Mrs. Chava Temeral Ostreicher was already impressed with our community when I spoke to her, only five days after her move from Monsey, New York. She and her husband, a native of Williamsburg (in Brooklyn), are just one of the 21 pioneering chasidishe couples who will be living in town by Cheshvan, coming here to join Baltimore’s newest kollel: Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah.
“I’m so amazed,” shared Mrs. Ostreicher, a mother of two, who was able to keep the school curriculum job she had in Monsey and work from home. “It’s such a nice community, and people here are so nice and so accepting. I love the way everyone lives for themselves, not because their neighbor or their friend does it. Everything they do is with purpose, not like some other places. You don’t feel peer pressure here. There are such special people. Everyone is so helpful, so kind, and so accepting. It is such a warm community and that’s what makes the adjustment much easier.”
Mrs. Chaya Bluming, a native of Boro Park, who moved here with her husband (originally from Monsey) and their daughter shares simpatico feelings about the warm, welcoming Baltimore community. Just days after arriving, Mrs. Bluming was working in an accounting office, a job placement that the kollel administration helped her find.
“It’s a lot to get used to for me, but it’s really nice,” admits Mrs. Bluming. “We thought we would come to a small, quiet community, but we are surprised to find a big, beautiful, welcoming community. There are a lot of nice things that we‘re very excited about, especially the JCC; we love that. Otherwise, one thing we had to get used to was not being able to go grocery shopping whenever and wherever, because there are no late hours and shopping is relatively far away. In Boro Park, we had grocery stores every couple of blocks that were open late. If I was in the middle of baking and I ran out of something at 10 o’clock at night, I just ran out to get it. Here, it requires more advanced planning. I also have to get used to the fact that there is no family nearby to run over to eat Shabbos meals or shalosh seudos with; they are far away. My family had a big weekend in Monsey this past Shabbos, and we were not there. I want to host my family. They are working on guest apartments so out-of-town family can come visit.
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Although Baltimore has had a chasidishe presence since 1951, when Rabbi Amrom Taub, zt”l, a talmid of the Satmar Rebbe, zt”l, was sent to Baltimore by the Rebbe to be the Rav of Arugas Habosem, a growing presence of chasidim has slowly added to the rich and varied religious landscape in our community, which is world renowned for its achdus (unity).
“A group of families, called Khal Chasidim has been living right here in Baltimore for about 15 to 20 years,” explains Rabbi Zvi Weiss, executive director of the new kollel. “These families are part of the fabric of Baltimore, having brought up their families here. Many of them have grown up in chasidishe homes, and some have taken on chasidus and become chasidishe over the years. Until now, they have been called a chevra. They’ve gotten together for a monthly malava malka every Shabbos mevorchim, for the last decade. We’ve gone together on trips to Lizensk, as a group – about 30 families from Baltimore, who joined others from outside of Baltimore,” Rabbi Weiss continues. “It’s a chevra that learns together, and we have a Shabbaton every summer.”
It was from this chevra that the idea for Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah emerged. They didn’t have a place to call their own, but more than that, they wanted to improve the situation for chasidishe families in Baltimore. “The question became, ‘How do we grow this chasidishe community?’” says Rabbi Weiss. “These families want that to happen, because they want to continue raising their children here in Baltimore; they would love their children to get married and settle here. In order for that to happen, we had to create more of an infrastructure for chasidishe families to want to come. The idea was to bring the kollel. It is the concept of an out-of-town kollel, the same thing that does wonders in other communities of being mechazek Torah, even in cities that are rich and productive in Torah, such as Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The concept of a kollel only adds, if you have a good base and good foundation – which Baltimore has –both in its infrastructure for a frum family and in its Torah mosdos. The idea was to enhance all this and to allow this chevra to have a place to gather and to daven. Today, we call the group Khal Chassidim, and within it is the Kollel L’Horo’ah.”
The five-year kollel learning program will train members in rabbanus, so they can become rabbanim and poskim. Those who stay on can become dayanim. “It’s a five-year program, but the plan is definitely to continue beyond the five years,” says Rabbi Weiss. “They’ve been learning halacha for years, but now they are starting to learn hilchos Shabbos, and will learn Yoreh De’ah, and train as rabbanim and get semicha.”
“Every yungerman here is amazing and really willing to sit and learn for five years, and even willing to move out of town for it,” notes Mrs. Bluming. “That’s what makes them such a special group. They are all different but all the same. Even though they are from different backgrounds, they come from all over the world to one place with one goal in mind; that’s what makes it so beautiful.”
The differences that Mrs. Bluming were referring to is the mix of all types of chasidim – such as Belz, Bobov, Sanz, Satmar, Skverer, and Vizhnitz – who have joined the small but vibrant existent chasidishe community, Khal Chassidim, in the primarily Litvishe Baltimore community. And, as wonderful and inviting a community that Baltimore is, the main drawing card for Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah is its Rosh Kollel, HaRav Hershel Rosenfeld, with his decades of experience in chinuch and rabbanus. Before accepting this position, he was the Rosh Yeshiva and Menahel Ruchani of Mosdos Nadvorna, in Bnei Brak, for 15 years. Prior to that, he was the Rosh Kollel of the Sadigura Kollel in Eretz Yisrael; a Dayan in the Beis Din Mechon Le’Horoah in Monsey, under the leadership of Harav Ezriel Tauber; and a mechanech in the Belz Mosdos in Monsey. Rabbi Rosenfeld received smicha from many Gedolim, including the Makover Rav, the Debretziner Rov, and Harav Wosner, zt”l, and ybcl”c, Harav Roth (the Belzer Dayan), the Pupa Rov, and the Klausenberger Dayan, shlita.
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To accommodate the needs of the families of these unique yungerleit, whose oldest children are no more than three, a Yiddish-speaking daycare has been established and is being run by Mrs. Rochel Zucker. It houses three groups: older children, toddlers, and babies. Next year, a Yiddish-speaking chasidishe cheder will open, with a rebbe and a melamed.
For the kollel wives, whose custom is not to drive and who must therefore rely on their husbands or other means of transportation to do their shopping and appointments, a full time female-run shuttle service, complete with infant and toddler car seats has been provided.
Until their new building is built on Park Heights Avenue, Khal Chassidim and the Kollel L’Horo’ah will call a pre-fab Kollel building between Menlo and Parkington their home. The Kollel hanhala has been working closely with community groups such as the Glen Neighborhood Improvement Association, CHAI (part of the Associated), and other stakeholders in order to make the improvements and buildings appealing to everyone in the neighborhood.
“That is where we will daven, learn, and run our programs for community learning activities,” comments Rabbi Weiss. “I’m already getting phone calls – ‘Is there someone available to learn with my son at night?’ ‘What is the shiurim schedule?’ It’s all pretty new now, it’s all in formation, but we do plan on having a complete, active shul, not only as part of the kollel but for the community, as well, with shiurim, chavrusas, opportunities to learn bechavrusa, Lunch-and-Learn, Yarchei Kallah, and Yom Iyun. Anything that any other out-of-town community kollel would do, we will do. The focus is on the yungerleit’s learning. The first and second seder, they learn for their own learning; at night, it is part of a community bais medrash.
“We are also building a brand new building, right off the corner of Pinkney and Park Heights, on the same side as the Agudah, in an empty lot, complete with all the amenities that are needed for our kehila, including a brand new mikvah and social hall,” continues Rabbi Weiss. “In the meantime, the families are living in Pinkney Court Apartments, which we rehabbed. All of the apartments are beautiful and brand new. Some are living in the Sheffield House. We are also going to be building 20 Bancroft Village-style town homes, on the corner of Taney and Park Heights. The open lot, plus the three houses next to it, are going to comprise the kollel housing. This group will move into those homes, and their present apartments will then become available for another group to come. On Menlo, close to the corner of Park Heights, is the Rosh Kollel’s house.”
As Rabbi Weiss concludes, “The idea of the kollel was to enhance the chasidishe families who are already in Baltimore and, hopefully, to facilitate other chasidishe families who are not part of the kollel to move to Baltimore. This has already begun to happen. We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from various chasidishe working families in New York. They are professionals – in real estate and accounting, for example – and they inquired about the possibility of moving to Baltimore. There is a tremendous housing shortage and crisis in New York.
“More than that, many of the families who are already here expressed a willingness and desire to get out of New York and come to a nice, warm community, and be part of something new, exciting, and growing. They want to contribute; they want to be part of a community. They have been showered with only warmth and welcoming, so far, and they are tremendously looking forward to being part of the larger community, besides being part of the chasidishe community.”
ã Margie Pensak-2015