By: Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot  | 

Letter to the Editor: Thank You Rabbi Blau

To the Editor:

Kudos on the wonderful tribute to my teacher and mentor, Rabbi Yosef Blau; his contribution to the religious and emotional growth of generations of YU students; and his courageous contributions to making our Orthodox community more sensitive and committed to confronting its flaws and working to correct them. 

A small but important correction is, however, in order. The author writes that Rabbi Blau arrived at MTA in 1951 and "has been in YU ever since" assuming the role of mashgiach ruchani in 1977 (the year I entered MTA).

In fact, during the mid-1960s through 1977, Rabbi Blau served as assistant principal at the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, going on to later serve as principal of the Skokie Yeshiva High School in Chicago, IL, followed by his tenure as principal at JEC in Elizabeth, NJ.

My chevra at Yeshiva College and YU, who later went on to semikha, graduate study and kollel learning at YU in the late-1970s and 1980s  were very close to Rabbi Blau during those formative years (and beyond). (I was at YU from 1977 through 1989 and then worked part-time at YU in the early years of the Torah Umadda project in the early 1990s.) . We always felt that the fact that he did not remain at YU, in "the ivory tower" without interruption, but had gone out to various communities to work in the trenches was a key element in Rabbi Blau's tremendous impact and success as a guide and mentor. His real-world experiences out of the NY community and being out of the Yeshiva bubble for more than a decade and a half, gave him great insight, empathy, wisdom and understanding of so much of the richness and complexity of American Jewry in general and the Modern-Orthodox community in particular. He is one of the treasures of our community who continues to be a polestar for so many of us in chinuch, the rabbinate, lay leadership and beyond.

With Torah blessings,

Nathaniel Helfgot

MTA, '81, YC, '85, RIETS, '89, AZ '89