The Etz Chaim Yeshiva (Rabbinical School) in Thrawl Street, London was founded in 1909. One of the founders was Rabbi Aaron Hyman, whom I have written about previously here.
This book, printed by the Narodiczky Press in Whitechapel, is the April 1940 edition of HaChaim, the students’ magazine of the Yeshiva. It includes what may be the first article in English by a young Immanuel Jakobovits, destined to become the British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits. It also includes an article in English by Stanley Abramovitch, then a student who had arrived as a refugee in 1935, destined to become a fighter for refugees and long-time leader and worker for the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Later alumni of Etz Chaim have included the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Dayan Pinchas Toledano – the Chacham Emeritus of Amsterdam, and Dayan Ivan Binstock.
The Rosh Yeshiva was Rabbi Nachman Shlomo Greenspan. He was born in the village of Liakhovichi, near Minsk, in 1878 and studied under the greatest rabbis, including the Sfas Emes – Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk and the Ridvaz, as well as learning under and with the Avnei Nezer; Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik; the Rogatchover Gaon; the Chofetz Chaim; and Rabbi Aharon Kotler – all world renown rabbinic leaders. He obtained semicha (his rabbinic diploma) at the young age of 18.
Rabbi Greenspan came to Britain with the outbreak of the First World War. He was first Rosh Yeshiva in Liverpool, then Leeds, and then he came to London where he was the Rosh Yeshiva of Etz Chaim from 1918 until his death in 1961.
His colleague was Rabbi Elyah Lopian. He was born in Grajevo in Poland in 1876, and became one of the most important leaders of the rabbinical Mussar movement. He emigrated to England in 1928 and served as a Rosh Yeshiva at Etz Chaim until he left for Israel in 1950.
A younger and very important rabbi, then teaching at the Etz Chaim yeshiva was Rabbi Leib (Arieh Zev) Gurwitz, Rabbi Elyah Lopian’s son-in-law. He was also the Rabbi of the Great Garden Street Synagogue.
In 1932 Rabbi Elyah Lopian travelled to Poland with his eldest daughter, Liba, in the hopes of finding a suitable husband for her. Father and daughter were favorably impressed with Rabbi Gurwitz, and it was agreed that Liba would leave London and live in Poland, where Rabbi Gurwicz would continue learning.
However, Rabbi Lopian’s wife, Sarah Leah, died at the age of 49 in England, leaving 13 children. Liba, the eldest girl, wrote to her fiancé saying that she could not leave her father with the burden of caring for all the children on his own, and that if Leib wished to break the shidduch, she would understand. Rabbi Gurwicz went ahead and married Liba Lopian and moved to England. In 1948 he left Etz Chaim and went to Gateshead, where he became Rosh Yeshiva of Gateshead Yeshiva.