BDE: Shock and mourning in Klal Yisroel with the passing of Rav Uri Zohar, zt"l, legend of Kiruv movement
By: Yehuda Alter
Earlier today—with days remaining to kabbolas haTorah—we lost a legend of teshuvah who threw away an entire material world in pursuit of the holy Torah and its ideals. Rav Uri Zohar was perhaps the world’s most famous ba’al teshuvah. He was 86 years of age.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1935, he came of age during the early days of the State, going through the Israeli high school and university system, majoring in philosophy. And army service, of course.
Within a few years, his budding film career took off. By the early 1960’s, he was one of Israel’s most famous film stars, in productions that are known to this day among the secular public.
In the 1970’s, he encountered Rav Yitzchok Shlomo Zilberman, leader and founder of the Zilberman community, and major machzir b’teshuvah. This changed his life, and he began wearing his yarmulke publicly.
Within a short time, he had completely abandoned his previous life, and began studying Torah and embracing his heritage. His burning love for Torah remained with him his whole life. He remained in Rav Zilberman’s Beis Medrash, and in Yeshiva Ohr Someach for days and nights, toiling in Torah.
He eventually sought to spread the light outward, reaching out to his brethren who were not yet religious, and he became a figurehead of Pey’lim Lev L’achim, bringing back thousands of neshamos. He employed his brilliance and wit to reach souls, and to poke fun at the culture he had abandoned—with all of its illusory allure.
He dedicated his entire life to the cause of kiruv, even as he longed for nothing more than to sit and learn.
He was an address for so many, and so countless people came through his home on their journey to teshuvah—recognizing him as a symbol of someone who ‘had it all’ and threw it away in favor of the ultimate truth of Torah and mitzvos.
Rav Zohar leaves behind an incredible legacy, and generations of Torah true Yidden who follow in his beautiful path.