Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rav Mordechai Gifter - An American Legend That Doesn't Get Away

In 1915 in Portsmouth, Virginia one of the future great lights of the American Yeshiva world was born; Rav Mordechai Gifter. Rav Gifter grew up in Baltimore. His father moved the family there to make sure that Rav Gifter would get a Torah education. When he was young he received a bracha from the Rav Shimon Shkop the Rosh Yeshiva of Grodno who was in Baltimore raising funds for his Yeshiva in Europe. Rav Gifter attributed his success in learning to this bracha. Surely his hasmadah, great mind and memory had what to do with it as well. At age 15 this American boy's Chiddushim were published in Eretz Yisroel in the same Torah journal together with those of the Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank the Rav of Yerushalayim.

Later Rav Gifter learned in Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Yeshiva together with two of his famous colleagues Rav Nosson Wachtfogel, mashgiach of Lakewood and Rav Avigdor Miller. In a rare move during those times Rav Gifter jumped back in time and traveled to Lithuania to study Torah in the famed Yeshiva of Telshe. This "American" yeshiva boy was already one of the outstanding talmidim upon his arrival. While in Telz he maintained a correspondence with the Rogatchover Gaon Rav Yosef Rosen and Rav Mordechai Pogramanski. He became close to the Mashgiach Rav Zalman Bloch and became engaged to marry his daughter.

He traveled to America to visit his family during the engagement. Due to the growing hostile climate in Europe it was decided that the Kallah would go to America to get married while her family remained in Europe. They got married in America in 1937 without the Kallah's family present. Over the next few years Rav Gifter held positions as Rav in various Shuls as well as being a Maggid Shiur in Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore headed by Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman of Slabodka.

Sadly the young couple never returned to Telz and the Yeshiva and most of its students were wiped out in the Holocaust. Yet Torah can never be wiped out and in 1944 while the war was still raging in Europe the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland was opened with Rav Gifter invited to be a Mashgiach and Maggid Shiur. In 1964 he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva together with Rav Boruch Sorotzkin.

In 1977 Rav Gifter left everything behind and headed to Eretz Yisroel to start a Yeshiva in a small town outside of Yerushalayim named appropriately TelzStone after the Yeshiva and Irving Stone the great philanthropist who sponsored it. Rav Gifter's presence in Eretz Yisroel was greatly enjoyed by the locals as many Talmidei Chachomim traveled from Yerushalayim to attend his weekly Minchas Chinuch shiur. Unfortunately this venture did not last long. After the passing of Rav Boruch Sorotzkin the Rosh Yeshiva in Cleveland, Rav Gifter, upon the advice of the Steipler Gaon went back to head the Yeshiva once again. Showing his despair about being torn away from the Eretz HaKodesh, Rav Gifter did not move back into a house rather he kept apartment in the dormitory for him and his family not wanting to "move" back to America. All through the years Rav Gifter was respected and maintained a close friendship with both the Steipler Gaon and Rav Shach.

Aside from molding a generation of talmidim in Telz, Rav Gifter was one of the heads of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in the United States. His oratory skills were legendary. He was the keynote speaker at the Agudah Conventions where people flocked to hear his Daas Torah. Rav Gifter was niftar 23 Teves 5762. Yehi Zicro Boruch.