Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen

Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen, is a major Orthodox yeshiva in the United States based in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, New York. It is primarily an American, Lithuanian-style Talmudic yeshiva. The Yeshiva is legally titled Rabbinical Seminary of America (RSA). It is often referred to as just Chofetz Chaim[1] (Hebrew: חָפֵץ חַיִּים), as that was the nickname of its namesake, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, who was known as the Chofetz Chaim, after the name of his book with the same title. Chofetz Chaim means "Seeker/Desirer [of] Life" in Hebrew. The book concentrates on the Jewish religious laws of proper speech.

Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz, a great-nephew of the Chofetz Chaim, established the yeshiva in 1933. Rabbi Leibowitz was a disciple of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel ("The Alter of Slabodka") and he also studied under Rabbi Naftoli Trop and the Chofetz Chaim in the Raduń Yeshiva. Both of these yeshivas were in Lithuania. However, for a time Radin was governed by the Polish.

After its founder's death in December 1941, the yeshivah was headed and developed by his son, Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz (d. April 15, 2008[1]). Today, it is led by two of Rabbi Henoch's close disciples, Rabbis Dovid Harris[2] and Akiva Grunblatt.[3]

RSA also has a branch in the Sanhedria Murchevet section of Jerusalem, and many affiliates located throughout North America and in Israel, including Miami, Milwaukee, Dallas, Brooklyn, Vancouver, St. Louis, and Rochester, among many others (see complete list below).

An Alumni website is located at


The yeshiva was established in 1933 following a dispute between Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz and the administration of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. The cause of the dispute is not well known. At the time, Rabbi Leibowitz,served as the Rosh Yeshiva [School dean], and taught the "top shiur," or most prestigious class, at Torah Vodaas, and when he quit to create his own yeshiva most of his students left angry without him causing great chaos. The new yeshiva was named for his great uncle Yisroel Meir Kagan,who had died that year.

The yeshiva's first building was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In December 1955 it relocated to Forest Hills, Queens, and at the start of the 2003 academic year, to Kew Gardens Hills, Queens.[4]

RSA houses a boys' yeshiva high school, an undergraduate yeshiva, and a rabbinical school that grants ordination. Rabbinical students at the yeshiva often spend a decade or more there, studying a traditional yeshiva curriculum focusing on Talmud, mussar ("ethics"), and halakha ("Jewish law").


There are six primary characteristics of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim of Queens that distinguish it from other Yeshivos:

  1. An emphasis upon unfolding the latent processes of reasoning within the steps of the Talmudic sugya ("section") being studied. The methodology places emphasis on the notion that the initial assumptions of the Talmud must be highly rigorous, and that the movement between the initial thought process (known as the hava aminah) of the Talmudic sugya to the final thought process (known as the maskana) must be fully unfolded and understood.[5]
  2. An approach to ethical and Biblical texts and its commentaries that emphasizes a rigor that other yeshivas of this genre generally accord to Halakhic or Talmudic texts alone. The yeshiva promotes the idea that ideally a deduction from these texts should be muchrach meaning "logically and textually compelling." This approach yields a convincing discourse on Torah that is "well-grounded".[6]
  3. The study of Mussar ("ethics"), both by attending and reviewing semiweekly lectures (that are presented in the well-grounded method described above) and through daily individual study of Mussar texts, is strongly emphasized. Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz founded the Chofetz Chaim yeshiva in the footsteps of his rebbe, the Alter of Slabodka, and Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement. Through the study of mussar one may hope, over many years, to improve character traits by increasing self-awareness and self-control. Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz would continually remind his students that as important as it is to become a lamden ("analytical scholar") and a great pedagogue, it is even more important to become a mentch ("a good human being").
  4. An emphasis on propagating the ideals and values of Judaism. Upon completion of a rigorous term of study, students are encouraged to seek employment in the field of Jewish education, often launching their own educational institutions themselves or with a partner. Hundreds (possibly thousands) of alumni have gone on to become religious instructors, synagogue rabbis, education and outreach coordinators, community leaders, and organizational officials.
  5. The omnisignifigance and complete subservience to "Daas Torah" as defined by R. A. H. Leibowitz in the introduction to his work "Chidushei Halev" as well as numerous public ethical discourses.[7] This is the concept that everything is included in the Torah and the way that the Torah logic (i.e. Talmudic reasoning) works is the way that God's mind works; therefore one who has spent years dedicated to in depth Talmudic study has shaped his mind to think like the Torah/God and is thus able to apply the Torah's logic to all manner of situations.[8]
  6. The dress code is unique in that they allow the students to wear colored shirts as opposed to white shirts which are mandatory in other Lithuanian Haredi Yeshivos. This is in line with the view of Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz who said that a person can be a student of the Torah (בן תורה) even when wearing a colored shirt.

Affiliates and branches by location

United States




  1. 1 2 "Petira of Alter Chanoch Henoch Leibowitz ZT"L". Beyond BT. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  2. "unknown". Hamodia. 3 July 2013. p. C10.
  3. Horowitz, Rebbetzin Faigie. "Jewish Forest Hills: Resilient and resurgent". Hamodia Magazine. December 13, 2012, pp. 811.
  4. Tiferes Dovid pp. 28-29 and particularly footnote 14
  5. Pinnacle of Creation "Anatomy of a Shmuess" pp. 17-19.
  6. "Yeshiva training Orthodox women rabbis". 11 September 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  7. "Chofetz Chaim: It's not just a Yeshiva. It's a way of life.". Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  8. Archived September 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

See also

Coordinates: 40°43′23″N 73°49′2.03″W / 40.72306°N 73.8172306°W / 40.72306; -73.8172306

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