LAKEWOOD

LAKEWOOD
LAKEWOOD, city in central New Jersey (Ocean County), 2005 population close to 40,000. The city was a popular resort destination throughout the 20th century. Jews frequented many of its vacation facilities. Some eventually settled there, establishing a small community and the local hotels were also at least a temporary home to Jews. It is now the home to a large and influential ultra-Orthodox community because of the dramatic rise of its yeshivah-affiliated population. Unlike kiryas joel or new square , it is not a community set apart by the purchase of rural property and incorporation of a town, but one that owing to its large numbers is dominant in a city. In 1943 Rabbi aaron kotler , a leading yeshivah dean formerly of kletsk , Lithuania, founded an advanced yeshivah, Beth Medrash Govoha, in Lakewood. The initial student body consisted of 13 students, some of whom had studied with him in Europe. Kotler's goal was to re-establish in America the high standards of talmudic learning that had been a part of the Eastern European Jewish world. His ideal was that Torah should be "studied for its own sake" and, although one might choose the professional rabbinate or teaching as a career, this would be a result rather than the goal of one's studies. Kotler strongly opposed higher secular education, seeing it as a danger due to the many conflicts between the university environment and its secular world view and those of Orthodox Judaism. He also viewed higher secular learning as a squandering of time better spent in Torah study. Following Kotler's passing in 1962 he was succeeded as dean by his son, Rabbi Schneur Kotler (1918–1982). Schneur Kotler in turn has been followed by a team of deans, his son Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel and Rabbis Dovid Schustal, Yisroel Neuman, and Yeruchim Olshin. The studies pursued in the Beth Medrash Govoha framework are primarily focused on Talmud and Codes of Law. Students begin the program after high school and, at times, after a period spent in a preparatory yeshivah either in America or Israel. They attend Beth Medrash Govoha until marriage, whereupon some continue their studies in the school's kolel division (as of mid-2005 the student body of the yeshivah and kolel was 4,482), where they receive a small stipend. The growing Orthodox yeshivah community in Lakewood is a result of many students choosing to settle there after concluding their studies. Many of them eventually find livelihoods outside the religious employment sector. Some seek to remain kolel students for many years, which, at times, has created an economic strain on the community. Many graduates have gone on to serve as rabbis, teachers, and authors throughout the United States and the world. Satellite Lakewood kolelim have been established in dozens of cities throughout North America, where their fellows combine talmudic studies with teaching in the local community. Lakewood students, under the auspices of Torah Umesorah's Seed Program, often spend their summers in Jewish communities across the country, where they teach, counsel, and interact with the surrounding Jewish community. In 2005 the yeshivah community in Lakewood was serviced by a network of 23 elementary and 13 secondary schools, all committed to the vision of Rabbi Kotler. The housing needs of this growing population has caused its borders to expand rapidly, creating a housing boom with continually rising prices as well as generating an extensive small business infrastructure to serve its needs. The non-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox communities in Lakewood have significantly declined in numbers in recent decades, and there have been tensions between the yeshivah community and its non-Orthodox and non-Jewish neighbors. Members of the yeshivah community have participated in local politics including work with the school board, and there have been attempts at accommodation in the political sphere. The yeshivah seeks to maintain and spread the world view colloquially known as yeshivish, continuing the non-ḥasidic, traditional Orthodoxy of the Lithuanian yeshivah world. Its philosophy is to be found, on the journalistic level, in the weekly newspaper, Yated Ne'eman. (Mayer Schiller (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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