Rabbi Arie Folger was elected Chief Rabbi of Vienna this week, with the Blessings of Leading Rabbis and Sages of Israel and of the heads of the Conference of European Rabbis.
“We will assist him in upholding the glory of the Torah, in the establishment of religious institutions, in furthering Jewish education and in nurturing the community,” Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, stated.
Folger will replace the outgoing Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg, who is retiring from Vienna’s chief rabbinate but will continue to serve as Chief Rabbi of Austria.
“With the blessing and encouragement of Torah Sages, Hassidic rabbis, yeshiva heads, Rabbis and Sages, I accept upon myself the yoke of the Chief Rabbinate of Vienna, the city in which great sages of Israel, great rabbinic geniuses, Hassidic leaders and rabbis,” Folger stated. “I will do all it takes to inspire loyalty to the Torah and enhance its glory, increase Jewish education and enhance religious institutions, unify the community and belabor to continue the holy work of my esteemed predecessor, Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg.”
The 21 members of the Kultusrat, the Religious Council of the Jewish Community of Vienna, unanimously voted for him to serve as chief rabbi of the capital of Austria.
Folger will assume his post in June 2016, before the holiday of Shavuot. According to the community’s constitution, he will serve for three months under the outgoing chief rabbi, as the senior rabbi of the community and will then take office as Chief Rabbi of Vienna.
Folger intends to travel to Israel to receive the blessing of the sage of the Lithuanian yeshiva world Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, who blessed him that “he shall not fail in halakhic matters and that he may be received most favorably by the public.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievski also sent his congratulations and blessings of success.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis and the chairman of its Standing Committee, of which Folger is a member, as well as the Conference’s rabbinic director, Rabbi Moshe Lebel congratulated Folger on his election, and ensured that the Conference of European Rabbis will support him in upholding the glory of the Torah, in the establishment of religious institutions, in furthering Jewish education and in nurturing the community.
Folger was born in Antwerp, Belgium. His father was a Holocaust survivor and his mother was born in Marrakech, Morocco. His great-grandparent Rabbi Asher Zelig Fertig and his son-in-law Rabbi Yehuda Leib Folger of Lançut (pronounced Lantsut in Yiddish and Wantsut in Polish) were treasurers of the Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess fund of Galicia in their town and were Chassidim of Kolleshitz.
In his youth he studied under the late Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Treger at Yeshivat Etz Chaim in Antwerp, Belgium, a son in law of the late highly respected senior halachic authority Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. He then studied in Gateshead, England, with Rabbi Abraham Gurvitz. Subsequently he studied in Israel for three years, at Yeshivat Mir, where he became close to Rabbi Yitchzak Ezrachi.
He then emigrated to the United States, where he first studied at Yeshiva Mesivta Rabbenu Chaim Berlin, under Rabbi Aharon Schechter, a member of the Council of Torah Sages of the Agudath Israel of America. Finally, he studied for five years at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, where he was ordained. The Hassidic Grand RabbiYaakov Yeshayahu Halberstam of Szmigrad also ordained him.
For close to six years Folger served as senior rabbi of the Jewish Community of Basel. After serving for several years as the Publications Director of the Rabbinical Council of America, he served f or two years as the senior rabbi of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria. After interrupting his career to write a halacha volume, he has, for the past year, been the director of the kashrut infrastructure in the Jewish Community of Francfort on the Main and the senior rabbi of Karlsruhe in Germany, whose most illustrious rabbi had been the 18th century author of the Korban Netanel, Chief Rabbi Netanel Weil, while endeavoring to complete his book.