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Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin
Rabbi Meir Shapiro

Jehuda Meir ShapiroYehuda Meir Shapiro was born, according to the Jewish calendar, on the 7th of Adar 5647 (March 3, 1887) in Suchava (Suczawa) in Bukovina into a well-off Chassidic family of rabbinical tradition. His father, Yaakov Shimshon, was the local rabbi (a patrilineal descendant of the famous Pinkhas of Kozhets [Korzec] from the Spira family). His mother Margula (née Shor) was a daughter of Shmuel Yitzchok, rabbi in Monasterzyska (Monastrishtz). He received a thorough religious education at home under the supervision of a succession of rabbis: Rabbi Shalom of Suchostav, his grandfather in Monasterzyska, as well as Shalom Moskovich in Suchava and Shalom Mordecai ha-Cohen Shvadron in Berezhany (Brzeżany). At the age of 16, he received rabbinic ordination from the rabbi of Lviv, Yitskhok Yehuda Shmelkes, and additionally obtained favorable certificates from a few other rabbis. In 1906, at the age of 19, he married Malka Tova, a daughter of Yaakov Breitman, a wealthy landowner in Tarnopol. He settled down there for a few years, probably working on his first book Imrei daat (Words of Knowledge). Published in 1910, the whole edition was burnt during World War I at Gliniany (Glinyane) near Lviv. In 1912 he became the rabbi at Glinyane, where he first reformed the system of education and upbringing of young people in the spirit of Orthodox Judaism. He managed to have a school building erected there and organized a cheder (with the curriculum extended by practical classes and vocational training) as well as a yeshiva. From 1912 on, he actively participated in the activities of the Orthodox party Agudat Israel. During World War I, he resided in Tarnopol and Lviv, where he conducted educational and charitable activities and intervened on behalf of Jews persecuted by the Russian army. In the years 1921-1924 he held the post of rabbi in Sanok. There he also organized a yeshiva. In 1922 he was elected President of Agudat Israel in Poland and became their representative in the Sejm (Parliament) of the Polish Republic. He was not very active as a politician and after his term in the Sejm expired in 1927, he gave up his work as a member. In 1924 he served as a rabbi in Piotrków Trybunalski. In that town, where Bundists and Zionists dominated, he primarily got involved in raising the level of Orthodox religious education by contributing to the establishment of an elementary school and a yeshiva, as well as a journal representing Orthodoxy.

At the first convention of the World Congress of Agudat Israel in Vienna in 1923, Shapiro came up with a project called Daf Yomi (daily folio), which concerned the global unification of studies of the Babylonian Talmud. Each day, all participants would study the same two-page folio, and the period of studying the whole Talmud (2711 folios) would cover approximately seven and a half years. The beginning of the first cycle was scheduled for the first day of the Jewish New Year of 5684 (September 11, 1923). For Orthodox Jews all over the world, Daf Yomi designations became almost an alternative system of keeping track of time.

In the years 1924-1930 Shapiro collected contributions on behalf of the future Lublin yeshiva in Europe, North America and Poland. In 1926 he prepared his collection of responsa Or ha-Meir (The Shining Light) for publication, which was printed later that year in Piotrków Trybunalski. On June 25, 1930, Meir Shapiro accepted the post of chief rabbi of Lublin and head of the yeshiva (rosh yeshiva). In 1931 he was elected chairman of the Rabbinical Board in the Ministry of Religious Beliefs and Public Enlightenment. In 1933 he accepted an offer to become the chief rabbi of Lodz (without neglecting his duties as head of the yeshiva); in return the Jews of Lodz were to assign substantial funds for the Lublin yeshiva. He died suddenly, after a short illness, on October 27, 1933, at the age of 46.

Edited by Andrzej Trzciński

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