Kotler, Aaron

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KOTLER, AARON

KOTLER, AARON (1892–1962), prominent yeshivah head. A descendant of renowned rabbis, he received his early education from his father R. Shneur Zalman Pines, the rabbi of Sislowitz, and from R. Zalman Sender Shapiro of Krinik, to whose yeshivah he was admitted before he reached the age of 13 since he possessed exceptional talents. At 14 he entered the Slobodka yeshivah and soon gained prominence as one of its most outstanding students. He married the daughter of R. Isser Zalman *Meltzer, head of the yeshivah Eẓ Ḥayyim in Slutsk, and became his assistant (1914). After the yeshivah's forced transfer to Kletsk (1921) and his father-in-law's immigration to Ereẓ Israel, Kotler directed the yeshivah for 20 years. Kotler's original teaching methods attracted many students from all over the world. He also distinguished himself as a forceful communal leader, particularly in the sphere of Jewish education, becoming one of the pillars of *Agudat Israel in this area. On a visit to the U.S. on behalf of his yeshivah, he established an institute of higher rabbinical learning at Spring Valley, New York. During World War ii Kotler fled with a number of his students from country to country, finally reaching Japan. Kotler went to the U.S., where he established the Va'ad Haẓẓalah (Rescue Committee) of the Agudat ha-Rabbanim in aid of the war refugees. Kotler established in Lakewood, New Jersey, the Beth Medrash Govoha, a school for advanced, nonprofessional talmudic study, with an enrollment of ten students, which grew to 250 students at his death. Its name was changed to the Rabbi Aaron Kotler Institute for Advanced Studies in 1964. Kotler became president of the Supreme Council of Agudat Israel in 1954 and held this post until his death. He was the leader of the right-wing, yeshivah-based American independent Orthodoxy, a member of the presidium of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, and a founder of Israel's independent Orthodox (Ḥinnukh Aẓma'i) educational system. On his father-in-law's death, Kotler was nominally appointed his successor as head of the Eẓ Ḥayyim yeshivah in Jerusalem. His responsibilities in the United States, however, permitted him to pay only occasional visits there which became major events for the scholars of Jerusalem. Kotler died in the United States and was buried in Jerusalem. He was succeeded at Lakewood by his son Shneur.

bibliography:

O.Z. Rand, Toledot Anshei Shem (1950), 109; O. Feuchtwanger, Righteous Lives (1965), 122ff.; J.D. Kamzon (ed.), Yahadut Lita (1959), 235.

[Mordechai Hacohen]