AS: Rav Yitzchok Scheiner is known as the “Yerushalmi gadol who went to a Pittsburgh high school.” Tell us a little about his journey — and what his unusual background means to American readers.
RNS: Rav Yitzchok was a “regular” American boy who planned on becoming a math professor. But there was a chance meeting with Rabbi Avrohom Bender, who informed Rav Yitzchok’s surprised parents that there were real yeshivos in America, too — and that led to yeshivah in New York, and later, to its summer camp in the mountains, where he was introduced to the Torah of Reb Shloime Heiman and the greatness of Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz. There was really no reason this American boy should have been able to marry the Israeli granddaughter of Reb Boruch Ber. But he did — because that was Hashem’s plan. Which means that in life anything can happen and anything is possible ….
AS: The biography is full of stories told by some of his thousands of talmidim. Can you share, briefly, one of your favorite stories?
RNS: One of my favorite stories involves a boy who had a very dangerous encounter while going mountain climbing. When he returned to yeshivah he was sure that Rav Yitzchok was going to be furious with him for his carelessness, but Rav Yitzchok’s response and the way he took care of the boy, dressing his wounds, taking him home and feeding him soup, spoon after spoon, and putting him to bed, because the boy was too exhausted even to feed himself — without a word of rebuke — made a great impression on the young talmid. In my mind that story was the epitome of compassionate chinuch.
AS: Here’s an unusual question. If Rav Yitzchok could read this biography, how do you think he would react?
RNS: Of course, I can’t know how he would react, but I think he would probably say that if it will help American youth understand what they can become and what their infinite potential is, then it is completely worthwhile. After all, on many occasions he told the story of how he went from a public high school to yeshivah. Obviously, he felt that this would influence American boys and help them comprehend that the sky is the limit. So overall, I would have to say that he would be happy — though his deep humility would object to all the talk about his gadlus….