The Influence of the Novardok Movement on Bnei Akiva Yeshivot

Geula Miles

The Novardok movement emerged in Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century as a trend within the Musar movement. In the yeshivot of Novardok, a radical and stormy educational approach developed, winning them the reputation of extreme fanaticism. Novardok became known for its aggressive educational activities dedicated to saving Jewish youth from secularism and the Haskalah.

The Bnei Akiva Yeshivah in Kfar Haroeh was founded in 1939 as a training project for the Bnei Akiva movement, and was a full partner in the Zionist project; in 1950 secular studies were introduced into the yeshivahs curriculum. Over the following decades, many high school yeshivot were founded on the model of the Bnei Akiva yeshivah, paving the way for the national-religious educational trend. What connection could there be between two such seemingly dissimilar phenomena?

 

Rabbi Avraham Zukerman zl, the authors grandfather, studied with Musar masters in Novarkok yeshivot. There his self-image took form, along with fundamental aspects of his world-view. Parallel to his yeshivah studies, he was active in the Torah ve-avodah movement and he subsequently joined Bnei Akiva. Only a few years later he became one of the founders of the Bnei Akiva yeshivah in Kfar Haroeh and of the Mirkaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva; to the end of his life he remained active in all.

 

This article explores the history and the defining features of the Novardok yeshivot, on one hand, and of the Bnei Akiva yeshivah in Kfar Haroeh on the other, and seeks to outline some of the ways that R. Zukermans years in Novarkok may have influenced the comprehensive educational project that took form later under his guidance.