Rav Yochanan Sofer (1923-2016)
Leader, Rebbe of the Erlau (Eger) dynasty, a small-sized movement in Haredi Judaism.
He was born in Eger in 1923 where his father and grandfather served as Grand Rabbis.
Sofer is a great-great-grandson of Rabbi Moses Sofer z'tl, the Chasam Sofer Chief Rabbi of Pozsony (Pressburg, today: Bratislava, Slovakia), the leading rabbinical figure of Orthodox Judaism in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as one of the greatest Talmudic scholars of his time.
The Chasam Sofer was succeeded as Rav of Pressburg by his son, Rabbi Shmuel Binyamin Sofer (1815 – 1872) z'tl, known as the Ksav Sofer. One of his sons was Chief Rabbi Simon Schreiber (Rav Simon Sofer) who was born in 1850 and appointed to be the Chief Rabbi of Eger (Erlau) in 1881.
There he founded a large yeshiva which was attended by elite Torah scholars from throughout Hungary. This yeshiva became a branch and direct link to the philosophy and teachings of Rabbi Shimon's grandfather, the Chasam Sofer. Rabbi Shimon Schreiber led the Jewish community in Eger for 64 years. He appointed his son, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (author of Yad Sofer) to be the active Rav and dayan of Erlau, but in 1944-ben when he was 94 years old he was deported together with his community to Auschwitz where he was murdered together with his son and most members of the Jewish Community of Eger.
Yochanan Sofer was born in the town of Eger in 1923. He received his rabbinical education from his father, later he studied at the Yeshiva of Chief Rabbi József Pollák (Yosef Asher Pollack 1888–1944) in the neighbouring town of Verpelet. Then he studied for three years at the Yeshiva of Balassagyarmat as pupil of Chief Rabbi Dávid Deutsch (Chaim Aharon David Deutsch 1898-1944).
The young Yochanan miraculously survived that concentration camp. After the war, he went to Budapest, where he together with his brother Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Soferand with Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debrecener Rav reinstated the Chasam Sofer Yeshiva. Due to the Communist grip on Hungary he immigrated to Israel together with his yeshiva in 1950. For a short period of time, the yeshiva merged with the Pressburg (Pozsony) Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which was headed by Rabbi Akiva Sofer (known as the Daas Sofer), another great-grandson of the Chatam Sofer. Rabbi Yochanan served there as a maggid shiur (Talmudic lecturer Rabbi). During this time, Rabbi Yochanan became a close disciple of Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, the Belzer Rebbe.
In 1953 he founded an independent yeshiva in the Katamon neighbourhood of south Jerusalem, which was later expanded with a dormitory and orphanage for Holocaust survivors and students from needy families. In 1961 theyconstructed a new building in the empty lot adjacent to the yeshiva. It was named Ohel Shimon-Erlau after his grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Sofer.
Rav Yochanan Sofer was considered a leading halakhic authority with enormous influence on the Orthodox Jewish community, as well as an expert in Israeli politics and security issues.
He was often called upon to voice his opinion on global Jewish issues.
He passed away on February 22, 2016 in Jerusalem at age of 2016. Thousands attended his funeral procession.
Let his memory be a blessing!