Wasserman, Elhanan Bunim

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WASSERMAN, ELHANAN BUNIM

WASSERMAN, ELHANAN BUNIM (1875–1941), Lithuanian talmudic scholar, yeshivah head, and communal leader. Wasserman received his education at the yeshivot of Volozhin and Telz, which were headed at the time by Eliezer *Gordon and Simeon *Shkop, respectively. In 1899 he married the daughter of Meir Atlas, rabbi of Salant, and spent some years studying in his father-in-law's home. In 1903 he was appointed head of the yeshivah of Amtshilov, where he proved an outstanding teacher, greatly influencing his students. He joined the kolel of the Ḥafeẓ Ḥayyim in Radun in 1907 and remained there until 1910, when he was appointed rabbi of Brest-Litovsk. During World War i he returned to Radun, and when the war reached that town the yeshivah moved to Smilovichi, where Wasserman was appointed its head. After the war he moved to Poland and established a yeshivah at Baranowicze, which became one of the most famous in eastern Europe. He was one of the main pillars of the *Agudat Israel movement, together with Ḥayyim Ozer *Grodzinski and the Ḥafeẓ Ḥayyim, and was regarded as the latter's spiritual successor. Wasserman emerged as one of the outstanding leaders of Orthodox Jewry. In addition to his academic activities, he played a major role in communal affairs, contributing extensively to the Jewish press, and figuring prominently at Agudat Israel conferences.

He wrote Ikvata di-Meshiḥa (1942), and published the responsa of Solomon b. Abraham *Adret (the Rashba) with annotations (19362). His talmudic novellae appeared in the rabbinic journal Sha'arei Ẓiyyon (1929–34) and in other publications. At the outbreak of World War ii he fled to Vilna and, in June 1941, while on a visit to Kovno, was arrested by the Nazis together with 12 other rabbis and sent to his death. On their last journey he encouraged his fellow victims to walk proudly and with head erect. "The fire which will consume our bodies will be the fire through which the people of Israel will arise to a new life," he assured them.

bibliography:

Ha-Makhon le-Ḥeker Be'ayot ha-Yahadut ha-Ḥaredit (ed.), Elleh Ezkerah, 1 (1956), 82–91; Y.D. Kamson (ed.), Yahadut Lita, 1 (1960), 223, 233.

[Mordechai Hacohen]