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Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah Forced Out of Roosevelt

Wednesday February 2, 2011 1:15 PM - 19 Comments

yisroel-meir-eisenbergWhen Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah opened in Roosevelt, NJ, in Elul of 2005, its founders could never have foreseen the tumult that would ensue over the following five-plus years, as residents of the small Garden State town would battle the very existence of the yeshiva again and again.

The yeshiva opened its doors in the historic Congregation Anshei Roosevelt synagogue of the old Jewish settlement town, located some 20 miles northwest of Lakewood, NJ.

Ironically and perhaps tragically, the borough of Roosevelt, a 1.93-square-mile municipality whose town meetings and official business were once conducted in Yiddish and whose only house of worship is Congregation Anshei Roosevelt on Homestead Lane, has within it those who unfortunately did not appreciate the benefits of a yeshiva coming to their town.

The ensuing opposition ultimately resulted in an unprecedented recall election back in February 2006, removing the town’s devoted mayor, the honorable Neil Marko. A yeshiva in town, the residents said, would mean the end of Roosevelt as they knew it.

For Mr. Marko and the shul leadership, headed by Elly and Arthur Shapiro, the yeshiva’s coming to town actually marked sort of a beginning for Roosevelt. Dr. and Mrs. Shapiro and Mr. Marko demonstrated tremendous personal self-sacrifice on behalf of the yeshiva.

In the realm of the Olam Hatorah, the yeshiva, under the leadership of its rosh yeshiva, Rav Yisroel Meir Eisenberg, quickly earned a reputation as a premier makom Torah. Rav Eisenberg, a son of Rav Ephraim Eisenberg zt”l,  noted marbitz Torah at Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, has led the yeshiva with great devotion, producing outstanding bochurim for the past half decade.

But it hasn’t been easy, The yeshiva and the shul in Roosevelt were the subjects of relentless campaigns of harassment by the Borough of Roosevelt and some of its approximately 900 residents. At one point, a decision by the local Zoning and Planning Board stated that the operation of the yeshiva on the premises of the shul is not in compliance with the Borough’s zoning ordinances. The yeshiva’s attorneys constantly battled on its behalf.

The yeshiva was witness to a vigil and demonstrations, including signs and epitaphs of anti-Semitism. Back in 2006, the side of a private dwelling where some of the talmidim of the yeshiva resided was sprayed by about 70 yellow paint-ball pellets.

In addition to creating zoning changes and placing other legal roadblocks, the opponents of the yeshiva often used disparaging language in describing the lifestyle of Orthodox Jews, continually arguing that the yeshiva would take properties off the tax rolls, and claiming that the yeshiva faculty and their families would harm the local public school. Not a single building was taken off the tax rolls and the yeshiva had no bearing on the public school in the community. Nor did the yeshiva expect the Borough to provide it with any services that other residents do not receive.

Roosevelt was founded as a Great Depression-era utopian cooperative for Jewish garment workers. It looks pretty much as it did when it was started by the United States Department of the Interior in the late 1930s. Its streets meander around hills and stream beds, and most of its houses back up to green belts or woods, including the sprawling, 5,600-acre state-owned Assunpink Wildlife Management Area to the south.

The town is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Roosevelt was originally named Jersey Homesteads. It was one of 34 municipalities started by the federal Subsistence Homesteads Program, an experiment that gave workers cooperative ownership over local farms and factories. In 1945, after President Roosevelt’s death and long after the government had sold off the factory and farms, the borough renamed itself Roosevelt to honor F.D.R.

Congregation Anshei Roosevelt, founded in 1936 and at its current location since 1955, was at one time a thriving Orthodox shul that in recent years had struggled to function as a vibrant institution. Many attempts were made over the years to develop programming, including a nursery school, but the shul failed to have a regular minyan. The shul had reached the stage where it could no longer afford to retain the services of a rabbi. Under its arrangement with Yeshiva Meon Hatorah, the rabbeim on the faculty of the yeshiva led the tefillos at the shul.

However, the powerful opposition came to ahead this year, and just recently, Yeshiva Meon Hatorah was forced to say goodbye to its home since its inception.

“Some of the actions by the Borough officials and residents were manifestations of bigotry and hatred which has no place in the America of this generation,” a friend of the yeshiva told Matzav.com. “It is regrettable what occured, but ultimately, to be honest, to ones who are losing the most are the residents of the town. It is their loss that this wonderful yeshiva has been forced out.”

The yeshiva has relocated to Monsey, NY, where it will continue to impart ahavas haTorah to its talmidim, producing well-rounded bnei Torah who are yereim ushelimim.

{Yossi Schneider-Matzav.com Newscenter}

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19 Responses to “Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah Forced Out of Roosevelt”

1. Comment from Fresser
Time February 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Maybe moving isn’t so bad; better to be welcomed (or at least tolerated) by one’s host community.
Question: Does the Yeshiva keep its ‘Roosevelt’ name (like the ‘Mir’), or will it now be known by its Rosh Yeshiva’s last name? :)

2. Comment from Jewish Observer
Time February 2, 2011 at 2:50 PM

I have tremendous respect for this yeshiva and the Rosh Yeshiva who is a personal friend. They had a great attorney who tried his hardest. that being said, Nebach on Anshei Roosevelt for pushing away their zechus kiyum.
All Yeshivas and Shuls should learn a lesson from this tragedy and plan properly from the get go.

3. Comment from oy_vey
Time February 2, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Well-rounded?

In what way?

4. Comment from dovid 2
Time February 2, 2011 at 3:38 PM

relocated to Monsey? Does anyone know where in Monsey?

5. Comment from The Beast
Time February 2, 2011 at 3:54 PM

They could have picked a better place than Monsey but still much better than NJ.

6. Comment from Maier A
Time February 2, 2011 at 4:11 PM

They should’ve told Fat Al (Sharpton) that the bachurim were black, that would’ve solved everyone’s problems!

7. Comment from a yid
Time February 2, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Rabbosei, we are in galus

8. Comment from Prepared
Time February 2, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Sadly, this too often happens with shuls which are diminishing. I wish them Hatzlacha in their new home.

9. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 2, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Time to move on. No sense in rehashing the story and mentioning anti-semitism and bigotry.

10. Comment from !
Time February 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM

to dovid 2
they relocated to shaarei torah

11. Comment from neuberger
Time February 2, 2011 at 11:58 PM

Relocated In r walmarks yeshiva

12. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 3, 2011 at 7:09 AM

Westwood NJ fought the early stages of Telshe yeshiva and now this saga. The entire state of New Jersey are bigoted and anti semitic. If Lakewood was not big and powerful they would be dealing the same problem from the bumbs in New Jersey.

13. Comment from Aryeh Zelasko
Time February 3, 2011 at 7:11 AM

Who lives there today?

14. Comment from Always learning
Time February 3, 2011 at 10:56 AM

According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “The definition of a Jew, Israel is at it says in Genesis 34, one who struggles, wrestles, with God and with humanity and prevails. And Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” And that I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it. May we all find the blessing in this conflict.

15. Comment from lowermytuition
Time February 3, 2011 at 12:06 PM

The yeshiva is keeping the name Meon Hatorah. There are a number of things to be learned from this saga. First, just because the sitting mayor wants you doesn’t mean the next one will. Let’s hope that the move to Monsey will be a positive and help the yeshiva grow to its fullest potential.

16. Comment from a roosevelt resident
Time February 3, 2011 at 5:42 PM

In the end we all lost
one way or another. Studying Torah and Talmud
is a tradition that has been going since roman
times. With good intentions may the young boys
find wisdom and humility through their sudies.
He who blesses us all, blesses you.

17. Comment from dovid 2
Time February 3, 2011 at 7:53 PM

“I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.”

Always learning, is this your own, or you found it somewhere? It is profound. I’m not sarcastic, I mean it.

18. Comment from Anonymous
Time February 27, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Great yeshiva

19. Comment from Yehudah Tzvi
Time May 10, 2011 at 9:30 PM

I am third generation Rooseveltian having grown up there. My parents helped get the yeshiva started and were basically shunned and harassed by their longtime neighbors and former friends. Roosevelt broke my father’s heart (him having spent his entire life there). The Yeshiva is better off in Monsey but the world is a worse place for it.

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