I met Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman three weeks ago in a beautiful apartment across from the Western Wall. We stood at the window and looked out at some 5,000 kids preparing to say the penitential Selichot service. He turned and spoke his first words to me: “Is that not the scene of the Mashiach?!”
Here was one of Israel’s most revered rabbis — someone who’s reported to have turned down the honor of being Israel’s chief rabbi twice — asking, rhetorically, if this youthful, dynamic prayer were not a vision of what Jerusalem would look like when the Messiah arrived.
I’d heard a lot about Rav Grossman. He founded Migdal Ohr, Israel’s largest and most innovative orphanage, and I’d even, sight unseen, hosted two events to raise awareness for the Oct. 20 Maccabi Tel Aviv/LA Clippers game at Staples Center, as a unique fundraiser for Migdal Ohr. But nothing could have prepared me for what he was like in person. Everyone who told me about him — regardless of where they stood politically or religiously — went on and on about what a tzadik, a righteous man, he is, about how incredible his work is, about how he’s succeeded in matching an out-of-this world vision of helping orphaned and troubled youth with an uncanny ability to build a 65-acre campus (think UCLA for a sense of its size) to provide a full range of educational and round-the-clock support services for nearly 7,000 troubled and/or orphaned youth, from six months to 18 years old.
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