Switzerland - Loss To Klal Yisroel: HaGaon Rav Kopelman Zt'l Passes Away at 106
Switzerland - Klal Yisroel just suffered a major loss, Maran HaGaon Rav Yitzchak Dov Koppelman, one of the most outstanding Rabbonim of our generation, and one of the oldest Roshei Yeshivah, the Rosh Yeshivah of Lucerne, Switzerland passed away at the age of 106, at the home of his daughter in Zurich, where he was surrounded by his family and his close talmid Rav Yisroel Duvid Shlesinger from Monsey, NY.
Born in the Kharov, Ukraine in 1905, Rabbi Koppelman held the distinction of not only being the oldest living Rosh Yeshiva of our time, but also as being someone who was beloved and respected by all. Not one to be involved in politics, R’ Koppelman was concerned only with disseminating the light of Torah everywhere he went. People all over the world responded to this venerable tzaddik with love and warmth, rushing to hear the pearls of wisdom that were his divrei Torah and shmuzen.
R’ Koppelman opened his first yeshiva in Heida before World War II and was a talmid muvhak of R’ Shimon Shkop at the famed Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah in Grodno, where he learned for eighteen years. In addition to transcribing many of the Rosh Yeshiva’s shmuzen, R’ Kopelman saved many of R’ Shkop’s manuscripts from invading Nazi armies by hiding them in a concealed pocket in his coat until after the war. These Talmudic writings were the basis of the volume Chiddushim of Rav Shimon Yehuda HaKohen, a sefer that is used in yeshivos to this day.
After enduring five years of hard labor in Siberia during World War II, R’ Koppelman set to work reigniting the flames of Torah and in 1946 he established Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in Kapellen, Belgium. Together with R’ Chaim Yaakov Rottenberg, he traveled to Prague where he assembled a core group of approximately ten talmidim and brought them back to the yeshiva. In time, many other refugees from all over Europe joined the ranks of those who were learning in Kapellen. In later years the yeshiva moved and is presently located in Wilrijk, a suburb of Antwerp.
After spending more than ten years in Belgium, R’ Koppelman moved to New York where he founded Yeshiva Shaarei Yosher in Williamsburg, currently located in Borough Park. The yeshiva is named after the well known sefer by the same name written by R’ Shimon Shkop.
In 1948, R’ Koppelman took over as Rosh Yeshiva for R’ Moshe Soleveichik at the yeshiva in Lucerne, Switzerland, which had been founded as a retreat from the outside world, enabling students would be able to focus solely on their learning. Sixty three years later, third generation talmidim return to the same beis medrash in Lucerne that their grandfathers once attended, still hearing shiur from the same Rosh Yeshiva. The yeshiva boasts talmidim of all types, from all over the world, including Europe, North America, Australia and Israel.
R’ Koppelman was close to the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum, zt’l and it is difficult to comprehend how a person who lived at a time when he had the zechus of being able to hear the Chofetz Chaim in person, was still vibrant enough to travel as recently as six weeks ago, when R’ Koppelman paid a visit to New York.
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