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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

TELSHE YESHIVA - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

TELSHE YESHIVA grew from a small rabbinical school, opened in Cleveland in 1941, into an internationally renowned center for traditional Jewish Scholarship and learning. Established in 1875 in the town of Telsiai (also known as Telse), Lithuania, Telshe became one of the three largest yeshivot in Imperial Russia by 1900. Under the leadership of Rabbis Eliezer Gordon (1883-1910) and Joseph Leib Bloch (1910-1930), the yeshiva instituted new methods for Talmudic study, including dividing the pupils into five classes based upon their level of knowledge and requiring periodic testing. With the German invasion of Soviet Union during WORLD WAR II, the yeshiva closed and many of its students and teachers were killed. Rabbis Eliyahu Meir Bloch, who had studied at Telshe Yeshiva and had been on the faculty since 1917, and Chaim Mordechai Katz escaped to the United States with 10 students and reestablished the yeshiva in Cleveland. In 1944, the yeshiva relocated to East 105th Street from a remodeled home on East Boulevard. It boasted more than 150 students, many of them from outside the U.S., by 1947. Rabbi Bloch, who remained dean until his death in 1955, upheld a pioneering system of learning based on inductive reasoning known as "The Way of Telshe."

After formally changing its name to the Rabbinical College of Telshe in 1954, the yeshiva relocated to a new 57-acre campus, located on the old JOHN H. DEVEREUX estate, at 28400 Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe in 1957. The yeshiva opened the first academic term at its new campus with a record enrollment of 305 students, about 40 of whom came from abroad. In 1959, it established the Yavne Teachers Seminary, a two-year program for women that offered a teacher's diploma and the opportunity to transfer credits to local colleges in pursuit of a bachelor's degree. A teacher's seminary for men was created in 1961 for graduates of the yeshiva. Qualified graduates received rabbinical ordination and could enter the kollel, or postgraduate religious studies. The yeshiva also sponsored an Orthodox high school called Telshe High for grades 9-12, which prepared students for entrance into either the yeshiva's college courses or advanced secular studies. After a fire destroyed a student dormitory in 1963, taking the lives of two students, the yeshiva erected a new dormitory the following year at the cost of more than $750,000. In 1965, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, a former student of Telshe, became the dean of the yeshiva following the passing of Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz. Enrollment reached 425 by 1966 and Telshe opened braches in Chicago, Miami, Johannesburg, and Jerusalem.

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter passed away in 2001 and his son, Rabbi Zalman Gifter, graduate of Telshe, took over the yeshiva.

Last Modified: 13 Mar 2011 08:11:29 PM

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