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25 Years Today: The HTC Lightning Strike

Early Shabbos morning, February 27, 1999, Parshas Zachor, the Shabbos before Purim, the

Yeshiva’s chimney was hit with a bolt of lightning. The resulting explosion sent bricks through the roof and into the dorm and Kollel housing. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

As a result of the lightning strike, the dormitory facility was evacuated and ordered closed by the Skokie Fire Department. The shutdown lasted until nearly Pesach, and had a profound effect on both the Yeshiva and the community at large. From the Yeshiva’s perspective, a lengthy shutdown of the dormitory posed numerous operational challenges that hampered its ability to function on a day-to-day basis. The community was struggling to provide an

alternative site for the Yeshiva to continue to operate. Congregations KINS and Beth Itzchok rose to that challenge. More difficult was the task of housing and feeding the many displaced students, some as young as thirteen years old. Again, the community rallied

behind the Yeshiva and provided unprecedented support.

A Talmid Remembers:

Daniel Weiss - FYHS ‘00

Rabbi Weiss had an uncanny memory. During the famous lightning strike of ’99, he was the visiting rebbe. He memorized where each dormer walked for Shabbos.

A Rebbe Remembers:

Rabbi Shmuel L. Schuman - FYHS ‘85

I remember davening in the Yeshurun hashkama minyan that Shabbos morning and

saw a few beis midrash students come into shul in sweatpants and T-shirts. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with these guys?”, only to discover they were forced out of the Yeshiva while wearing the clothes they went to sleep in the previous night. That was a great lesson for me in the Torah’s requirement to judge people favorably!

Memories of a Dorm Supervisor:

Shalom Abowitz

It was Parshas Zachor, right before Purim, and it was a beautiful Shabbos. We went to sleep

and there was no sign of any storm coming in. Sometime in the middle of the night, we heard the loudest noise you’ll ever hear in your life. The noise was followed almost immediately by intrusions into the ceiling. And then it just started to get wet. We immediately lost electricity.

My first instinct was to grab my kids who were sleeping right there. And I remember as I left my apartment, people were getting out of the building. Thankfully, we didn’t hear of anyone seriously injured but yet we still had no idea what happened. I believe I eventually ran over to the Holiday Inn. It’s pouring rain and there’s still lightning and thunder going on. But again, we didn’t know that that was the problem. And while it’s not freezing, it’s not warm either, especially in the rain. And the guys are in all sorts of various types of dress. And I’m like, okay, what do we do?

So I ran upstairs to my apartment to grab my keys. And I gave the keys to the Hillel Torah gym to one of my guys and said, take everyone to the gym. We got everyone in there. We have always had a wonderful set of responsible dorm counselors. We eventually just sent everyone home out to West Rogers Park in walking groups.

When I eventually went back to my apartment, there was a skylight by the foot of the bed. There was a skylight across the hall with a brick in the crib area of Rabbi Pickholtz’s apartment, which is a neis in and of itself. Obviously, that was a very traumatic experience.

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