[Video below.] Rav Yisroel Belsky, renowned throughout the Jewish world as the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and posek of the OU, has made an inestimable impact for decades on community life. What is lesser known is the enormous contribution to Jewish community life made by his paternal grandfather and namesake, Reb Yisroel Belsky z”l.
During a meeting last Thursday with Reb Duvi Honig, founder and director of Parnassah Network – Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, Rav Belsky spent over an hour discussing his grandfather’s little known history.
On American shores, Reb Yisroel was a successful businessman. His work in the textile industry began with him collecting buttons on the streets. Eventually, he built a highly successful tufted cotton manufacturing company based in Georgia, which employed approximately 5,000 people. Yet, instead of being content with his amazing success, Reb Yisroel turned himself into a one-man powerhouse, helping his fellow Jews on the East side, particularly immigrants, succeed in parnassah. He eagerly dispensed free business advice and did everything he could to help these Jews build successful businesses or land good jobs.
Reb Yisroel’s impact was so powerful that the busy “Pushgat” organization on the East Side, which was aimed at helping Yidden with parnassah, ended up closing down due to lack of need.
Times have changed since those days in so many ways, but Rav Belsky stressed that his grandfather’s legacy is more important today than ever.
“This is the need of our generation,” Rav Belsky said, especially when it comes to parnassah resources for yungeleit transitioning from kollel to the workforce. He added that since our community and its successful business infrastructure are infinitely larger than they were in his grandfather’s days, the potential success of a community-based parnassah network is so much greater.
Reb Duvi Honig spoke of the work of Parnassah Network and how the organization united our community’s business world, offering a growing array of innovative programs to help men and women with their parnassah needs.
Parnassah Network recently boosted its staff size in order to meet the demand for help from across the country on a daily basis. Reb Duvi outlined his vision for the future, in which every Jewish community will have its own Parnassah Network infrastructure, just as communities have their own Hatzolah and Tomchei Shabbos branches. He noted that this broad vision can only be realized if community leaders and philanthropists in various communities step up and join this effort.
Rav Belsky was enamored by what he heard and repeatedly expressed how well this jibes with the legacy of his namesake. “You don’t need to tell me how important this is,” he said. The rosh yeshiva wholeheartedly endorsed Reb Duvi’s vision and offered to personally help him carry it out for the future.
At the meeting, Reb Duvi showed Rav Belsky a copy of the new Sefer Parnassah K’Halacha, a sefer in Hebrew and English that elucidates Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat and its practical applications in a remarkably clear manner. The rosh yeshiva expressed his amazement at this work, which was compiled by a special machon, staffed by leading talmidei chachomim and professional writers, that is a branch of Parnassah Network – Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
Rav Belsky spoke of how today’s “quick buck” culture unfortunately causes people to overlook proper halachah and ethics, and sometimes ensnare them in legal troubles too. Offering a resource that makes monetary halachah accessible to the general public will go a long way toward helping people, be’ezras Hashem.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Rav Belsky penned an enthusiastic letter hailing Reb Duvi’s work and Sefer Parnassah K’Halacha in particular. “Reb Dovid’s vision of a kosher, honorable source of livelihood for the Torah public provides a program for proper guidance,” the rosh yeshiva concluded. “Reb Dovid Honig, ashrei chelkecha.”