Beit Shemesh Extremist Rabbi Shabsi Wigder Extremely Ill

This announcement in Hebrew asks for your prayers.

Wigder is not from the Karlin Stolin sect. (They are moderates, politically and religiously speaking.) Bleich, his son-in-law, is from that sect.

Wigder hung around Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, who was the Rosh Hayeshiva of Shear Yashuv, a yeshiva in Far Rockaway, NY.

The rabbis in Monsey knew about Wigder’s unfortunate predilections (though the Chareidi world likes to keep these things under wraps).

Rabbi Wigder’s son-in-law is regarded by some as the Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine:

Rabbi Yakov Dov Bleich was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1964. He studied at Yeshiva Karlin Stolin and from graduated Telshe Yeshiva High School in Chicago, Illinois where he began his rabbinical studies. From 1984-1986, he  studied at the Karlin Stolin Rabbinical Institute in Jerusalem, and he received his Rabbinical ordination (semicha) at Yeshiva Karlin Stolin in Brooklyn.

In 1987, Rabbi Bleich married Bashy Wigder. In 1989, they moved to Kyiv with their oldest son, Yochanan, at the time 1 year old. In 1990, Rabbi Bleich was appointed Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine. Since his arrival in Ukraine, Rabbi Bleich has been instrumental in founding the Kyiv Jewish City Community, the Union Of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine, the first full Jewish day school in Ukraine, the first legal Jewish orphanage and boarding school in Ukraine, the Chesed Avot welfare society of Kyiv, the Magen Avot social services network of Ukraine and a host of other organizations.

From Wikipedia:

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich (born 1964) is an American-born rabbi and member of the Karlin-Stoliner Chassidic group. He has been widely recognized as chief rabbi of both Kiev and Ukraine since 1992. [1]

He is currently one of three contenders for the role after Chabad Lubavitch appointed two competing Rabbis as Chief Rabbis, Azriel Haikin in 2002 and then Moshe Reuven Azman in 2005.[2]

Bleich, the pioneer of a Jewish revival in post-Communist Ukraine, has shown no intention of giving up the post.

In 2008 the Kiev weekly magazine Focus cited Bleich among the most "powerful foreigners" in the country[3].

  1. biography – Rabbi Yakov Bleich
  2. ^ Ukrainian community split over chief rabbi, Vladimir Matveyev, Phoenix Jewish News, October 25, 2005
  3. ^

Paul Deckelman writes in March 1994 about saving the yeshiva children of the night:

…She said the Orthodox establishment had been approached to help — but that help was, for the most part, not forthcoming. Tempting as it might be, however, for the frum community to look upon the dropouts as rebellious backsliders and simply wash its hands of them and leave them to whatever fate awaits them out on the streets — even if it be, ultimately, drug use and jail, or worse — "it’s against Daas Torah for a community or its leaders to shrug their shoulders and say `oh well, these kids are not our responsibility’," the therapist says.

Rabbi Shapiro absolutely concurs. "The poskim, the rabbinic authorities, agree that this type of kiruv, or outreach, among religious kids gone astray is so important that it even takes precedence over trying to reach kids who never were religious."

For one thing, he says, these kids — who have been taught Torah in their yeshivas and their girls’ seminaries — are thus responsible for their own actions, whereas those who are ignorant of Torah are not. By rescuing them, you save them from a fate worse than the other kids face for unknowingly committing aveiras. Secondly, he notes, as long as these kids are out living the street life, each has the potential for corrupting other impressionable young people and luring them astray — just like Reuben, the former yeshiva student turned con-man king, did.

A third reason, the rabbi notes, for supporting this kind of outreach, is it’s doing a chesed, or act of kindness, for all, because "you never know whose kids are in danger."

Other rabbinic authorities, such as Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, of Jerusalem, and Rabbi Shabse Wigder, of Monsey, add that by helping these lost youngsters, you bring relief to broken families as well.

It was for those reasons, Rabbi Shapiro said, that Rabbi Avrohom Pam shlita, the respected rosh yeshiva of New York’s Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaas, gave his full blessing to Rabbi Shapiro’s outreach efforts among the fallen-away frum kids, which include one-on-one counseling and the establishment of a new hotline telephone number where kids who tire of the street life can get help.

Here’s more:

The Halachic Status of the Project ReJewvenation Program

by Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro

Rabbis Yisroel Grossman, Moshe Shterenbuch, Shabse Wigder, and Ephraim Greenblatt

Regarding the mitzvah of kiruv rechokim as it pertains to Jewish youths who grew up in religious homes but for various reasons left the Torah way of life. Usually victims of abusive, dysfunctional, or broken homes, these children have taken to the streets where they encounter overwhelming trials and temptations. The future of kids on the street is bleak, to say the least. In my opinion, the halachah is clear that the return of these youths takes precedence over those unfortunate tinokos shenishbu who spent all their lives in non-religious homes. Briefly:


1) To be sure, saving a tinok shenishbah from an eternity without schar is a great Mitzvah, but saving those who are responsible for their actions because they know of Torah is even greater. Since they are responsible for their actions, the eternal fate they are being saved from is much more severe. Saving someone from a more severe situation takes precedence over saving someone from a less severe one.


2) Each one of these youths poses a threat to the spiritual safety of their friends and acquaintances, upon whom they exert a negative influence . Most of these wayward youths were, in fact, influenced by others to leave home and adopt their non-Torah lifestyle. Public school children exert no such influence on our youths. Thus, every one of these youths poses a threat not only to himself, but to others as well. The return of one of them marks the elimination of a public mikshal.


3) There is no type of home that is immune to the danger of runaway children, hashem yishmereinu. This calamity has struck at even the very best of households. Therefore, the mustering of forces to combat this sort of tragedy must be perceived not only as an assistance to the youths themselves, but an assistance to each and every one of us. We are protecting ourselves by creating facilities and services for the prevention and return of wayward Jewish youths. This element of Mitzvah does not exist in the usual types of kiruv.


4) An additional consideration has been suggested by R. Moshe Sterenbuch and R. Shabse Wigder shlita. Each one of these lost children is the cause of a heartbroken, shattered family. Bringing these youths back is a great chesed not only for the youths themselves, but also for the entire family. This element of Mitzvah, too, is not found in the usual types of kiruv.

"I have received your letter. ‘The inguiry of the wise’ in this case is not only ‘half an answer,’ but a complete responsum, founded and formulated according to Halachah (Das shel Torah). May Hashem be with you . . ."
Rabbi Yisroel Grossman, Dayan in Jerusalem
Author, Shiurei Gitin, Responsa Netzach Yisroel

"If the family [with the wayward child] is religious, then there is a great kindness and tzedakah and chesed to the parents and the family to return the children to their home. And although there is a great kindness done to the ancestor of the tinok shenishbah, [still], to mollify parents or a family that are still alive is an [additional] tzedakah."
Rabbi Moshe Sterenbuch

"In my opinion, there is no reason to give the kiruv of tinokos shenishbu precedence over those who left their [Torah] path; on the contrary, one should give precedence to those who grew up religious, either because of the reason stated in your letter . . . or because these [children] destroy their families, and thus it is considered hatzalas harabim because of the families themselves . . . Therefore, my conclusion is that the Halachah is as you say . . . it is universally agreed (by all poskim), without any disagreement, that one should give precedence to those who grew up on the proper path . . ."
Rabbi Shabse Wigder
Author, Likutei Halachos

"I concur . . . that one must give precedence to those youths who strayed from the proper path, over those who were never religious . . ."
Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt
Author, Tehsuvos Rivevos Ephraim

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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