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Reb Shimon Sofer 1

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Shimon Sofer (1850 –1944) was the Rav of the Hungarian city of Eger
(Erlau) and the progenitor of the Erlauer Hasidic dynasty. His grandson,
Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, is the present-day Erlauer Rebbe in Israel.R’
Shimon was one of 10 children born to Rabbi Samuel Binyamin Sofer ,
known as the Ksav Sofer. The Ksav Sofer was the son of Rabbi Moshe
Sofer, known as the Chasam Sofer, one of the greatest Talmudic scholars
of his day.R’
Shimon studied and lived the early part of his life in Kleinwardein. He
was a diligent student, completing the Talmudic tractate of Beitzah six
times before his bar mitzvah.In
1870 he married Esther Fried, daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Fried of
Kleinwardein. The couple had a daughter, but Esther died after two years
of marriage. In 1874 he married his cousin, Glikle Birnbaum, the
daughter of Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Birnbaum of the town of Dubno in western
Ukraine. Rabbi Birnbaum was the son-in-law of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Sofer's
great-grandfather. The couple had a son, Akiva, but divorced soon after
his birth.During
this period, R’ Shimon lived both in Uman and Kiev, where he became
known as a brilliant Torah scholar. Despite his young age, he was
offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Kiev, an offer he turned down.Thereafter,
he lived some two years in the Polish city of Krakow, in the company of
his uncle, also named Rabbi Shimon Sofer, the Michtav Sofer.In
approximately 1875, he returned to Pressburg and married yet another
cousin, Malka Esther Spitzer, the daughter of Rabbi Zalman Spitzer of
Vienna. With Malka, he had 13 children.In
1881, R’ Shimon was appointed Rav of the Hungarian city of Eger
(Erlau). There he founded a large yeshiva which was attended by elite
Torah scholars from throughout Hungary. This yeshiva became a foundation
of the Erlau dynasty, a branch and direct link to the philosophy and
teachings of his grandfather, the Chasam Sofer. He delivered a daily
shiur in the yeshiva and provided for his students' physical and
spiritual needs. He also became a spokesman for Torah Judaism and fought
to protect his community from the proponents of Neolog Judaism, a
Hungarian reform movement. As
R’ Shimon aged, one of his sons, Rabbi Moses Sofer (author of Yad
Sofer), took on the role of Rav and Dayan of the town of Erlau. Rabbi
Shimon Sofer was referred to by his congregation with the revered and
affectionate title of "Rebbe".
R’ Shimon led the Jewish community in Erlau for some 64 years. Shortly
after the Germans occupied Hungary in May 1944, they placed the Jewish
population in ghettos. In June, the Germans deported Sofer and his
entire community – some 3,000 Jews – to Auschwitz. They arrived on 21
Sivan (June 2), and were gassed a few hours later. R’ Shimon Sofer was
94 at the time of his death. His son, Rabbi Moshe Sofer, was murdered at
the same time.R’
Shimon Sofer's grandson, Rabbi Yochanan Sofer, re-founded the Erlau
community in Israel in 1953. Rabbi Yochanan printed his grandfather's
sefarim at the Institute for Research of the Teachings of the Chasam
Sofer, which he established. Rabbi Yochanan also presides over the Ohel
Shimon-Erlau Yeshiva, named in memory of Rabbi Shimon Sofer.

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