The close bond between Yeshiva Ohr Simcha of Englewood and the Englewood community was evident on Wednesday evening, January 8, when Congregation Ahavath Torah hosted an event to commemorate the third yahrzeit of the yeshiva’s founder, Rabbi Yosef Strassfeld.
The connection between the yeshiva and surrounding community can be attributed to the character and personality of Rav Yosef Strassfeld, z”l. When he founded Yeshiva Ohr Simcha almost 25 years ago, his mission was to make it a place of “light and joy” for students who needed that little extra encouragement, that extra boost of self-confidence. Today, the yeshiva serves 55 students in grades 9-12 plus a one-year beis midrash.
The rav of Ahavath Torah, Rabbi Chaim Poupko, credits the success of the yeshiva to Rabbi Strassfeld’s identification with his first name, Yosef. Just as Yosef Hatzadik greeted everyone “b’sever panim yafot,” with a favorable disposition, so too Rav Strassfeld treated his students as well as the members of the community with genuine warmth and positivity. These characteristics inspired his students who interacted with him on a daily basis while in yeshiva and maintained a close bond even afterward. The Englewood community was also drawn to his warmth and concern and was proud to include Yeshiva Ohr Simcha among their religious establishments and supported its efforts.
Rabbi Poupko described the relationship between the yeshiva and the community as a partnership in tefillah and Torah. The yeshiva provides learning opportunities such as Gemara-skills classes to adults as well as individual tutoring to young students. When a minyan needs to be completed in the neighborhood, the yeshiva comes through. The yeshiva also provides the community with mezuzah and shatnez testing.
One of the earliest and key supporters of Yeshiva Ohr Simcha are Trana and Daniel Freedman who hosted the sponsors’ reception at their home prior to the presentation at Ahavath Torah. They offered, “We have been blessed to be associated with the yeshiva since its inception. In those early days, we had the zechus to house six yeshiva boys in our home for over a year. The yeshiva is a beacon of light and chesed in our community and we take great pride in supporting it in many ways. We truly hope and pray that when Rabbi Strassfeld looks down from shamayim, he sees a blazing, bright shining star that is his yeshiva.”
Renowned author, maggid and mohel Rabbi Pesach Krohn was invited to share words of inspiration in marking the third yahrzeit of Rabbi Stassfeld. His topic was most appropriate for the occasion as he spoke of “Refining Your Life: Bringing Out the Best Within Yourself.” In true maggid form, Rabbi Krohn shared stories that reflected the goodness in man and how it impacts upon the other. His opening story took place in Warsaw at the grave of the Sfas Emes, the second Gerer Rebbe. Two sons are talking about their father who died at the age of 58. One says to the other, “I am happy our father had arichas yamim.”
The second son turned to his brother in confusion. “Is 58 considered a long life?” The first brother replied, “I did not say that our father merited ‘arichas shanim’ but rather ‘arichas yamim.’ Every day of his life he made sure to do as much goodness and show as much kindness to others as he could. This made every day long and meaningful.”
In a similar vein, Rabbi Krohn recounted a story related to Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a powerful and inspiring figure in the kiruv world. Her husband, Rav Meshulam Jungreis, who was a recognized talmid chacham, took a behind-the-scenes position in her activities. After his death, Rebbetzin Jungreis was distraught and could not even open his sefarim out of sadness. One day, her daughter was looking through her father’s sefarim when an index card fell out of one of the books. On it was a message that Rav Meshulam had wanted to convey in praise of his wife’s countless activities on behalf of klal Yisrael. He wrote, “A long life is not good enough. But a good life is long enough.”
Another story that illustrated the message of bringing out the best in oneself took place in Miami Beach one morning at davening. A Satmar chasid noticed the name Tress on the tallis bag of one of the daveners. He approached the owner and shared the following story. “Many years ago, when I first arrived in the United States, I could barely eke out a living to support my family. I turned to individuals in my community but they could not help me. At someone’s suggestion, I turned to Agudah. (Coincidentally, Rabbi Strassfeld worked for Agudah’s Project Hope before opening his yeshiva.) Mike Tress, who was a great activist in Agudah at the time, connected me with a glazier who hired me. It was a perfect match as I had been a skilled glazier in Europe. After a period of time, my boss called me in and told me to go back to Mike Tress and tell him that he no longer had to pay my salary out of his own pocket as my boss was very satisfied with my work and would be paying me directly going forward. When I saw the name Tress on your tallis bag, I wanted to share this great story of your family’s chesed with you.”
Yeshiva Ohr Simcha is carrying on the legacy of its beloved founder and Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yosef Strassfeld, z”l, through the capable leadership of Rosh Yeshiva and 12th Grade Rebbe Rabbi Shaya Strassfeld, Menahel Rabbi Elchonon Butrimovitz and Sgan Menahel Rabbi Menachem Strassfeld. To learn more about the yeshiva, contact Yitzchak Weinberger, community learning liaison at 484-620-6187 or visit them at www.yeshivaohrsimcha.org.
By Pearl Markovitz