Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Teves 5768 - December 20, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Rav Yosef Elyashiyov zt"l

By S. Bruchi

Thousands of Bnei Brak residents led by roshei yeshivos, rabbonim and dayonim, as well as thousands of students at Shaarei Tzion institutions in Eretz Hakodesh, were on hand on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Vayigash to lay to rest Rav Yosef Elyashiyov zt"l, founder of Shaarei Tzion institutions in Eretz Yisroel and abroad, who passed away at the age of 89.

Yosef Elyashiyov was born in the former Soviet Union to Rav Tzion Hy"d, who built a home of mesirus nefesh for Torah and keeping mitzvas until he was killed by the authorities for his efforts to promote Judaism.

As a child Yosef carried on his father's legacy of mesirus nefesh for Torah and mitzvas. After marrying he moved from Samarkand to Tashkent, where the couple raised their seven children with extraordinary dedication to Yiddishkeit. Despite the persecution he suffered, he had his sons study every day in secret with HaRav Yitzchok Zilber zt"l.

While living in Tashkent he had to spend seven years away from home — four years in custody on suspicion of underground religious activity and three years hiding from the KGB, who had him under surveillance for his activities to promote Judaism.

In 5731 (1971) he managed to secure an exit visa and left his home and his family, traveling to Eretz Yisroel with nothing but the shirt on his back. By paying bribes he was able to escape and two days after leaving the country KGB agents came to his home there in order to arrest him. Later in life he described his amazing deliverance like a personal Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Though the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry offered him an apartment in Raanana, he told them, "Eini gar ela bemokom Torah." Instead he borrowed money and worked hard in order to settle in Bnei Brak. Eventually his family joined him and together they built a home of Torah, tzedokoh and chessed.

From the time of his arrival in Eretz Hakodesh he worked in the diamond trade and his business dealings succeeded and grew. When he became prosperous he kept his pledge that if Hashem brought him success in parnossoh he would dedicate his money to saving Jews from Bukhara. He saw this as his life's mission and devoted all of his time and energy to the cause.

He opened the first Shaarei Tzion institutions in 5740 (1980), naming them after his father. He then started a kollel with the goal of drawing avreichim from Bukharan families as well as a school in Kiryat Ono for Bukharan immigrants. The school later moved to Tel Aviv's Ezra neighborhood.

His son HaRav Shmuel ylct"a headed the setup of the various institutions, acting in his father's name. Shaarei Tzion institutes continued to spring up around the country everywhere Bukharan Jews were found. Today, 27 years later, there are kindergartens, schools, yeshivas, seminaries and kollelim in Kiryat Ono, Tel Aviv, Moshav Yad HaRambam, Ramle, Or Yehuda, Jerusalem, Tzfas, Bnei Brak, Netanya, Dimona, Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Sderot and elsewhere. Shaarei Tzion schools can even be found in Toronto and New York, along with kollelim in Arizona, Virginia, Miami and Denver. A total of 4,500 students, from kindergartners to avreichim, study at Shaarei Tzion institutions. This tremendous enterprise has succeeded in driving back much of the spiritual desolation among immigrants who came in the first waves of Russian aliya.

He set time for Torah study with chavrusas, including HaRav Moshe Benedict, with whom he learned for many years.

He passed away on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Vayigash following an illness. The levaya set out on Motzei Shabbos from Yeshivat Shaarei Tzion on Rechov Ezra in Bnei Brak. Eulogies were delivered by HaRav Massaud Ben Shimon, HaRav Yechiel Michel Tabel, HaRav Betzalel Pinchasi, HaRav Moshe Benedict and the deceased's cherished talmid, R' Boris Yitzchakov. After the hespeidim the procession went to Netzivei Yeshivas Ponovezh Cemetery, where he was buried.

Rav Yosef Elyashiyov zt"l is survived by his sons and daughters, all of whom follow the spiritual legacy he passed on to them during his lifetime, as well as thousands of students at Shaarei Tzion institutions, many of whom owe him their lives in the Torah world.


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