, Israel and the Israeli branch of the school. To display his sense of loss, Rabbi Gifter did not return to his on-campus residence, but moved into small quarters in the students' dormitory. He never allowed himself to live comfortably since leaving the Israeli project.

For many years he led the presidium and leadership council (Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah) of Agudath Israel of America. He was one of the electrifying speakers in the Jewish world. Rabbi Gifter maintained a relationship with his first faculty position at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, returning to Baltimore annually to visit his daughter and son-in-law and friends.

Rabbi Gifter died in 2001, having suffered numerous ailments (Alzheimer's Disease) for many years prior to his passing.

He was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. His eldest son Rabbi Binyomin Gifter who together with his brothers are working on publishing the works of his father; His son, Rabbi Zalman Gifter who is now the dean of the Rabbinical College of Telshe; His son-in-law Rabbi Ephraim Eisenberg served as Lecturer and Associate Dean of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore prior to his passing in 2002.

Other survivors are his son Rabbi Yisroel Gifter of Lakewood, New Jersey. and his sons in law Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, a Rabbi and community leader in Far Rockaway, New York and Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, rabbi, author and lecturer in Monsey, New York.

Works

Rabbi Gifter was a prolific writer. As a young man he authored articles on some of the most complicated issues in Jewish Law. They were published in the Talmudic law Journal of Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, Jerusalem, Israel.

He published numerous many books on Jewish Law, philosophy, theology and bible. He was a frequent contributor to many scholarly journals including the Western Reserve University Law Review.

Among his books are:

Hebrew:

  • Pirkei Torah - Commentary on the Bible.
  • Hirhurei Teshuva - Commentary on Maimonides' Laws of Repentance.
  • Pitei Mincha - Commentary on the Minchas Chinuch.
  • Pirkei Iyun - Commentary on the Talmudic Tractate Makkos.
  • Pirkei Moed - Commentary on the Festivals.

English:

  • Torah Perspectives - Essay on a variety of topics.
  • Pirkei Torah - Commentary on the Bible.

For more infomation please send a letter to 28570 Nutwood Lane Wickliffe, OHIO 44092

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