This was not an ancient yeshiva.
On the contrary, it was inaugurated only nine years before World War 2.
Why was it so famous? Why was it unique?
In 1923 Rabbi Maier Shapira conceived the idea of creating a new modern Yeshiva with an attached dormitory.
A yeshiva in which only the top echelon of students will attend, in which only the best scholars will teach, and one in which only the best conditions will prevail.
The stringent academic entrance requirements and high standard of study made the yeshiva one of the most remarkable of Poland's yeshivas – a university of Jewish religion studies.
To be accepted a candidate was required to know 200 pages of Gemara. However,
there was the possibility of attending a two year study program to prepare for the
stringent entrance examinations.
Once accepted the Yeshiva Bocher (student) was faced with studies spread over 6 years:
The first period – two years of studies and success in examinations entitled the student to a certificate of "Tzurba Derabanan" (a wise student – talmid khaham).
The second period – an additional 2 years of studies and success in examinations entitled the student to a certificate of "Smikcha" (teaching permit).
After successfully completing the third and final two years of studies and examinations, the graduate became qualified to practice as an ordained Rabbi.
Two hundred students studied at the yeshiva.
So that no worthy candidate was excluded, poor students were exempt from paying fees.
Why in Lublin?
The Rabbi wanted to renew the magnificent tradition of Lublin as the Jewish Theological center of Hakhmei Lublin (the sages of Lublin).
Opposition to open a big yeshiva in Lublin
This suggestion of Rabbi Maier Shapira was received with great enthusiasm but there was criticism from different directions:
The great Rabbi's and heads of the Lithuanian yeshivas pleaded with Rabbi Maier, saying: "Instead of first beginning to teach students and only afterwards build the building, you are first building a huge building and only afterwards will you place students there".
The heads of the Zionist Movement in Lublin, Bela Dobrzynska and Dawid Dawidson, came to Rabbi Maier Shapira and Rabbi Moshe Eisenberg and tried to convince them to: "Build the big yeshiva, but not here in the Diaspora, only there in Palestine, in Eretz Israel!"
The socialist 'Bund' Party fearing that this undertaking will strengthen the religious party under the leadership of Rabbi Shapira opposed this great undertaking,
The Yeshiva as a Lubliner undertaking
Rabbi Shapira invested much mental and physical effort in his fund-raising expeditions all over the world, but the undertaking of the Lubliner Jewery was not less. The bricks for the building were donated by Hersz Jona Zylber, the chairman of the Vaad Hakehila and other building materials were donated also by another Lubliner, Shmuel Brodet. The most important contribution of all, the plot on which the building was erected was donated by Reb Shmuel Eichenboim.
The cornerstone of the yeshiva was laid in1924 and it was inaugurated on the 26th June 1930.
The big magnificent building was 6 floors high. There was a large synagogue and a 'mikveh' (ritual bath), spacious study halls, dormitories for the students, a modern kitchen that included a bakery and dining room, a laundry, an infirmary, a reading hall and an extensive library with 20,000 books and 10,000 booklets. On the ground floor there was a model of the temple (Beith Hamikdash), the work of the artist Hanokh Weintraub.
At the first graduation ceremony in 1934, fifty graduated as teachers. Rabbi Maier Shapira did not live to see this gracious moment. He passed away on the 5th of November 1933.
The beginning of the war
The Nazis confiscated the Yeshiva. The students were scattered, most of them killed.
The German Military Police was housed in the yeshiva. The books were publicly burnt by the Nazis in the market place.
After the war
During the communist regime the building was passed to the Medical Academy "Collegium Mayus".
According to the new law in Poland, the building was officially returned to Jewish hands in 2004. But to whom it will be given back? Into which hands?
Where are the Jews of Lublin?! In Belzec, in Majdanek.
The responsibility of the building was passed to the Jewish Community in Warsaw. The synagogue of the Yeshiva was rebuilt and it was inaugurated in February 2007. The future destiny of the building is unclear although there is a plan to convert it into a Hassidic museum.