||A telegram sent from Rabbi S.A. Pardes, the editor of the Hebrew monthly HaPardes, to R. A. Kotler of the Vaad Hatzala concerning the formation of a new umbrella organization to be called Keren Hatzala. R. Pardes is asking R. Kotler and R. Rosenberg of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to to be in touch with R. Sacks, R. Mednick and R. Epstein immediately so that funding would not be interrupted for Vaad Hatzala.
Vaad Hatzala was run by R. Eliezer Siver who adamantly disagreed with R. Kotler on the distribution of Vaad funds. R. Silver insisted the funds be used in Europe to help the general population of Holocaust survivors who still faced many hardships, while R. Kotler wished the funds be directed to Shanghai for the relatively safe Lithuanian Yeshiva survivors. R. Silver discusses the disagreement in his epic, Diveri Yemei Vaad Hatzala (New York 1957) without giving the names of R. Kotler. This writer is privy to the information as he heard it discussed among involved persons during his youth.
Vaad Hatzalah (the Rescue Committee or Committee for Rescuing) was an organization founded in November 1939 by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (Agudath Harabbanim) of which R. Silver was President. It was originally named Emergency Committee for War-Torn Yeshivas.
||Rabbi Aharon Kotler (1891 - 1962) was a prominent leader of Orthodox Judaism in Lithuania, and later the United States of America, where he built one of the first yeshivas in the US.
Rabbi Kotler was born in Svislovitz, Poland in 1891. He studied in the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania under the "Alter of Slabodka", Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, and R. Moshe Mordechai Epstein. After learning there, he joined his father-in-law, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, to run the yeshiva of Slutsk.
When the communists took over, the yeshivah moved from Slutsk to Kletsk in Poland. With the outbreak of World War II, R. Kotler and the yeshivah relocated to Vilna, then the major refuge of most yeshivoth from the occupied areas. R. Kotler went to the United States via Siberia, but many of his students did not survive the war. He was brought to America in 1941 by the Vaad Hatzalah rescue organization and guided it during the Holocaust.
In 1943, R. Kotler founded Bais Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. R. Kotler also helped establish Chinuch Atzmai, the independent religious school system in Israel and was the chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel. He also chaired the Rabbinical administration board of Torah Umesorah and was on the presidium of the Agudas HaRabbonim of the U.S. and Canada.
Upon the death of his father-in-law, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, he also inherited his father-in-law's position of rosh yeshiva of Etz Chaim Yeshiva of Jerusalem. In an unusual arrangement, he held this position while continuing to live in America, and visiting Jerusalem occasionally.
R. Kotler was the main proponent of a classic approach to Torah study that was new to the shores of the USA. In his view, Torah study and the culture built around it had suffered badly from the persecutions of World War II and the decline of character of the generations. This led him to encourage young men to devote themselves to full-time Torah study with financial support from the community. After marriage, yeshiva students could move on to a post-graduate kollel program.
Together with Rabbis Moshe Feinstein, Yaakov Kamenetsky, Joseph Soloveitchik and others, Rabbi Kotler was considered one of the primary leaders of the Orthodox community in the U.S. during the post-war years.
In the summer of 1937, at the third convention of the rabbinical leaders of Agudath Israel held in Marienbad, Rabbi Kotler (together with Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Rabbi Rottenberg from Antwerp, and rabbis from Czechoslovakia and Hungary) was adamant in rejecting any proposal for a "Jewish State" on either side of the Jordan River, even if it were established as a religious state. However, Rabbi Kotler had a very realistic approach once Israel was established in 1948. He fully supported the raising of funds for religious schools in Israel. Rabbi Kotler was diametrically opposed to the anti-Zionist views of Satmar. He fully supported the efforts of his father-in-law, R' Isser Zalman, who was living in Israel.
Rabbi Kotler died in New York City on November 29, 1962.