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Knesses Chizkiyahu was one of the first Lithuanian yeshivas founded after the establishment of the State of Israel and one of the first Torah institutions in the northern part of the country. Originally founded in Zikhron Ya'akov in 1949, it relocated to Kfar Hasidim in 1955, where it operates today with nearly 200 students and a kollel.

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Early history

Knesses Chizkiyahu was founded by Rabbi Noah Shimonowitz, one of the greatest students of Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz,[1] who decided to open a yeshiva after surviving the Holocaust. He visited the Chazon Ish for his blessing and advice, and was told to seek a suitable location in the north of Israel, which at the time did not host any Torah institutions. Together with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Dovid Mishkovsky, Rabbi Shimonowitz established the yeshiva in the central synagogue of Zikhron Ya'akov and named it after Mishkovsky's father, Rabbi Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky, former Rav of Krinik, Poland. The initial enrollment of three students expanded to thirty students by the end of the first year.[2]

In 1952, Rabbi Elyah Lopian, the contemporary leader of the Mussar movement, joined the staff as Mashgiach Ruchani, together with his son-in-law, Rabbi Kalman Pinsky. Rabbi Elyah's influence on the yeshiva was so pronounced that it continues to this day. As an example of one tradition which he instituted, any yeshiva student who fills a cup to wash his hands must refill it for the next user in line.[2]

Move to Kfar Hasidim

The yeshiva experienced much difficulty in its early years, as students lacked sleeping facilities and organized meals due to the country's difficult economic situation. The location of the yeshiva in the central synagogue also caused friction between the students and local residents coming to pray. The yeshiva administration decided to find a new building, and then to leave Zikhron Ya'akov altogether.

When the news spread that the yeshiva was seeking a new home, many Orthodox Jewish communities extended a hand of welcome, but none were located in the north where the Chazon Ish had desired a yeshiva to be founded. Finally, a group of activists from the northern village of Kfar Hasidim petitioned the yeshiva and were accepted.

With the blessing of the Chazon Ish, the yeshiva purchased a ten-dunam lot on the outskirts of the village and five buildings containing a beth midrash, dining hall, dormitories and offices. The yeshiva moved in to its new home at the end of April 1955.[2]

Five days after the move, the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shimonowitz, died of a stroke. Rabbi Elyah took charge and appointed Rabbi Shimonowitz's brother-in-law, Rabbi Raphael Eliyahu Eliezer Mishkovsky, who was also the Rav of Kfar Hasidim, as the new rosh yeshiva.

Another expansion

Rabbi Mishkovsky worked together with Rabbi Elyah to shape and guide the yeshiva and its students. In May 1964, they laid the cornerstone for a new building to house the many students who had outgrown the original site. This building is still in use today.

Rabbi Mishkovsky led the yeshiva until his death in 1981. He was succeeded as rosh yeshiva by his son-in-law, Rabbi Dovid Yitzchak Mann. Rabbi Elyah Lopian died in 1970 and was succeeded by his protege, Rabbi Dov Yaffe.

Rosh yeshivas

  • Rabbi Noah Shimonowitz (1949-1955)
  • Rabbi Raphael Eliyahu Eliezer Mishkovsky (1955-1981)
  • Rabbi Dovid Yitzchak Mann (1981-present)

Notes


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