April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Englewood’s Yeshiva Ohr Simcha Celebrates Hachnasat Sefer Torah

Englewood— The truck carrying a singer and musician belting out Jewish songs began to slowly wend its way along Forest Avenue to Yeshiva Ohr Simcha, followed by a throng of men, women and children who danced and clapped in its wake. Enveloped in the crowd, under a red chupah, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Strassfeld and his son, Rabbi Shaya Strassfeld, carried a Sefer Torah purchased in the Rosh Yeshiva’s honor, to take its place in the school’s Beis Medrash. Once inside the yeshiva’s walls, the festivities continued with music, dancing, speeches and a seudah. The Hachnasat Sefer Torah celebration on June 19 drew about 250 people including rebbeim and alumni of the school with their families, and many area residents who have developed a strong relationship with the yeshiva.

The Sefer Torah made it first appearance to the surprised rosh yeshiva at the school’s 18th annual dinner on May 16. “I had no idea,” Rabbi Strassfeld said, as guests began to assemble in his home before the procession. “They started marching in with the Sefer Torah and I was shocked! Everyone knew but me and my wife!” He said his son-in-law Rabbi Elchonon Bumitrovitz, executive director of the yeshiva, accomplished the purchase and delivery of the Sefer Torah in just two weeks. Not much time for such a big task but a very long time to keep a secret from your in-laws.

The Sefer Torah was an uplifting gift for Rabbi Strassfeld, who is emerging from months of treatment for a life-threatening illness. “My recovery is a nes,” he said. The Strassfeld family, alumni and supporters of the yeshiva raised the funds to purchase the Sefer Torah to express their profound gratitude.

Yeshiva Ohr Simcha is a traditional boarding yeshiva with a difference. The school’s goal as defined on its website (http://www.yeshivaohrsimcha.org) is to provide “top-notch chinuch at the mesivta (high school) and beis medrash levels, while still focusing on all areas of a bochur’s growth and self-development.” The additional emphasis on personal development, and relationships with rebbeim, make Ohr Simcha unique in the highly competitive and hierarchical yeshiva world.

The success of Yeshiva Ohr Simcha is largely due to the encouragement and affection Rabbi Strassfeld gives the students. A close talmid of Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, he has guided the yeshiva since it began in 1997, and built a staff who shares his goal of helping each student grow by developing warm, caring relationships with them. As a result, the boys see progress they didn’t know they could achieve. At this year’s dinner, Rabbi Avrohom Mendel Pollack said, “Rabbi Strassfeld sees their essence; he sees their potential. He believes in them before they believe in themselves.”

Most of the students come from Monsey, Passaic, Brooklyn, Lakewood and beyond; few from the Englewood area have attended. But the yeshiva has reached out to share its resources, so that many in the Englewood Orthodox community are involved with the yeshiva. The boys tutor Englewood youngsters and willingly show up when a minyan is needed. Rabbi Strassfeld learns with men in the community and has shown them the same warmth he gives to his younger students. And they, in turn, support him.

“Our family has been involved with the yeshiva since the beginning, when it started in the basement of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, and we were one of many homes in the community who offered to house the newly arrived students,” said Englewood resident Robert Lunzer, who attended the Hachnosas Sefer Torah with his wife, Pam. “Rabbi Strassfeld has done non-stop acts of chesed. He teaches as much as he can, individually and in groups, and he’s constantly reaching out to help more people in the community. It is a real Kiddush Hashem that alumni and family felt that dedicating a Sefer Torah would be an inspiration for him to have a complete refuah shelaima.”

“We love Rabbi Strassfeld and we are so glad his health has improved,” Mrs. Lunzer added. “He and his wife are role models for us. They are courteous and kind. They behave in a way that shows us how a frum person should be. They elevate our community.”

By Bracha Schwartz

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