With the passing of Rav Itzele of Volozhin in 1849, his son in law Rav Yitzchak Eliezer Freid became the titular head of the Volozhin Yeshiva. His reign was short-lived with his death in 1953. What then commenced was a long, protracted process in deciding the succession at the helm of the Yeshiva. Many contenders rose for both the primary Rosh Yeshiva position as well as the assistant Rosh Yeshiva position.

Candidates included the Bais Halevi, Rav Yehoshua Heshel Levin and members of the Freid family. Ultimately, the Netziv (1816 -1893) prevailed, and he became the great leader of Volozhin whose name became synonymous with the institution.

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