Monsey Memories: David Shapiro, Supporter of Torah
By Yitzy Fried
Back in 1942, Spring Valley was a true oasis, and many wealthy people moved out there, residing in beautiful homes amid the fresh air and abundant greenery.
Twenty miles away lies the town of White Plains, New York, and in 1942, it was the home of Beth Medrash Govoha of America.
This was before Rav Aharon Kotler even came to lead the institution. The world was engulfed in the fury and the fire of WWII, and a select group of young men, mostly Americans who had learned in the yeshivos of Europe, endeavored to learn Torah with hasmodoh, away from the distractions of the city.
From a letter written by Rav Yechiel Mordechai Gordon, the Lomza Rosh Yeshiva who was then leading the Kollel, Irving Bunim was involved in its support, and Rav Hillel Bishko, the founder of the Kollel, we learn about the generosity of Mr. David Shapiro, a textile merchant who lived on South Madison Avenue in Spring Valley, in supporting this fledgling institution.
“We hereby acknowledge receipt of your contribution of one hundred dollars ($100.00) (this is the equivalent of more than $1800 today).
“In expressing our gratitude to you for your deed and sincere interest in this great undertaking, we wish to felicitate you upon your being among the founding contributors of this institute and instrumental in the establishment of a sound foundation for this house of learning. For your endeavors to strengthen and fortify His house, so will He always watch over your house-to support, enlarge and make it firm.
“At this most crucial moment in the history of Israel, we turn to the One above in fervent supplication that this Torah institution supplement the losses being sustained by the upheaval of the spiritual reservoir of our people the world over.
“We beseech the Almighty that this institute for higher learning be enabled to maintain its goal to give the opportunity to chosen and select Torah scholars in this country to develop into great leaders of American Jewry. At this opportunity, we sincerely extend to you our cordial invitation to visit us, and we are anxiously looking forward to the pleasure of your company here very soon.”
Given his address on South Madison Avenue, perhaps Mr. Shapiro was among the members of Kehillas Israel on Old Nyack Turnpike, founded in the 1920’s, and only a nine-minute walk from his home. But this letter affirms for posterity his generosity toward the cause of Torah and the future of Klal Yisroel.