MAIN STREET IS THE HEART OF AMERICA.
If someone really wants to know America, it’s not enough to visit the Empire State Building or see Broadway with its many sparkling lights. The noise and commotion of the large cities is far from being as typically American as the idyllic, calm Main Street that cuts through every American town from one end to the other. Businessmen meet on Main Street during the day, and friends meet there after work. The town saloon, where good friends meet to have a drink, is on Main Street. Each time I happen to be on an American main street, and I catch a glimpse of the peace and slow-paced tranquility that its small-town inhabitants enjoy, it brings to mind the shul hoif (courtyard) of the towns of yesteryear, which don’t exist anymore. The shul hoif, with its batei medrash and shtiblach, was the “Main Street” of every city and town. Not only did people learn and daven there, but they also argued and made up, held important meetings, finalized shidduchim, welcomed new rabbis with pomp and ceremony and then, a few years later, let them go in the heat of some disagreement. The shul courtyard was where they performed chuppahs, and where eulogies were said
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when an important person passed away. The most important parts of Jewish life took place in the shul hoif. Here is a small town in America, an hour’s ride away from New York City, where the American Main Street and the heimishe shul hoif meet. The sign on the corner says that this is Main Street. Here’s the little post office building that resembles a farmer’s hut, only without the straw roof. The saloon on the other corner displays which types of drink you can purchase there. Instead of horse and wagon, you see fine automobiles with happy families from the surrounding area, who come shop in the supermarket to buy what they need for the coming week. But the closer you go in the direction to where Main Street meets Maple Avenue, the picture of an old-time shul hoif appears before your eyes, and from time to time, it’s as if you are dreaming, and you want to wake up to see where you actually are. Little boys, whom you’ve never seen before, greet you with a “gut Shabbos,” even though you are a stranger, and they voluntarily offer to lead you to the new shul that was built on Main Street. Young mothers, wearing wigs, take a stroll, surrounded by small children on all sides, while the fathers are occupied farhering the older children on what they learned the previous week. Inside the houses, the tables are bedecked with the Shabbos candlesticks, and in some other homes, the walls are also decorated with pictures of old-time tzadikim and gaonim. If you put your ear to the trees that are on the side of the road, you can hear the sweet Gemara melody originating from inside the nearby building. There, American youth are learning Torah, not because they want to become rabbis, not for a career, but because a Jew must learn, because Torah is the best merchandise. Main Street in Monsey, New York, is not just a regular Main Street; it also has a shul hoif around which, in the past ten to fifteen years, a Jewish community grew up, whose equal is hard to find anywhere else in America. Twenty years ago, Monsey was a small village, with few houses, near the town of Spring Valley. Today, Monsey has around 150 frum Jewish families, ken yirbu, with its own yeshivos and shuls and even its own wealthy inhabitants, who built palaces on the section “up the hill,” as the rich neighborhood is called. The development of the little Monsey into a large Yiddishe town began when the great Torah pioneer, the head of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, bought an empty house at Main Street corner Maple Avenue eighteen years ago (editor’s note: in 1943), and established the now-renowned Bais Medrash Elyon. Mr. Mendlowitz (who, as long as he lived, did not want to be called by the title “Rabbi”) wanted to pick the best students of the Mesivta and let them learn calmly and undisturbed by the city chaos, without the trials and tribulations that a yeshiva bachur faces in the big city, even in a place like Williamsburg. Bais Medrash Elyon is now a Torah center where Torah is studied day and night. Mr. Mendlowitz's hopes were fully realized. Besides the close to 100 boys of college age who spend their entire time just learning Torah, Bais Medrash Elyon also has a kollel for married young men,
The Monsey View