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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rav Chaim Kreiswirth: America's Loss, Belgium's Gain

The Steipler Gaon once said about about Rav Chaim Kreiswirth that even 200 years ago he would have been regarded as a Gadol . Admired as a tzaddik and famous as an illuy, Rav Chaim Kreiswirth was born in Poland in 1918. He gained fame at a very young age as the Cracover (Cracow) Illuy. He dazzled the brilliant Rav Meir Shapiro and was admitted into Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin where he stood out even by their lofty standards of Bekius and Charifus. The gemara, both Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi which he was said to have know by heart as a young man, was part and parcel of Rav Kreiswirth's personality and his soul. Every thought and every conversation was driven by the precious words of the Talmud.

He was fortunate to come of age in pre-war Europe where he was privileged to meet and speak in learning with the famous Geonim of those times including Rav Shimon Shkop, Rav Yosef Rosen (the Rogatchover Gaon), Rav Elchonon Wasserman, the Imrei Emes of Gur, Rav Menachem Ziemba and the Belzer Rav Rav Aharon Rokeach. He received Smicha from the Marcheshes, Rav Chanoch Henich Eigess.

After escaping Poland early in the war, he fled to Lithuania where he married the daughter of the Rav Avrohom Grodzinski the Mashgiach of Slabodka. Shortly thereafter he and his young wife escaped the Nazi inferno and made their way to Eretz Yisroel where his Torah knowledge and personality earned the friendship of such Gedolim as the Brisker Rav, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and ylct"a HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv shlit"a.

After the war, Rav Chaim went back to Europe to help return children left by their parents in the custody of the Church during the war.  He then settled in the United States opening a Yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois. Although very successful, his presence in America was short lived.  In 1953 he left America to the dismay of his talmidim and the Gedolei HaDor who thought he had much to accomplish in a continent rebuilding Yiddishkeit. He chose to head a small Kehilla in Antwerp, Belgium despite the protests of the Chazon Ish, the Amshenover Rebbe, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At the end the Chazon Ish relented and gave him a Bracha for success. He helped rebuild the Kehilla and served it faithfully for nearly 50 years. During this time he oversaw every aspect of Yiddishkeit. He was a master speaker dazzling crowds with his breadth of knowledge and wit. His influence and authority was felt far beyond the borders of Belgium.  His voice was heard throughout the European continent with respect to Halacha and hashkafa matters.

About his friendly personality, Prof. Dr. Henri Rosenberg, a close constituent, writes -

"Your powerful impact on other people ensured that you had a wide circle of friends. You had with your candid friendship, apparently childlike naivety, disarming smile and enchanting manner of speech an ability to establish close links with a vast number of friends and admirers over the entire world".

His tziddkus and modesty was truly special. He used to stay at weddings until the end. Many mocked this seemingly waste of time for such a great Talmid Chochom and Rav. He once admitted to someone that the reason he did this was because he knew as long as he was present there would be no mixed dancing or any other inappropriate behavior. He therefore didn't want to leave before it was all over.

All his life Rav Kreiswirth was involved in tzedoka and helping other people. In the latter part of his life Rav Kreiswirth was very active collecting tzedoka for Hachnosas Kallah for poor orphans. During a severe illness someone was sent to the Steipler Gaon to daven on his behalf and give him a bracha. The Steipler told him that it says in the mishna we read in davening every day "U'Bikur Cholim, Vhachnosas Kallah, U'Levoyas HaMeis". From here we see that between getting sick and being buried comes helping brides get married. Rav Kreiswirth then accepted upon himself to raise money to marry off poor orphans and made a miraculous recovery.

Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth was taken at the age of 82 on 16 Teves 5762. Yehi Zicro Boruch.

For more on Rav Kreiswirth you can see

RELATED ARTICLES:Antwerp  biography  Rav Chaim Kreiswirth  Steipler Gaon  Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin

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