Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, also known as the “Disco Rabbi”, is the Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek, founder of Migdal Ohr, and a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel.
A sixth-generation Jerusalemite and the scion of a prominent Hasidic family, Rabbi Grossman grew up in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of Jerusalem and attended Yeshiva Karlin.
In 1968, after witnessing the miracles that handed Israel a victory in the Six Day War, Rabbi Grossman moved to the Lower Galilee town of Migdal HaEmek in search of the opportunity to give thanks for Israel’s deliverance by helping Jews in need. He focused his activities on education, welfare, immigrant absorption and integration of weaker populations in Israeli society.
Migdal HaEmek was 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 city and its inhabitants. Migdal Ha’Emek quickly became known as one of the prime centres of criminal activity in Israel.
Seeking out the town’s idle youth, Rabbi Grossman travelled to dance clubs, bars and pubs in the hope of engaging them in a meaningful dialogue and gaining their trust. His generous spirit and palpable kindness soon won them over and many of the town’s formerly jaded youngsters began to embrace the Rabbi and his message of Jewish inclusivity.
In 1969, Rabbi Grossman was elected to the post of Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek and granted lifetime tenure. What began as a search for human connections in a place and time of need, soon became the foundations for the Migdal Ohr Youth Village.
The Migdal Ohr Youth Village officially opened in 1972 with only 18 pupils. Today, the campus is home to thousands of children from impoverished neighbourhoods all around the country and Rabbi Grossman, its visionary founder, has been the recipient of Israel’s highest honours from the Love of Israel award to the Israel Prize – Israel’s version of a Nobel Prize. He has twice declined the offer to serve as Israel’s Chief Rabbi, preferring instead to remain close to his students. Whenever asked how many children he has, Rabbi Grossman will always smile and say “Thousands”.
A testament to his great success, is that amongst the 800 tutors, mentors, teachers and employees at Migdal Ohr, 80% are alumni. Of the other graduates, many hold central and key positions in a range of areas spanning the country: rabbis, officers in the IDF, school principals and teachers both in Israel and abroad, doctors, nurses, and key industrial figures.
Thanks to Rabbi Grossman’s unbridled efforts and his life-long devotion to Israel and its people, the city of Migdal HaEmek and thousands of children throughout the country are thriving!