Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is a sixth generation Jerusalemite, born in 1946. A dramatic turning point in his life occurred in 1968 when he decided to move to the Lower Galilee town of Migdal Ha’Emek to provide the socio-humanitarian aid sorely needed there.
Migdal Ha’Emek had been established in 1953 as a development town designed to accommodate part of the great influx of Jewish immigrants from the North African countries. The town’s population grew in size much faster than the evolving socio-economic and educational infrastructure. The resulting shortage of jobs and lack of sufficient school facilities and teachers had a devastating effect on the inhabitants. Migdal Ha’Emek quickly became known as one of the prime centers of criminal activity in Israel.
Rabbi Grossman’s arrival on the scene was without fanfare. He had no welcoming committee and no mandate from the people or from the administration. Furthermore, he had no budget nor staff or even an office. He joined in the conversations of idle youth hanging out on the street corners and, after gaining their confidence, began organizing private classes for them. But he knew that to get to the core of the problem, he would have to tackle it at it’s roots.
Rabbi Grossman became a steady and frequent visitor at the town’s discotheques and pubs, engaging the young clientele in dialogues. Slowly but surely the tough exteriors began to peel away and there began to surface the gentle side of the members of the new generation searching for their identity.
The painstaking work was beginning to meet with significant achievements and public recognition. Rabbi Grossman’s reputation as “the Disco Rabbi” had been firmly set in the minds of the general public in all of Israel who received regular reports from the communications media. He began visiting prisoners in Israel’s jails giving them words of encouragement and providing them with young rabbis to teach them the beauty of the Torah way of life.
Though official statistics showed that criminal activity began a downtrend in Migdal Ha’Emek, the town’s residents didn’t need statistics to show them how much the situation had improved. The cleaned-up atmosphere helped entice entrepreneurs to set up factories in the town’s industrial zone and the unemployed regained their pride as jobs became available.
In 1969, only one year after Rabbi Grossman’s arrival in town, he was unanimously elected to the position of Chief Rabbi of Migdal Ha’Emek, with lifetime tenure. At age 23 he had thus become the youngest municipal chief rabbi in all of Israel.
The foundations were laid for the opening, in 1972, of the Migdal Ohr Educational Center.
In 1983, Rabbi Grossman was presented with the coveted Love of Israel award by the President of Israel, Mr. Chaim Herzog. It was a prize he well deserved. The dignitaries who attended the ceremony underlined Rabbi Grossman’s unselfish, indiscriminate dedication to every single Jew, regardless of his stature or his religious or political commitments.
In March of 1991, as a result of a nationwide survey, Migdal Ohr was awarded the “Nivchar Heasor”(“Best of the Decade”) award and was acclaimed as the best educational network in Israel for the past ten years.
In October of 1991, Rabbi Grossman was chosen to be honored with the Tolerance Prize at a special ceremony in the Knesset, The Israeli Parliament. In the presence of prominent Government officials, the prize was presented by the Chairman of the Knesset, Mr. Dov Shilansky. Rabbi Grossman’s accomplishments for the benefit of Israeli society, especially the underprivileged segment, were highly praised.
At a stage in his life where many people would rest on their laurels, Rabbi Grossman is forging ahead in new endeavors.
At the national religious level, he was elected and subsequently re-elected as a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council – a body comprised of a handful of select municipal chief rabbis which serves to advise Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
At the public service level, he has visited Egypt and has held meetings with Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Bassiouny regarding certain aspects of the relations between Israel and Egypt.
Today, Migdal Ohr is a Tower of Light, not only for Migdal Ha’Emek and the Galilee, but for all the children of Israel under the inspirational leadership of its Founder and Leader, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman.