Rabbi Yitzchak Greenblatt
Capetown, South Africa; Bournemouth, England
Cambridge University, PhD in Hebrew and Aramaic Studies
Director of the Fusion Program at Ohr Somayach
The Duke of Wellington is reputed to have said: “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” Eton, the most elite so-called “public school” (private actually) in England, was originally founded as a preparatory school for Cambridge University. And if the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, it is the playing fields of Cambridge that continued the development of the schoolboy who became the Empire builder.
In like manner, Rabbi Yitzchak Greenblatt, who won honors both in the classrooms and the playing fields of Clifton College and Cambridge University, is now winning the hearts and minds of his students at Ohr Somayach.
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, he moved with his family to Bournemouth, a seaside community in the South of England, when he was 13 years old at a time of great political upheaval in South Africa. His father found work there as a business consultant.
Yitzchak was sent to Clifton College, an English public school in Bristol. At the time it had a Jewish house with daily davening and kosher food. Coming from a very traditional home where there was some Shabbat observance and kashrut and daily davening, it was a good fit.
Because he was South African, and South Africa had one of the best rugby teams in the world, he was invited to play the game on its playing fields. In fact, Yitzchak had never played rugby in South Africa, but he took up the game and mastered it. He was named to the England Under-16 team and Under-18 teams and played internationally. He continued in university and played for Cambridge.
While at Cambridge and studying linguistics, he started learning with an outreach rabbi on campus and was smitten with the intricacies of Talmud and its language – Aramaic. While doing his PhD he made numerous trips to Israel for research and stayed at Ohr Somayach, where he became increasingly involved in Torah learning. During this time he developed a very close relationship to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Nota Schiller, shlita, who convinced him that he had to spend more time in yeshiva and commit himself fully to mitzvah observance.With Rabbi Schiller’s encouragement, Yitzchak completed his PhD and returned to Ohr Somayach where he learned full-time for three years in both Rabbi Connack’s shiur and Rabbi Reisman’s Kollel. He also completed Ohr LaGolah and received semicha (rabbinical ordination). In addition to being the Director of the Fusion program, he attends Rabbi Breitowitz’s Gemara shiur in the morning. His academic career is continuing as a researcher at Tel Aviv University where he is working on a comprehensive Aramaic dictionary with another professor. In 2009 he married an American from Monsey, who grew up in Har Nof, Jerusalem. They have two children, Lily and Yehuda Leib.
Asked about his goals in life, Rabbi Greenblatt says, “I was lucky enough that at key moments in my life I met people who were able to engage me, answer my questions and project an authentic image of the beauty of a Torah life. I want to try to be one of those people for others.”