Rabbi Havlin and the Founding of the Chabad Yeshiva in Hebron

Rabbi Havlin's passion for turning Hebron into a thriving Jewish center came to fruition.

8.5.23, 14:13
(PHOTO: Rabbi Havlin, center with his handpicked students who founded the Torat Emet yeshiva in Hebron.) 
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Havlin (1877 - 1936) was the founder and head of Torat Emet yeshiva in Hebron, and later in Jerusalem. Born in Russia to a Chabad-Lubavitch family, he moved to the Land of Israel in 1911 as part of a group sent to Hebron by the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn.

Initially the yeshiva classes were held at the Magan Avot building before moving to Beit Romano, the mansion built in 1879 by the wealthy Turkish-Jewish merchant Haim Yisrael Romano.

In 1901 the famous Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah Medini opened a yeshiva at Beit Romano where he completed his monumental Talmudic encyclopedia the Sde Hemed.

In 1912 Chabad-Lubavitch purchased the building and surrounding grounds and Rabbi Havlin and his fellow teachers began Torat Emet (alternative spelled Torath Emeth or Toras Emes). The other founders included Rabbi Alter Simchovitch who became the son-in-law of Rabbi Havlin and Rabbi Yechezkel Feigin, later the secretary of the Rebbe Rayatz, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe instructed Chabad to engage in a massive fundraising effort to purchase the property. The yeshiva attracted students from both the Land of Israel and abroad and the community grew to 1,500 out of a total population of 8,000 in Hebron. 
It operated until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The Ottoman Empire, who controlled the Land of Israel deported any Jewish residents who were born in Russia with whom they were at war.

Rabbi Havlin was among those deported and he lived in Russia until 1922 when he was finally able to return to the Land of Israel, but he was unable to re-open the yeshiva in Hebron. He opened the yeshiva in Jerusalem which still exists to this day. Rabbi Havlin passed away in 1936 and was buried on the Mount of Olives. His children and grandchildren went on to have important leadership roles in Israel.

One of his grandsons, Shlomo Zalman Havlin is a professor in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University. He was ordained at the Hebron yeshiva in Jerusalem and was a research fellow at Harvard University. He was one of the founders of Bar-Ilan’s Department of Information Studies and Librarianship.

Another grandson, Shlomo Havlin, is a professor in the physics department at Bar-Ilan University, former dean of the Faculty of Exact Sciences, and president of the Israel Physics Society. In 2018 he won the Israel Prize in the field of physics for pioneering statistical physics and its implications for complex systems in different areas.