Rabbi Uriel Moshe Goodwin (35)
Rabbi Uriel Moshe Goodwin (35)
Born: London, England
Pardes House, London for Primary and Secondary School
Yeshivat Shaarei Torah, Manchester
Yeshivat Mir, Yerushalayim
Rebbe in the Beis Medrash Program at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach (beginning 2018)
The history of English Jewry is embedded in our distinguished rebbe of the Beis Medrash, Rabbi Uriel Moshe Goodwin. As many of us know from the Kinos of Tisha B’Av, there was an established Jewish presence in England from at least the time of William the Conqueror in 1066 until 1290, when King Edward I expelled the remaining Jewish population. Jews were prominent merchants and financiers, and Aaron of Lincoln (1125-1186) was said to be the richest person in England during his lifetime — even richer than the king.Oxford had a relatively large Jewish community and one of the earliest colleges, Merton, was established with a grant from the learned and wealthy Rabbi Jacob of Oxford.
Jews were a major source of revenue for the Crown and the noblemen, and, as such, were afforded special protection by the Crown, but were also subjected to extra heavy taxes and property confiscation. The common English folk, although initially quite friendly to Jews, were later periodically incited by the Catholic Church’s many rabidly anti-Semitic priests to kill and maim that defenseless community and steal and destroy their property. These priests also fabricated the notorious and totally false “blood libel” charge against the Jewish communities. After a series of pogroms, including the one in York in 1190, where it seems the entire Jewish population was either massacred or had committed suicideal Kiddush Hashem, England was yudenrein from the expulsion in 1290 until the end of the English Civil Wars in 1649, when Oliver Cromwell, a Protestant and the head of the Republican forces, overthrew and beheaded Charles I, the last Catholic King of England.
Sensing the winds of change, the Jewish community of the Netherlands, which consisted of descendants of Jews or Anusim (forced converts to Christianity) who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal centuries before, sought permission to establish a community in England and to engage in commerce. The head of the Amsterdam community, Rabbi Menashe ben Yisrael, was granted an audience with Cromwell, who was so impressed with his erudition and wisdom that he eventually approved of the request and Jews began to resettle in England.
Among those families that came in the middle of the 17th century was the Levy family — Rabbi Goodwin’s paternal grandmother’s ancestors.
His paternal grandfather’s family came to England with a wave of immigrants from the Pale of Settlement in 1906. Like most English Jewish families at the time, strict adherence to Halacha was not a priority. Rabbi Goodwin’s paternal grandfather became a professional accountant, and his son, Rabbi Goodwin’s father, went to a well-known English private school - Haberdashers - and later to Cambridge University. A friendship with a religious student on campus eventually led him to become a baal teshuva. After graduation, with a degree in Economics, he studied at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim in Jerusalem.After his return to England, he learned as a bochur and then as a young avreich in Rabbi Hager’s Kollel in Golders Green for a number of years. Eventually, he joined his father’s accounting firm and is today at its head.
Reb Uriel’s maternal grandfather’s family arrived in England from Germany shortly before the start of the Second World War. His maternal great-grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Rottenberg, for whom he is named, had been the Rav of Nuremberg before the war. He was a first-hand witness to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Uriel’s grandfather spent the war years in the recently formed Gateshead Yeshiva.
Reb Uriel’s maternal grandmother escaped Germany with her mother and sister in 1942. In exchange for all their worldly possessions, a smuggler led them over the Tyrol Mountains to temporary safety in Northern Italy. But as the war progressed and the Jews in Italy were rounded up and sent to the Death Camps in Poland, they escaped again by hiding in a cattle truck to Montreux, Switzerland, where they remained until the end of the war.
Reb Uriel grew up in Hendon and then Golders Green, two Jewish neighborhoods in London, as the oldest of four siblings. He attended Pardes House, a Charedi- oriented primary and secondary school with an excellent secular curriculum. Reb Uriel excelled at both Torah and secular studies. By the age of fifteen, he completed his GSCE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education), and by sixteen he had completed his A Levels (Advanced Levels), which are required for placement in university. He did well enough that he could have gone to any university in the United Kingdom. His secular Head Teacher encouraged him to follow “in his father’s footsteps” and attend Cambridge University. Uriel, however, wanted to continue in his father’s “other footsteps” and attend Yeshiva Gedola.
At the age of sixteen, Reb Uriel left Pardes House to go to Manchester to study Torah under Rabbi Knopfler at the Shaarei Torah Yeshiva. There he learned for four years, including one and a half years as a chavrusah of the Mashgiach, Rabbi Shmuel Goldberg, who was a talmid of Rav Chazkal Levenstein.
His next stop was the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim and to the top Gemara shiur of Rav Osher Arieli. Reb Uriel’s questions and passion so impressed his rebbe, that after only a year he became his rebbe’s morning chavrusah. He describes his experience as follows:
“Reb Osher is known for his building the sugya (topic material) as a whole unit; for his diukim ( inferences), lomdus ( depth in learning), tremendous clarity and bringing out the yesodos (underlying principles) from the sugya instead of inserting them. His shiur is unusually fast in the Yeshiva world and can cover thirty daf, b’iyun, during a Zman.
Learning with him, I experienced and learned firsthand his Derech Halimud (method of learning), profundity, yishuv hada’as (clarity of thinking) and preparedness to relearn, as well as experience his exceptional middos (personal character) — in particular, his humility. Attending his shiur, one can observe his mastery of the Gemara and the swiftness with which he can summarize a sugya. When learning, however, despite this clarity, he would carefully contemplate and reflect on the material as well as consider alternative approaches. He would frequently relearn a text the following day. He always learned in a manner that was calm and almost serene, albeit very focused. He has tremendous yashrus (correctness) and ‘demanded’ that leaning be yosher even when saying a chiddush (novel idea). A tremendous masmid, (serious and focused learner), he never spoke any words not relevant to learning whilst in the Beis HaMedrash during all the time I spent with him. Out of the Beis HaMedrash, I would discuss with him many other matters. The shiurim I give are very much influenced by the learning, shuirim and derech I learned from him.”
In all, Reb Uriel learned for four and a half years in Rav Osher’s shiur. During that time, and afterwards, Reb Uriel also attended shiurim given by HaGaon HaRav Rafoel Shmulevitz, Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, Rav Aryeh Finkel and Rav Chaim Zev Schneider.
Not only was Rav Arieli, Reb Uriel’s rebbe, mentor and chavrusah, he was also his shadchan. Rav Arieli introduced him to the daughter of his first cousin, Rav Wasserman, a Rav and Mashgiach at a yeshiva in Bnei Brak. They married and now Rav Arieli is also his relative.
During his more than twelve years at the Mir, Reb Uriel gave classes on many subjects, including Gemara, Hashkafa, Siddur, and Chumash. He also took courses in counseling and teaching methods. And he has published a number of articles in Torah journals.
A few years ago, Reb Uriel was asked to substitute teach in the Ohr Somayach Intermediate Program. He was already familiar with Ohr Somayach because his uncle, Reb Dovid Speyer, z’l, was a rebbe and the head of the Beis Medrash Program.
Three years ago, when a position opened up in the Beis Medrash, the Yeshiva asked Reb Uriel to give the shiur. He has taken to his position with an enthusiasm and warmth that has made a major contribution to the Beis Medrash and to the entire Yeshiva.
When asked about his philosophy of teaching, Reb Uriel responded as follows:
“The great Rav Yeruchum Lebovitz, Mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva, is often quoted as having said: ‘It is not good when one does not know his or her faults, but even worse is someone who does not recognize his or her good qualities. A person who does not understand his strengths and talents is like a craftsman who is unfamiliar with his tools.’
“This is equally true from the perspective of an educator. A rebbe must view his students with genuinely high esteem. He should recognize their strengths, abilities and achievements, and believe in them. Equally important is to empathize with and sincerely understand the struggles and weaknesses they may have.
“Indeed, it is told that a few months after joining the Mir Yeshiva, Rav Yeruchum said that he already studied and recognized the unique talent of each of the 400 students. He then added that he had now started to study their weaknesses so he could direct them in self-improvement.
“A rebbe should also be concerned with all other areas of the students' welfare, such as physical health, financial stability, social connections and so on. The genuine love, respect and care of a rebbe for the student is an essential part of the rebbe-student relationship, and a catalyst for growth.
“Achievement in learning is often related to emotional equilibrium. Spiritual growth can often be directly interlinked to emotional tranquility. When talking with or counseling a student, you have to see and address the full person you are speaking to. His parents, his broader family, his upbringing, experiences, talents and challenges all make up his uniqueness.”
As to his thoughts on his experience so far at Ohr Somayach, Reb Uriel said:
“Ohr Somayach is a most remarkable Yeshiva. Jews from very different spiritual backgrounds find the Yeshiva a home, whilst benefiting from a true Yeshiva experience. I find the beautiful synthesis of the different backgrounds incredible. The atmosphere of spiritual growth, the aspirations of the students, and the love of the Rabbeim stimulate this fusion.
“The bochurim of the Beis Medrash are unique in their thirst for knowledge, diligence and desire to grow. The Beis Medrash is set up to enable the students to experience high-level Iyun Gemara learning, and the shiurim are built to facilitate this. It is somewhat astonishing to see bochurim transforming into lamdonim — able to understand and accurately build a sugya with its yesodot in just a few months of being in the Beis Medrash. After leaving our program, the students graduate to the highest level shiurim in other renowned yeshivos, where they excel.”
The Yeshiva is proud to have Reb Uriel on its staff and looks forward to the contributions he will surely make in the coming years, b’ezrat Hashem Yisborach.