Rabbi Moshe Twersky Among Yeshiva Attack Victims
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Rabbi Moshe Twersky Among Yeshiva Attack Victims

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Jerusalem — Rabbi Moshe Twersky has been identified as one of the four people, three with American citizenship, killed Tuesday in a Jerusalem synagogue during morning services.

Rabbi Twersky was the dean of the Torat Moshe Yeshiva, an advanced level English-speaking yeshiva attended mostly by post-high school students from English-speaking countries.

“There are no words,” said Jonathan Benaim, 23, an alumnus of Torat Moshe Yeshiva from London. Benaim attended the yeshiva from 2009—2011. During his second year, he was in Rabbi Twersky’s Talmud class. He additionally attended his house for Shabbat dinner several times and participated in Purim festivities hosted by Rabbi Twersky.

“Rav Twersky was an incredibly knowledgeable man, but even more exceptional was the way he interacted with others,” said Benaim, 23, in a phone interview. “He always made time for his students, no matter how busy he was.”

Regarding the future of the yeshiva, Benaim wasn’t sure. “I don’t know what will happen, but the Yeshiva will never be the same place again. We’ve lost a role model,” he said.

“I recall him being a tremendous talmid chacham (Torah scholar) and extremely warm,” said Tal Scher, 25, a past student of Rabbi Twersky from Chicago. “I remember how Rabbi Twersky really made us think. He wanted us to figure out the answer as opposed to just giving it to us,” said Scher. “That’s the trait of an amazing rebbe.”

Mickey Lebovic, 25, attended Torah Moshe for four years. For three years, he learned in a personal study group with Rabbi Twersky.

“My rebbe was murdered in a massacre,” said Lebovic, who was the only graduate from his Modern Orthodox high school in Baltimore to attend Torat Moshe. “When I received the two-line email from ToMo (short for Torat Moshe), I just broke down,” he said.

“We used to call him ‘The Rebba’,” recalled Lebovic. “It was a term of endearment.”

While in yeshiva, Lebovic experienced a health complication that sent him to the hospital. Upon returning to yeshiva, he asked Rabbi Twersky how to respond to the incident.

“I asked him if I could say any extra tefillot (prayers) or something like that,” said Lebovic. “But Rabbi Twersky told me the only way to respond was to appreciate every heartbeat, every breath. Now, when I feel my heartbeat, I will always think of him.”

Twersky, 60, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was the son of rabbi, author and professor of Judaic studies at Harvard University Rabbi Isadore Twersky of Boston, grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a founder of Modern Orthodoxy known as The Rav.

He was the dean of the Torat Moshe Yeshiva, an advanced level English-speaking yeshiva, attended mostly by post-high school students from English-speaking countries.

He was the first victim to be identified in the Tuesday morning attack on the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously, including two police officers who engaged in a shootout with the assailants, who were killed at the scene.

The other three victims were named early Tuesday afternoon. Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, and Kalman Zeev Levine, 55, residents of Har Nof who were born in the United States, also were killed in the attack. The fourth victim was Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, an immigrant from Britain.

JTA contributed to this report.

hannah@jewishweek.org

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