אל הנﬠר הזה התפללתי ויתן השם לי את שאלתי אשר שאלתי מעמו…
ויקרא שמו בישראל יעקב קאפיל
ואמשיך להתפלל לעולמי עד…
75 2 0 1 4
Celebration S u m m e r
Celebration 75 by Moshe Yosef Rubin
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The Rubin Family
First Person Testimonies
Family Tree 100
תולדות משפחת רובין ””תפארת בנים אב ותם ו:משלי יז
The Rubin Family “ THE GLORY OF CHILDREN I S T H E I R PA R E N T S ” Mishlei 17:6
he Baal Shem Tov once said that there are three famous Jewish families whose yichus is pure throughout the generations — Horowitz, Margolios and Schapiro. Our family descends
from these families in multiple ways, and indeed, throughout the ages, prolific leaders of our people have sprouted from our family tree.
As the lives of many of our eminent forebears1 in earlier generations have been well researched and documented, this essay attempts to shed some light on the three most recent generations of tzaddikim, Rebbes and Rabbonim in our family: Zeidy, HaRav Moshe Yosef Rubin, the Cimpulunger Rov; his father, the Rebbe Reb Mendele (Reb Menachem Pinchos) Rubin of Seret; and his father, the Rebbe Reb Schmelke Rubin of Seret.
Their fruitful life stories are told below in chronological order.
ur ancestors include: Reb Yochanan HaSandlar, Rashi, Rivom, the Rosh, the Maharsha, the Rokeach, the Rema, the Bach, O the Taz, the Shach, the Bartenura, the Sheloh, the Meginei Shlomo, the Tevuas Shor, Maharam of Rotenberg, the Tosfos Shabbos, the Baal Mahudara Basra, the Maharal, the Baal Issur VeHeter, Maharam of Padua, Maharam of Lublin, the Maharshal, the Maaseh Rokeach, Reb Zalman Rappaport (Pereles), and Reb Itzikl of Hamburg. And more recently, the Baal Shem Tov’s great talmidim over the generations – Reb Pinchos of Koretz, Reb Yaakov Shamshon of Shepetovka, the Baal Haflaa, Reb Mendel of Linsk, Reb Naftoli of Ropschitz, Reb Moshe of Savran, Reb Sholom of Belz, Reb Mendel and Reb Chaim of Kosov – and their children and grandchildren, leading right up to the Second World War.
REB SCHMELKE SERETER
eb Shmuel Schmelke Rubin was born in the heart of the Galician rebbisher world around the year 1840, probably in Belz, Galicia, which was then part of the Austrian Empire and today is in western Ukraine. His parents were Reb Yitzchok (Itzikl) Rubin and Rebbetzin Eydl (nee Rokeach). At a young age, Reb Schmelke was betrothed to marry Chaya, the daughter of the Rebbe Reb Yosef Alter Hager of Radovitz (Radauti), who was the son of Reb Chaim of Kosov and grandson of Reb Mendel of Kosov and Reb Moshe of Savran.
The Beis Medrash in Belz built by Reb Sholom.
ROPSCHITZ AND BELZ
wo of the prominent disciples of the Chozeh of Lublin were the holy Rebbe of Ropschitz, Reb Naftoli Tzvi Horowitz,2 of whom it was said, Yochid bedoro bechochmas Elokim,3 and the holy Rebbe of Belz, Reb Sholom Rokeach,4 Sar hael-yonim vetachtonim.5 Even after their passing, the influence of these tzaddikim continued to shine through the lives of the children and grandchildren who succeeded them. Reb Naftoli and Reb Sholom enjoyed a close friendship and a close spiritual friendship. This connection first began when Reb Sholom, then a young man, first visited Lublin to spend time with the Chozeh. There he met Reb Naftoli, who was already serving as Rov of Ropschitz and was one of the most senior disciples of the Chozeh. Yet already at that time, Reb Naftoli asked Reb Sholom to bensch him. He explained himself by saying that “this yungerman is destined to bless tens of thousands of Yidden, so I want to be the first one to receive his blessing.”6 The friendship between the two tzaddikim continued throughout their lives and was later sealed when Reb Sholom’s precious daughter Eydl married the great-grandson of Reb Naftoli, Reb Yitzchok (Itzikl) Rubin. (The latter was the son of Reb Elimelech Rubin7 of Sokolov, who was the son of Reb Usher Yeshaya Rubin8 2
Reb Naftali (d. 1827) was the son of Reb Menachem Mendel Rubin of Linsk and the grandson of Reb Itzikl Horowitz of Hamburg. He was born on Shavuos 5520 (1760), the very day of the Baal Shem Tov’s passing. He studied nigleh under his father and his uncle, the gaon Reb Meshulam Igra, while in Chassidus he was a disciple of Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk, the Chozeh of Lublin and Reb Mendel of Rimanov. He was the Rov of Ropschitz, and after the passing of his father he also served as Rov of Linsk. From 1815 he was a Rebbe to thousands. He is famed for his wisdom and sharp wit. His Torah was collected and published in Zera Kodesh, Ayalah Shluchah and Imrei Shefer.
From the nussach of his matzeivah.
Reb Sholom (1783-1856) was the son of Reb Elazar, one of the “Chachmei Brod,” and grandson of Reb Elazar Rokeach of Amsterdam. He was a talmid of Reb Shlomo of Lutzk and of the Chozeh of Lublin, who appointed him as the Rov of Belz. In time he became a Rebbe to thousands, among them eminent Torah scholars and Rebbes. Famed for his geonus and for his mofsim, he was known as “Sar Sholom.”
Thus addressed by the Bnei Yissachar in a letter to him.
This is the source of the Belzer minhag that the first kvitl given to a newly-inducted Rebbe is always presented by “a Ropschitzer einikl.”
Reb Elimelech was the third son of Reb Usher of Ropschitz. He served as the Rov of Sokolov, in Galicia, and after the passing of his father founded a rebbistve. Sadly he passed away at a young age, on the 2nd of Tammuz (circa 5607/1847), just two years after the passing of his father.
Reb Usherl Rubin (d. 1845) was the son of Reb Eliezer Lipman, who was the son-in-law of Reb Usher HaGodol of Narol, who in turn was the son-in-law of Maharam of Tiktin. He was a talmid of his shver, Reb Naftoli, and accompanied him on his visits to many of the great tzaddikim of that time. Even though Reb Naftoli had three highly suitable sons, Reb Usher’l was his successor, and the great majority of Ropschitzer chassidim were his followers. Indeed Reb Chaim of Sanz would travel to visit him, and whenever a minhag of Reb Usher differed from a minhag of Reb Naftoli, Reb Chaim would act according to the minhag of Reb Usher. His Torah was collected in Or Yesha.
of Ropschitz, who in turn was the son-in-law and successor of Reb Naftoli.) The chosson, Reb Itzikl, was born in the lifetime of his great-grandfather Reb Naftoli and had the zechus of being blessed by him. Since he was a frail child, he was brought to his elter-zeide for a beracha. Reb Naftoli added, Er vet hobn an ayzener kop – and indeed Reb Itzikl was always known for his sharp mind, quick grasp and extraordinary memory. The bride, Eydl, was the most prized treasure of her father, Reb Sholom. The best known of his comments about her was that “my Eydl is missing only a spodik [to become a Rebbe]…” From the time of his marriage, Reb Itzikl grew very close to his father-in-law and to the ways of Belz, and thus his household was permeated with a unique blend of the ways of Ropschitz and Belz. After the passing of Reb Sholom, he was succeeded by his youngest son, Reb Yehoshua, and Reb Itzikl became a Rebbe in his own right, first in the Galician village of Radichev where a group of chassidim gathered around him, and later he grew to widespread fame in the great Jewish city of Brody. He thus became known as Reb Itzikl Broder. After the passing of Reb Itzikl on the 20th of Elul 5634 (1874), his wife Eydl functioned as a Rebbe, and in fact was known as “Eydele, the Rebbe.” She conducted a tish and shared shirayim, she accepted kvitlach and many stories are told of the mofsim in her court, particularly in healing the sick. She was also known for her wisdom and wit, and many chassidim, as well as even great Rebbes, sought her counsel. Rebbetzin Eydl passed away on the 14th of Kislev 5646 (1885) and was buried in Brody, where her gravestone may still be seen today.
Her son, Reb Schmelke of Seret, Zeidy’s grandfather, was named after Reb Shmuel Schmelke Rokeach, the paternal grandfather of his maternal Zeide, Sar Sholom of Belz, on whose lap he grew up. Chassidic history books record that Reb Sholom taught his grandson sod harefua, spiritual healing powers, which he would later often employ when he was a Rebbe in his own right. Thus, while Reb Schmelke was steeped in the traditions of Belz, he also received part of his mesora from his father Reb Itzikl and the House of Ropschitz. One of the incidents that relates to Reb Schmelke’s healing powers concerns a certain elderly chossid who lived near Seret, whose wife lost her sanity. However, when he made the journey and presented his kvitl to the holy Reb Chanoch Henich of Alesk (the son-in-law of Reb Shalom of Belz), the tzaddik told him: “Near your hometown there lives a tzaddik who is greater than me – and yet you’ve come to see me?!” With that he sent him off to Seret, and indeed it was from the bracha of Reb Schmelke that the poor woman was healed. In another case, a wealthy villager called Dovidl Mailer was distraught because the doctors had despaired of saving the life of Michl, his ailing son. Hearing this, and speaking from experience, the above-mentioned elder chossid volunteered to accompany him to consult Reb Schmelke. By the time they arrived in Seret it was already afternoon, yet they found the tzaddik still wearing his tallis and tefillin. In reply to the old man’s account of what brought them there, the tzaddik said that the father should give him three times chai gold coins for tzedakah. His elderly friend lent him the money, and when the tzaddik received it he said: “May Yechiel Michl ben Rochel be blessed with a complete cure.” And he immediately added: “He is already well!”
KOSOV AND SAVRAN
he Kosov chassidic dynasty was founded in Galicia by Reb Menachem Mendel Hager9 (the son of Reb Yaakov Kopel Chossid 10), a renowned chassidic master whose works were collected in Ahavas Sholom. The central message that Reb Mendele imparted to his chassidim was ahavas Yisroel. He would say that the yichud of friends in this world brings about a yichud in the higher worlds. After his passing in 1825, he was succeeded by his son Reb Chaiml,11 who dramatically expanded the Kosover Chassidus. Reb Chaim’s reign lasted nearly thirty years. When he passed away in 1854 in Kosov (at that time in East Galicia, Austria; today, in western Ukraine) he left three sons, each of whom had an extensive following. The oldest son, Reb Yaakov Shamshon, succeeded his father as Rov and Rebbe in Kosov, while the third son, Reb Menachem Mendel (the Tzemach Tzaddik, the first Vizhnitzer Rebbe), attracted the greatest number of chassidim.
Reb Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, younger brother of Reb Yosef Alter of Radovitz 9
Reb Mendele’s first Rebbe in Chassidus was Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk. After the passing of Reb Elimelech, Reb Mendel became the closest disciple of Reb Tzvi Hirsh of Nadvorna, who had the zechus of visiting Reb DovBer, the Mezritcher Maggid, and was primarily a disciple of Reb Michl of Zlotchov. Another chassidic master under whom Reb Mendel studied was Reb Zev Volf of Tshorna-Ostrah, who was one of the leading disciples of the Mezritcher Maggid. Indeed Reb Volf considered Reb Mendel to be his successor. His thousands of chassidim included gedolei Yisroel, and he was revered by all the tzaddikim of his time. Indeed, the Chozeh said of him, “He is a melech beYisroel!” In this spirit, Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshis’cha said, “My legs burn to go and visit this man.” He was the Nasi Eretz Yisroel for Kolel Galicia. He passed away in 1827.
Reb Yaakov Kopel (d. 1787) was the son of Reb Nechemia Faivel, a descendant of Reb Ovadia of Bartenura. Once, when the Baal Shem Tov spent Shabbos in Kolomaya, he sensed a great light in Reb Kopel and drew him close to him, and whenever Reb Kopel visited Mezhibuzh he would serve as the baal tefillah in the minyan of the Besht. Until this day his nussach is known as “nussach Kosov,” and is followed primarily in Vizhnitz. The goyim would call him “Shivisnik,” for he would often rub his brow and say, “Shivisi HaShem lenegdi tamid.”
The Apter Rov said of Reb Chaim (d. 1854) that he was a “melech ben melech.” He was the son-in-law of Reb Yehuda Meir of Shepetovka, son of Reb Pinchos of Koretz (one of the foremost talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov). He always longed to be oleh to Eretz Yisroel and even bought himself a house in Tzfas, but that aspiration never came to be. His Torah teachings were collected in Toras Chaim.
The middle brother, Reb Yosef Alter, was particularly known for his genius in Torah and as a baal mofes. He was married to Leah, the granddaughter of Reb Moshe Tzvi 12 of Savran,13 who was the primary disciple of Reb Boruch of Mezhibuzh and later a famed Rebbe in Vohlyn and Bessarabia (today Ukraine). The young couple spent several years living in Savran near the bride’s zeide, from whom the young Yosef Alter received much of his derech in Chassidus. After the passing of the Savraner they moved to Kosov, where Reb Yosef Alter advanced further in Chassidus under tutelage of his father, Reb Chaim of Kosov. Throughout his life, Reb Yosef Alter would often speak of the Savraner zeide and tell stories of the mofsim he performed, and after the passing of the Savraner, he would travel to Russia to visit his tziyun. And so, after the passing of Reb Chaim of Kosov, his numerous chassidim in Bukovina (then part of Austria, today Romania) tried to persuade Reb Yosef Alter to move his permanent residence to Radovitz (Radauti). They wanted thereby to increase the number of visitors to the town, because the followers of the Rebbe were accustomed to come from near and far for all yomim tovim and even at other times to bask in his presence. They were successful. In 1856 he was received in Radovitz with great ceremony by the whole population, and in time was famed throughout the region as a great tzaddik, with many coming to seek his blessing and counsel.
It is told that the Savraner promised a generous dowry for his beloved granddaughter Leah, but when the wedding date came, he did not have the money to fulfill his commitment. His mechutan, Reb Chaiml Kosover, initially refused to proceed with him to the chuppah until the promise was kept. Suddenly word spread that the Savraner was davening at the amud for Minchah, something he did only on Yom Kippur and on the day of a family wedding. From all directions chassidim ran to the beis medrash to be part of this extraordinary event, and they were soon joined by the mechutan himself, Reb Chaim. When the Savraner finished davening, Reb Chaim said, “For such a Minchah I’m prepared to give up a few gold coins” – and with that he marched straight to the chuppah. Just before the chuppah the Savraner told the young chosson, Yosef Alter, that all of his actions should be directed to only one purpose – to fulfill the Will of the Creator.
From the referenced letter (see page 34), in which Reb Chaiml Kosover writes to the Savraner asking that he send the couple to Kosov as per their agreement, it appears that the couple stayed on in Savran past the time originally agreed upon. Faithful to the etiquette of Rabbinic correspondence, the original letter in the Holy Tongue never takes the liberty of addressing the recipient in the second person; it uses instead the deferential third person. Indeed, its style throughout is even more formal and flowery than the free translation above.
Matzeivah of Reb Chaim of Kosov
Matzeivah of Reb Mendel of Kosov
Matzeivah of Reb Naftali of Ropschitz
Matzeivah of Reb Usher of Ropschitz
Matzeivah of Reb Sholom of Belz
Letter from Reb Chaiml Kosover to Reb Moshe Tzvi of Savran
Baruch HaShem! Blessings of life and peace to my honored mechutan – the renowned tzaddik, holy luminary, pious ascetic, lamp of Israel, pillar of the right hand, mighty hammer, glory of this generation – the saintly Reb Moshe Tzvi (May your light ever flourish!). I would like to inform you that we are all well, thank G-d. May He grant that we hear good tidings from our people in general and from yourself personally, and that we see you in joy and tranquility, Amen. My son Reb Yaakov Shamshon, an outstanding Rabbinic figure, is setting out to visit the exalted presence of your Torah scholarship, and on this he will speak to you personally. It is therefore my earnest request that you observe him with your compassionate eye, and that you entreat the Master of Mercy to be merciful towards him. I am certain that with His help, my son will see salvation by virtue of your holy prayers. I would also like to inform you that I am deeply grieved by the fact that my son and his wife, who is your granddaughter, are – as you know – over there. I therefore request that you instruct them to travel here, to my home, together with my son who is the bearer of the present epistle. That is the proper and appropriate course of action. I would also like to request that we should be remembered by you in prayer at all times. Thus far are the loving words and requests of one who seeks the welfare of your learned self – your mechutan, The insignificant Chaim, son of the saintly departed tzaddik, Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov. And may the memory of that holy tzaddik serve as an eternal blessing. P.S. Please convey my respectful regards to my esteemed mechutan, Reb Yisroel, together with the same request that I made of you – [namely, that Reb Yisroel likewise send his daughter Lea and her husband Yosef Alter back to Kosov, as is mentioned below]. Likewise, please convey my regards to my outstanding son, Reb Alter Yosef, and to his devout wife, Lea, together with my request that she accompany her husband when he comes here. May blessings likewise abide upon your respected Rebbetzin.
We were speaking of Reb Yosef Alter and Leah. Their oldest child was Chaya (nee Hager), the bride of Reb Schmelke Rubin. Their tenaim took place in Belz so that the chosson’s Zeide, the Sar Sholom, at this point an elderly man, could participate. In relation to this simcha, it is told that once, while traveling to Bukovina, Reb Yosef Alter had to cross the Cheremosh River, but when he approached it the tide was so strong and frightening that he returned to Kosov. When his father Reb Chaim heard this he was most upset and said, “Are my sons afraid of choppy waters?! From now on I warn you to never be afraid again!” Years later, when Reb Yosef Alter was traveling to Belz for the above-mentioned tenaim of his daughter Chaya to Reb Schmelke, the tide was again very high and many in the traveling party were afraid to cross the river, but Reb Yosef Alter, remembering his father’s words, rented a boat and proceeded to cross it. The ride was so choppy that the sails broke, yet throughout it all, Reb Yosef Alter sat calmly, knowing with bitochon that all would end well, as it indeed did. After their marriage, Reb Schmelke and Chaya settled in Radovitz, Bukovina, near the bride’s parents and the court of her father Reb Alterl. Reb Schmelke grew very close to his saintly father-in-law and began to follow many of the minhagei Kosov as well as their special nussach, niggunim and tenuos. Reb Schmelke and Chaya were blessed with the following children: 1. Yocheved, wife of Reb Chaim Dachner, the Mesifer Rov and Rosh Beis Din in Seret. 2. Malka (Bobche), wife of Reb Moshe Eichenstein, the Kolomayer (Ziditchoiv) Rebbe. 3. Baila, wife of Reb Eliezer Brandwein, the Burshtiner Rebbe. 4. Reb Yisroel, passed away at 19 years old; his kever is in the Ohel in Seret. 5. Reb Mendele (Menachem Pinchos), who succeeded his father as Sereter Rebbe. 6. Sheina Rochel, first wife of Reb Chaim Marilus, son of the Butchecher Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Zev Marilus. 7. Lea, wife of Reb Alter Safrin, the Altshtater (Komarna) Rebbe. 8. Yitzchok, died as a child. 9. Tzipora, died as a child.
The Rebbes of Kosov all yearned to be oleh to Eretz Yisroel. In 1873, Reb Yosef Alter and his Rebbetzin Leah were the first to be zocheh to fulfill this lifelong dream, by settling in Tsfas.14 The departure of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin turned into an enormous procession. An unbroken row of wagons extended for six kilometers from his home to the train station in Hadikfalva, where thousands of local chassidim had to say a final goodbye to their beloved Rebbe.
Ohel and matzeivah of Reb Yosef Alter in Haifa.
Dr. Schmelke Rubin at the kever of Rebbetzin Leah Hager in Safed. Circa 1995 14
eb Yosef Alter spent his last six years in Tzfas, where he established a beis medrash that still stands and functions in the R Old City. Leah passed away in 1878 and was buried in very close proximity to the AriZal. Reb Yosef Alter passed away less than a year later while visiting Haifa, and is buried next to the amora, Rav Avdimi d’min Chaifa. A prominent Ohel has been erected over their graves.
As Reb Alter was boarding the ship at Constanza, the port city, in the course of his parting words to his eidem he assured him, Afilu in a midbar vestu hubn chassidim! – “Even in a wilderness you will have a following of chassidim!” Reb Yosef Alter then proceeded to relate to Reb Schmelke a question and an answer that explained the problematic words of a Yerushalmi in Moed Koton. He concluded by saying, “Remember these words. They’ll be useful one day.” With that, he boarded the ship. Shortly thereafter, Reb Schmelke and his family moved from Radovitz to the nearby town of Seret, where he established a beis medrash and a Rebbisher court. The Rov of Seret – a famous gaon, HaRav Pinchos Moshe Burshtein – was not a chossid and was thus not at all happy with the arrival of a chassidisher Rebbe in his town. He let his feelings be known so outspokenly that Reb Schmelke was deeply disturbed. It once happened that these two scholars were present at some occasion, and in the course of conversation, HaRav Burshtein brought up that very Yerushalmi and asked the very same question that Reb Alter had posed. He added that he had yet to find an answer to this puzzling question. Reb Schmelke of course remembered his shver’s answer. Quoting his shver, he proceeded to relay it. HaRav Burshtein was so impressed with that answer that he immediately stood up and declared, “Sholom Aleichem, Sereter Rebbe!” And thus the words of Reb Alter were fulfilled. Indeed, the fame of the Rebbe Reb Schmelke as a baal mofes quickly spread throughout Bukovina and the surrounding regions, and many people would travel to Seret to seek his blessing and hear his teaching. With his strong and fiery personality, he commanded awe and respect in Rebbishe and Rabbonishe circles. He also was wealthy, lived in a beautiful home in aristocratic fashion, and his wagon was drawn by six white horses. Batei midrashos for his chassidim were established in many towns of Bukovina, and his name was uttered with reverence. All of his children married into distinguished chassidic and rabbinic dynastic families and his sons and sons-in-law were Rebbes and Rabbonim in their respective familial traditions.
Reb Schmelke passed away on the eighth of Adar, 5661 (February 27, 1901) and was buried in Seret near the grave of his son Yisroel, who had passed away in 1889 at age 19. An imposing brick Ohel was later built over their kevarim.15 Reb Schmelke’s surviving son, Reb Mendele, who was then just 29 years old, succeeded his father as Rebbe, while his son–in-law, Reb Chaim Dachner, served as dayan of the community.
Original Ohel of Reb Schmelke before paint job and restoration
In 2006-2007 our extended family, with the assistance of Geder Avos and Rabbi Israel Meir Gabay, completed a restoration project on the Ohel, which is now in good condition.
A Taste of Reb Schmelke’s Teachings
The vasikin-chavura in Shotz, Bukovina, celebrated the chanukas habayis of their new beis medrash by arranging a seudas mitzva in honor of their revered Rebbe, Reb Schmelke. He graced the occasion by sharing the following insight, which one of his learned listeners committed to writing, as follows: Chazal teach us:16 “Whoever establishes a fixed place for his tefillos is helped by the G-d of Avrohom” (…Elokei Avrohom be’ezro). Now this is problematic. After all, there is a possuk that says,17 “Fortunate is the person who is helped by the G-d of Yaakov” (Ashrei sheElokei Yaakov be’ezro). Surely, then, Chazal should have echoed that possuk by saying that whoever establishes a fixed place for his tefillos is helped by the G-d of Yaakov. To explain: Yaakov Avinu personifies the midda of Tiferes, the intermediary that bridges and blends two middos, Chessed and Gevura. Concerning Avrohom Avinu, by contrast, we are told that 18 echad haya Avrohom – “Avrohom was one.” He was not a composite of middos, but personified one midda only, Chessed. Hence, whoever has this mitzva of fixing a set place for his tefillos is helped by the G-d of Avrohom: he is helped by Der Eibershter in His attribute of Chessed alone, even though strictly speaking that individual may not have been worthy of that help. And may this indeed be the case. The above teaching recalls the verse, “Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious.”19
REB MENDELE RUBIN (SERETER)
eb Menachem Pinchos (Mendele) Rubin, the son of the above Reb Shmuel Schmelke Rubin and Rebbetzin Chaya (nee Hager), was born in 1871 in Radowitz, Bukovina. He was evidently named after two of his holy ancestors: his great-great-grandfather Reb Menachem Mendel of Kosov, and Reb Pinchos of Koretz,20 his great-great-great grandfather. In some sources, his names are actually recorded in the opposite order, Pinchos Menachem. True to the family’s custom, his birth was celebrated by all the townsmen who came to join them in the court of his maternal grandfather, the Rebbe Reb Yosef Alter Hager of Radovitz. As was described earlier, Reb Schmelke and his family — after his father-in-law Reb Alterl left for Eretz Yisroel in 1873 — moved from Radovitz to the nearby town of Seret. There he established what was to become a large chassidic court which wove together the Kosov and Savran traditions of Reb Alterl with his own mesora of Ropschitz and Belz.
Reb Mendele Rubin with his son Reb Moshe Yosef and his son in law Reb Sholom Lamm. Vatra Dornei, circa 1938 20
Reb Pinchos Schapiro of Koretz (d. 1790) was a talmid/chaver of the Baal Shem Tov and was considered one of the greatest tzaddikim among the chevraya kaddisha.
Yisroel, the 19-year-old elder son of Reb Schmelke and Chaya, passed away in 1889, leaving his younger brother Mendel as his parents’ only surviving son. In about 1891 Reb Mendele married Beila, daughter of the Volier Rov, Reb Pinchos HaLevi Ish Horowitz 21 and his wife Chana22 (nee Rabin). Beila (born 1873) was remembered for her warmth, wisdom and kedusha, and for her rare talent as an educator. Her son, our Zeidy, Moshe Yosef, held her in the highest esteem and spoke of her and quoted her throughout his life. Reb Mendele and Beila initially settled in Volia near Beila’s parents, where Reb Mendele, as a fulltime Torah scholar, was (as the Yiddish idiom expresses it) an eidim af kest — that is, they were supported, according to custom, by his parentsin-law.
This Reb Pinchos (d. 1917) was the Rov of Wola Michowa (Volia in Yiddish) in Galicia, also a province of the Austrian Empire. He was the son of Reb Manis, one of the famed chachmei Brod, who in turn was the son of Reb Avraham Aryeh HaLevi Ish Horowitz. The latter was a leader of the Brod kehilla and the son of Reb Yitzchok HaLevi Ish Horowitz, better known as Reb Itzikl Hamburger, the famed Rov of Brod and later of Hamburg. Reb Pinchos was also a descendant (apparently on his mother’s side) and namesake of Reb Pinchos HaLevi Ish Horowitz, the Baal Haflaah, a talmid of the Mezritcher Maggid and Rov of Frankfurt. Reb Pinchos of Volia wrote many chiddushei Torah and corresponded extensively with leading halachic authorities, including the Divrei Chaim, Reb Chaim of Sanz. The latter, in a complimentary play on words, would call him “der Voiler Rov.” Zeidy Moshe Yosef recalled how in 1914 he made the journey to Galicia to visit that maternal Zeide in Wola Michowa. When he came he found him sitting and writing chiddushei Torah. Seeing that so many of his chiddushei Torah existed in manuscript, Moshe Yosef suggested that they be printed. His Zeide, Reb Pinchos, dismissed the suggestion with a wave of the hand, saying, “Gam ze hevel!” During that same trip to Galicia, Zeidy (then nearly 19 years old) had been preparing a sefer that would record the divrei Torah of his Zeide, the Rebbe Reb Schmelke. He was told, however, that there had been a k’peida of the Sar Sholom not to publish his own divrei Torah, and since many of the Torahs delivered by Reb Schmelke included divrei Torah that had been heard from his Zeide, the Sar Sholom, Zeidy decided to travel to Belz with his draft manuscript in hand, to ask the advice of his Zeide’s cousin, the Rebbe Reb Yissacher Ber. When Zeidy arrived in Belz the gabbai told him that he would be admitted to speak with the Rebbe after Shabbos. At the tish, Zeidy sat with all of the eyniklach. Then, after Shabbos, he received a telegram from his mother, Rebbetzin Beila, saying that the Russians were soon invading, that war was about to break out, and that he should set out for Seret at once. Zeidy therefore explained to the gabbai that he needed to go in to see the Rov quickly, as he would soon be heading home. He was duly admitted to see the Belzer Rov who, after their scholarly discussion, told Zeidy: “I am proud that my Zeide has an eynikl in the Bukovina who has got so far in learning…” When Zeidy proceeded to tell the Rov of his dilemma with the sefer, the Rov said: “Tell me some of the divrei Torah...” Zeidy, who was well versed in all of those divrei Torah, somehow could not remember anything related to that week’s parsha, so the Rebbe asked him for something relating to the previous week’s parsha – but he still could not remember. So, the Rebbe said, “Choose whichever parsha you wish,” and Zeidy repeated a vort on the parsha in which the malachim come to visit Avrohom Avinu... In response, the Belzer Rov asked Zeidy to take down a Medrash Rabbah from the shelf, and showed him that how this vort appeared in the proposed sefer. “If you would have published this,” he said, “the world would think that the Belzer Rov was just quoting Medrash without saying where he took it from.”
Chana was the daughter of Reb Moshe Chaim Efroim Rabin, the Baligroder Rov, who was a nephew of Reb Naftoli of Ropschitz. He was reputed to be a grandson of the Degel Machaneh Efraim and thus a descendant of Reb Yisroel Baal Shem Tov. Reb Efroim of Baligrod was the son-in-law of his first cousin, Reb Avrohom Chaim Horowitz, Rov of Linsk, who was the son of his uncle, Reb Naftoli Tzvi. In Der Cimpulunger Rav, Zeidy’s biography published in 2004, I erroneously state that Chana descended from Reb Yisroel of Ruzhin but this is incorrect.
The young couple were to be blessed with five exceptionally bright children: 1. Leah (about 1892-1959), in her first marriage the wife of Reb Moshe Yolles, son of the Sambor Rebbe, and in her second marriage the wife of the gaon, Reb Meshulam Rath, Rov of Chernovitz, Bukovina. 2. Moshe Yosef (1895-1980), later the Rov of Cimpulung-Moldevensec. 3. Chaim Yitzchok (1897-1942), later the Rov of Schilka (Strylki) in Galicia. 4. Avrohom Usher (1900-1941), later Rov of Kotzman, Bukovina. 5. Shlomtze (about 1906-1941), wife of Reb Sholom Lamm, Rov of Secureni in Bessarabia. After several years of marriage, around the year 1900, Reb Mendel and Beila and their family moved from Volia to Seret, to be near Reb Schmelke and his court. In 1901 Reb Schmelke passed away23 and was mourned by his family and many chassidim throughout Bukovina and beyond. As has been noted, his son Reb Mendele thus became the Sereter Rebbe, while his son-in-law Reb Chaim Dachner, known as the Mesifer Rov, served as rosh beis din of their community. Reb Mendele’s Rebbistve was less numerous than his father’s, but he maintained a respectable chassidic court and beis medrash. Every Friday night Reb Mendele would prave tish in the tradition of Kosov, and additional chassidim would join him on yomim tovim and on other special dates, such as the yahrzeits of his forebears. Reb Mendele was known for his holiness, his lomdus, and for his extensive charity work for the poor. Sereter oldtimers described him as a modest, old-time Rebbe whose good deeds were kept hidden from view, and as a holy and lovable scholar who spurned controversy. The yizkor book of the Seret community likewise notes that Reb Mendele, a scion of holy dynasties, was considered by the townspeople to be a G-dly man and a poel yeshuos. On Purim, the locals would send their children to bring him shalach manos and to receive his blessing. And in honor of the Seder, many of his townsmen would come to receive a matza that he had baked on erev Pesach.
ne of Zeidy Moshe Yosef ’s only memories of his zeide Reb Schmelke was his actual passing and the image of a tallis O surrounded by candles.
î&#x20AC;Ş In 1912 Leah, the oldest child of Reb Mendel and Beila Rubin, married Reb Moshe Yolles, the eldest son of the Rebbe of Sambor, Reb Yehuda Tzvi Yolles, who was the son of Reb Uri, the revered tzaddik of Sambor. Around the year 1915, Reb Moshe and Leah were blessed with a son whom they named Shmuel Schmelke, later known as Schmelke Horowitz.24 They later divorced.
Mazal Tov greetings for wedding of Leah Rubin and Moshe Yolles in the Machzikei Hadas newspaper
Leah and her son Schmelke Yolles (later Horowitz) 24
Rabbi Schmelke Yolles (Horowitz) as a young man in the 1930s
Schmelke Horowitz (about 1915-1990) grew up in Seret in the home of his grandparents, Reb Mendele and Beila, but spent much of his time at the home of his uncle, Reb Moshe Yosef, in Cimpulung. Later, when his mother married Reb Meshulam Rath, he moved with them to Chernovitz. In September of 1940, after the Soviets briefly occupied that city, he was caught on the street trying to sell items on the black market and was sent to a Soviet prison in the Ural mountains where he spent the next seven years, thus surviving the War. Schmelke met and got engaged to marry Gabrielle Feldman in a DP camp and they arrived in the United States in 1949 where they married shortly thereafter. His uncle, Zeidy, helped him settle in Long Beach, where he became the Rov of Temple Zion, which he served for over 30 years. He was a founder of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach and of the Mesivta of Long Beach. He was survived by his only child Reb Chaim, a noted askan and lamdan, who established a large family of his own in Flatbush.
î&#x20AC;Ş Life continued until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Seret, then part of the Austrian Empire, was caught in the crossfire of the warring Austrians and Russians, and the local Jews, then numbering 3500, fled the Russian invasion. Reb Mendele and his family spent the difficult war years as refugees in IaČ&#x2122;i, Romania, where they were far from his town and his chassidim. After WWI the Rubins moved back to Seret, which was renamed Siret and now became part of the newly enlarged Romania. The returnees found their hometown utterly destroyed by the war. Reb Mendele slowly tried to rebuild his court, but only half of the Jewish community had returned to Seret. Besides, post World War I Bukovina was a different place. The new generation was far less chassidic than their fathers had been, so things were somewhat difficult. His Shabbos in the interwar period included just two or three minyanim of participants. The original beis medrash in Seret that Reb Mendele had inherited from his father was burned to the ground. Accordingly, in September 1922, he left Seret for the US for several months to raise funds from some of his chassidim and baalei batim who had moved there. Returning to Seret, he then built a beautiful new beis medrash.
Bank note signed by Reb Mendele relating to his Beis Medrash in Seret.
The above advertisement in a New York Yiddish newspaper is addressed to all Bukovina and Romanian expatriates (in Yiddish: landsleit) who would like to exchange words of farewell with the Sereter Rebbe, Reb Mendele Rubin Shlita, before his departure. They are invited to meet him any day at the home of Mr. Finkelstein, 367 East Tenth Street, between Avenue B and C. Looking beyond his hometown, Reb Mendele would also spend many weeks every year traveling to visit his baalei batim throughout the towns and villages of Bukovina and the surrounding areas. One of the towns he visited often was Banilov, where he would stay at the home of the local Rov, Reb Mordechai Avrohom Horowitz. His son, Reb Pinchos Horowitz, a well-known senior Vizhnitzer chassid living in Bnei Brak who remembers Reb Mendele well, describes him as “a heiliger Yid, der Toras Chaim’s a kind,” – a man who was totally devoted to his fellow Jew. Another of the towns he used to visit was Strimba (Romuli) in Transylvania. There he would be hosted by the local gvir Reb Moshe Moskowitz who, though a devoted Spinker chossid, was a mokir rabbonon, and loved to host visiting Rebbes. It was there that Reb Mendele and Beila arranged the shidduch of their oldest son Moshe Yosef to Sarah Farkash, their host’s eldest granddaughter.
î&#x20AC;Ş In the coming years they were zocheh to marry off the rest of their children. Chaim Yitzchok, their second son, married Eydl Safrin, daughter of the Altshtat-Komarner Rebbe and niece of Reb Mendele. Reb Chaim, who was known for his exemplary piety, became the Rov of an East Galician village called Schilka (Strylki), near the city of Sambor. Reb Chaim was very close to the Belzer Rebbe Reb Aharon, who indeed visited Schilka during the summer in 1934 and 1935. As the Rebbe held Reb Chaim in great esteem, his name became renowned among Belzer chassidim of that generation. Sadly, Reb Chaim and Eydl were childless.
Letter from Reb Chaim Rubin to his brother-in-law and sister Reb Meshulam and Leah Rath, 1938.
HaRav Avrohom Usher Rubin of Kotzman Avrohom Usher first married Gitcha, daughter of Reb Dovid Sperber, the Brashover Rov. He later married Sarah Gottesman, daughter of Reb Shimshon Efraim, the Sinyatiner (Lashkovitcher) Rebbe. They were blessed with two sons: Naftali and Yaakov Kopel. Shlomtze, the youngest Rubin sibling, married her mother’s nephew Reb Sholom Lamm, son of Gita (Beila’s sister) and her husband Reb Yehoshua Lamm, a scion of the Belzer and Yeroslaver dynasties living in Lemberg. They were blessed with two sons: Elazar and Shmuel Leib. In 1927, their mother Beila became ill with yenne machle, and it is said that her son, Zeidy Moshe Yosef, was so depressed by this that his appearance changed. He asked to be substituted by another rabbi and for six months he sat by the bed of his ailing mother. He accompanied her to Vienna for her surgery and likewise to hospitals in Vienna, Lemberg and Chernovitz.
From left to right: Schmelke Rubin, Shlomtze Lamm, Zeidy, Bobbi and Schmelke Yolles (Horowitz). The two young boys are Shlmotze’s sons; Elazar and Shmuel Leib Lamm. Cimpulung, circa 1937
Beila Rubin passed away in Seret on the second night of Pesach of that year. Her illness and passing dealt a great blow to her children. She was the pillar of the family and a light in their lives. She was buried with great honor within the Ohel of her holy father-in-law, Reb Schmelke, an honor not even accorded to his own daughters.
Matzeivah of Rebbetzin Beila Rubin (before)
Text of matzeivah after being restored
The esteem in which Zeidy Moshe Yosef held her pure spirit has been recorded above (p. 42). Her children mirrored her love and dedication and respected her tremendously. Reb Mendele would eventually marry Esther Steinmetz from Sighet. She nursed him nobly in his old age. In his later years, Reb Mendele enjoyed great nachas and prestige as all of his sons and sons-in-law served in rabbinic positions. Reb Moshe Yosef, the Rov of Cimpulung in Bukovina, was an energetic and politically powerful rabbi, recognized as one of the leading Jewish figures in Romania and Reb Chaim was the Rov of Schilka in Galicia. Reb Usher at first served as the Rov of a shul in Bucharest. His father and brother, Reb Mendele and Reb Moshe Yosef, worked to secure a choshuver shtelle – a respectable position – for him as well. In 1935, the rabbonus of Seret became vacant and a struggle ensued over who the new Rov would be. The more modern townspeople wanted the new Rov to be what we would call today Modern
Orthodox, as the last Rov had been. The charedi community in Seret, with the support of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe Reb Yisroel Hager, campaigned for the election of Reb Boruch Hager (son of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe), who was then serving as the Rov of Kotzman, a respected community in northern Bukovina. Reb Mendele and the other leaders of the chassidic community in Seret (namely, the Schreiber family) succeeded in securing the Sereter rabbonus for Reb Boruch. In the process, Reb Mendele and Reb Moshe Yosef Rubin secured support for the election of Reb Usher to the now-vacant Kotzman rabbonus. The kehilla in Kotzman grew very close to their new Rov and Rebbetzin. Survivors from Kotzman recall Reb Usher’s devotion to his townspeople, his pleasant personality, his skills as a darshan and the beautiful voice with which he rendered the Kosover nussach. Reb Usher with his brother in law Reb Meshulam Rath
Usher in his youth
With his townspeople in Kotzman
Teaching in Kotzman
In 1936 Leah Rubin (Yolles) married the famed gaon and posek, Reb Meshulam Rath,25 Rov of Chernovitz, the capital of Bukovina.
Reb Meshulam with his stepson Reb Schmelke Yolles (Horowitz) 25
HaRav Meshulam Rath in his later years in Eretz Yisroel
Reb Meshulam, a man of stature, was considered by some to have been the greatest halachic authority of his generation. In his childhood he was a wunderkind of Torah study; his talents were incredible, his memory and depth, unmatched. His whole being was the Torah. It is told that during the night he would wake up from time to time, wash his hands, check something in a sefer, and go back to sleep. He also taught himself mathematics and science. As the prime student of the gaon Reb Meir Arik, it was not long before he was appointed Rov of Chorostkiv, Galicia. Although his candidacy was opposed at first by those who did not want a Chortkover chassid as their rabbi, he quickly impressed most of the community with his inaugural derasha. It lasted six (6) hours and was delivered with no more than a Tanach in hand, and with no notes or other books. In Chorostkiv he established a yeshiva that became known for its carefully planned program. In fact, when Reb Meir Shapiro prepared to open his world-famous yeshiva in Lublin, he wrote to Reb Meshulam: What is your curriculum? What do you consider to be the most important elements of your program? How many years should a student prepare for semicha-ordination? How should the day be divided? Later, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Aizik Herzog also expressed interest in implementing his curriculum. His study of Kabbalah led him to view the developing Zionist movement as a harbinger of Messianic times. He held to this view strongly. Even when he was offered some of Galicia’s most prestigious rabbinic positions on condition that he renounce his views (or at least keep them to himself), he refused to abandon them. He was eventually elected Rov of Shotz (Suceava, Bukovina Romania), where he served for several years. In 1936 he was elected Chief Rabbi of Chernovitz in Bukovina, where he again founded a yeshiva. His brilliance and halachic expertise earned him the deference of all the Rabbonim in Bukovina and in much of Galicia. His strong Zionist views, however, continued to cause friction with other Rabbonim. In the same year, after the passing of his first wife, he married Leah Rubin, Zeidy’s sister. Zeidy was the shadchan. Following the Nazi occupation of Chernovitz, Zeidy managed to smuggle Reb Meshulam and Leah out of the besieged Chernovitz into Bucharest. (Abba remembers Reb Meshulam being very kind to him at that time.) From there they eventually found their way to Eretz Yisroel. Upon his arrival there he was appointed a member of the Chief Rabbinate, and was also the final examiner of all rabbinic students. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook was asked whom he considered to be the current Godol HaDor in Torah and he responded: HaRav Meshulam Rath. HaRav Yitzchok Aizik Herzog was once asked how he, an alumnus of the Lithuanian yeshivos, was so deferential to Reb Meshulam, a Galicianer – to which he responded, “Reb Meshulam is above such classifications. He is like a [posek] kadmon!” Leah passed away in 1959 and Reb Meshulam in 1962. Abba remembers how Zeidy needed medical attention when he was given the news of Leah’s passing. They were very close; after the Holocaust she was his sole surviving sibling.
HaRav Sholom Lamm of Secureni Reb Sholom Lamm, Shlomtze’s husband, was the Rov of Secureni, one of the largest communities in Bessarabia, Romania. Reb Mendele and his sons (especially Zeidy Moshe Yosef) enjoyed a very close relationship with their relatives Reb Yisroel of Vizhnitz and with his sons, especially with Reb Eliezer “Leizerke,” the Damesek Eliezer. Reb Mendele (sometimes accompanied by his son, Zeidy) would visit the Vizhnitzer Rebbes and their families several times a year. This was the situation on the eve of the Second World War. Reb Mendele and his wife Esther lived in Seret, where he maintained his hoif (Yiddish for courtyard). All of his children lived in their respective posts. But the joy was shortlived. In the coming two years that world would be destroyed. Trouble began in late 1940. In September, Schmelke Yolles (Horowitz) was arrested by the Soviets in Chernovitz and exiled for years to a labor prison deep in the Russian interior.26 This left his mother Leah devastated. Less than a month later the infamous Yom Kippur story took place with Zeidy in Cimpulung (as will be narranted below). It was this incident that prompted 26
See footnote 24.
Zeidy and Bobbi to leave Cimpulung and settle in Bucharest. Several months later, in March 1941, several shkotzim assaulted Reb Mendele with his gabbaim, as he returned from visiting his father’s Ohel for the yahrzeit on the 8th of Adar. During the summer of 1941, the SS Einsatzgruppe took over Soviet-held areas of Romania in northern Bukovina and Bessarabia. In July, on the 17th of Tammuz, they marched into Kotzman. The first action of the SS (May their memories be erased!) was to drag ten prominent Jews out of their homes and shoot them. The local Rov, Reb Usher, was one of that group. His son Naftoli recalls that he was taken while wearing his zhipitze. Usher left behind a broken widow and two sons, aged four and two. He was 40 years old. Shlomtze Lamm, her husband and their children, also perished in 1942. Schmelke Rubin recalled that they were brought to Edenitz and murdered there. Shlomtze was in her late thirties and her sons both under bar-mitzva age. In late 1941, most of the Jews of Bukovina were herded into ghettos and various camps. In June, the Jews of Seret, Reb Mendele and his wife included, were loaded onto cattle carts and evicted to Craiova, where they had to wait in miserable camps until orders were given for them to be deported to Transnistria. Meanwhile, life for those who remained in the ghetto became more difficult with each passing day. The deportations to Transnistria began in October, 1941. Reb Mendele was transported by boat across the Dniester to Mogilev (Mohilev), Transnistria. There confusion reigned. The Jews were forced to settle in the demolished local buildings, and food was practically impossible to buy. Reb Mendele could not endure the terrible trip to Transnistria nor the conditions in Mogilev, and it was not long before he became seriously ill. He passed away on the 16th of Cheshvan, 5702 (November 5, 1941). Reb Pinchos Horowitz of Bnei Brak recalls Reb Mendele’s levaya in the ghetto. Kaddish was said and the large crowd of broken and exiled Yidden buried him reverently in the local Jewish cemetery, located on a mountainside, in the Ohel of Reb Boruch Meir Twersky, the Azarnitzer Rebbe. The original Ohel stands until this day.27
I arrived in Mogilev-Podolsk in August of 2006, aiming to locate the kever of Reb Mendele. After many hours of searching I nearly gave up, until finally, during my second day there, I located his kever inside an Ohel. I was overcome with emotion, since I was the first of his descendants to ever visit his final resting place. I was able to find it by calling my friend Yitzchok Meir Twersky, the great-grandson of the Azanitzer Rebbe. After my visit, the Rubin and Twersky families — with the assistance of Geder Avos and Rabbi Gabay — arranged for a restoration of the Ohel, befitting its holy occupants.
The Ohel in Mogilev before restoration
After restoration Translation of headstone text: Here lies a holy man who was exiled together with the Jews of his hometown, Seret, Bukovina: HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Menachem Pinchas Rubin the son of HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Shmuel Schmelke zatza”l, who was a grandson of HaRav HaTzaddik Reb Sholom zatza”l of Belz He passed away on 16 Cheshvan, 5702 (1941)
Letter from Reb Dovid Aryeh Fried, a shochet from Cimpulung, to Zeidy, about the date of Reb Mendele’s passing (see back of book for translation of letter)
Reb Chaim Rubin, the Schilker Rov, and his wife Eydl were deported along with the other 270 Jews of Schilka to Belzec where they perished in the gas chambers on the 9th of Av 5702 (July 22-23, 1942). The survivors included Zeidy and Bobbi and their sons; Zeidy’s sister Leah and her husband R. Meshulam Rath and her son Schmelke (Yolles) Horowitz. Another survivor was Sarah (Gottesman) Rubin, wife of Usher, and her two young sons, Naftali and Yaakov Kopel. They later settled in Eretz Yisroel, where Sarah remarried and had another son. With Reb Mendele’s passing the dynasty of Seret came to an end, but the unique Seret-Kosover niggunim and minhogim lived on in Zeidy’s home, and to this day are lovingly preserved in the homes and hearts of some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
ZEIDY, REB MOSHE YOSEF RUBIN THE CIMPULUNGER ROV
y way of introduction to our outline of Zeidy’s personality and distinctive world-view, I would like to share with you some of the thoughts expressed by Chaim Tarschi, an Israeli journalist, in a newspaper article entitled Yom Kippur Taf-Shin-Alef, which describes the events of Yom Kippur, 1940, in Cimpulung.
“…In that orphaned generation, the Jews of Romania were accustomed to two distinct kinds of rabbis. There were the Rabbonim of the older generation, who were cloistered within the daled amos of the Halacha, who looked askance at whatever smacked of modernity, and did not even speak the local language. On the other hand, there were the Rabbiners. They spoke Romanian perfectly, but in them the time-honored spirit of Yisroel Sava was sometimes replaced by plain ignorance. Unlike both kinds of rabbis, the Rov of Cimpulung succeeded in his aspiration to grasp both ends of the rope at once. He dressed like an oldtime Rov with a long kapote, ironed and spotless, plus a large round hat on weekdays, and a shtreimel on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. With his long beard and his curling peyos, his face diffused a light of holy splendor. His command of the Romanian language was unparalleled by any of the local Jews or, for that matter, of the local gentiles. “…The regional governor once confided in him that he had never understood why the Jews were more faithful to the practices of their faith than the local Christians were to theirs – until he observed that the Jews were blessed with rabbis whose holy and abstemious lifestyle commanded the respect of their congregants. ‘My priest,’ he said, ‘is always first in line at the tavern, and more than once I’ve had to drag him out from under the table and send him home in his carriage…’ “The Jews of Cimpulung generally suffered less than the Jews in other communities, thanks to their Rov’s connections in high places. In 1938, for example, as soon as a certain provincial governor sought to ban shechita, the Rov of Cimpulung immediately visited Bucharest, the capital city, and returned home two days later with a document signed by the Minister for the Interior, outlawing the intended decree. Likewise, when the Cimpulung Municipal Council ordered Jewish shopkeepers to open their stores on Shabbos, the Rov convinced the Romanian Minister for Justice to declare that it would be illegal to coerce any citizen to transgress the laws of his religion.”
Moshe Yosef Rubin was born on erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, 1895, in Wola-Michowa (Volye).28 He was named after two of his holy Zeides, Reb Moshe of Savran and Reb Yosef Alter of Radovitz. As a boy and as a young man, Moshe Yosef was the star pupil at the local Sereter yeshiva that was established by Reb Akiva Schreiber, while the rosh yeshiva was the gaon, Reb Alter Shaul Pfeffer. In fact, young Moshe Yosef was known in Bukovina as “the Sereter ilui.” As he grew older he studied the works of Malbim extensively, and became a devoted adherent of Reb Shamshon Raphael Hirsch’s derech of Torah im derech eretz. Later he also studied secular subjects and earned a degree at the University of Klausenberg. When he was just 17, Zeidy Moshe Yosef wrote a Romanian translation of Malbim’s peirush on Torah. In the next few years he composed two more seforim, Yad Yosef on Gemara, and Dorash Moshe on Halacha. Before he was twenty, he also received semicha and dayonus from Reb Yehuda Leib Tzirelsohn of Kishinev, from Reb Yechezkel Paneth of Dej, from the gaon Reb Yosef Engel, from Reb Moshe Babad of Lemberg, and from the Stanislaver gaon, 28
In Der Cimpulunger Rav, I erroneously state that he was born in Seret, Bukovina, as is stated in some documents that have proved to be unreliable.
Reb Dovid Horowitz. In their testimonials to Dorash Moshe, HaRav Babad and HaRav Horowitz wrote: “Surely, this author will one day be great in Israel!” Later on, in 1922, he also received semicha from Reb Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum, the Atzei Chaim of Sighet. It is said that the Atzei Chaim only awarded semicha to Zeidy and to one other famous Rov, the Nassauder Rov. However, that statement has not been verified. As mentioned earlier, the Rubin family fled Seret during the First World War and settled in Iași, Romania. As refugees, their financial situation was not good and Zeidy, then in his early twenties, decided to take action. So when the post of rabbi opened up at one of the shuls in Iași he applied for it. The shul was the then-famous Beth Jacob Shul, founded and named after the Jewish baron Jacob Neuschatz. One of the previous rabbis of the shul was Rabbi Dr. Jacob Niemerower, Chief Rabbi of Romania. Initially the shul board did not want to hire Zeidy as he wasn’t even Romanian (Seret was Austrian until after WWI). Besides, they were worried that he had not yet mastered the language well enough. Zeidy asked them to allow him to speak at one single sholosh seudos and then make their decision. They agreed, and he won the job. While in Iași, the young Rov established an organization called Chizuk HaYishuv with the goal of stimulating Jewish investment in what was then called Palestine. This new organization established a weekly newspaper, the Judische Presse, which, aside from reporting current Jewish events, ran editorials that focused on the benefits of buying property in Eretz Yisroel. Zeidy was one of the editors of the paper, and thanks to his initiative, a group of wealthy Jews from Bukovina invested and bought property in Eretz Yisrael. His vision proved to be far-sighted. After the Holocaust, when many Jews lost all their assets in Romania, some were able to make aliya to Eretz Yisroel and settle on land they had purchased many years before under the auspices of Chizuk HaYishuv.
Clips from the Machzikei Hadas newspaper regarding Zeidy in his youth
Zeidy, circa 1920 58
Semicha Yadin Yadin from Reb Yehudah Leib Tzirelsohn
Semicha from Reb Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum In fact, many decades later, during one of Zeidy’s visits to Eretz Yisroel, those Jews organized a dinner in his honor to express their gratitude. After the end of the First World War, the Rubins moved back to a war-ravaged Seret and tackled the task of rebuilding. The time had also come to find a shidduch for Moshe Yosef. Zeidy’s shidduch with Bobbi Sarah was obviously engineered by hashgacha protis. As mentioned above, Moshe Yosef and his parents had once spent a Shabbos in Romuli where they were hosted by the local gvir, Reb Moshe Moskowitz. Reb Mendel, Baila and Moshe Yosef were all very impressed by their host’s oldest granddaughter, Sarah Farkash,29 and decided to propose her as a shidduch for their son. 29
Bobbi Sarah was born in 1902, in Romuli (Strimba in Yiddish), in the Transylvania region of what was then AustriaHungary. Her father, Reb Efraim Fishl Farkash, son of Reb Shmuel Ber and Reiza Farkash, was a learned baal middos, a Kabbalist, and a chossid of Reb Yoel of Satmar and of Reb Arele Roth, the Shomrei Emunim. An accountant by training, he studied Torah for the first few years of his marriage and then began to work in his father-in-law’s lumber business. Bobbi’s mother, Chaya (Moskowitz) Farkash, was the daughter of Reb Moshe and Frimet Moskowitz, who owned a large estate in Romuli. Reb Moshe’s lumber factories employed a few hundred people, many of them Jews. He had a reputation as a baal tzedakah and an ehrlicher Yid. Bobbi Sarah was the oldest in her family, and she was followed by a brother – Elimelech, a sister – Feige Fradl, and another brother – Pesach. All of Bobbi’s siblings and their children were murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 ()הי”ד. When Bobbi was a young girl, her mother, Chaya, visited a local woman lying sick with an infectious disease. She fed her and nursed her and enabled her to regain her strength. No one else in town went near this woman, understandably afraid to catch the dreaded disease. Tragically, Chaya contracted it and no specialist could save her. At a very young age, while still in her 30s, she passed away, leaving four young children. Unable to care for them himself, Efraim Fishl decided to divide the children among their grandparents: Bobbi and her sister Feige went to live with the Moskowitz family, and her brothers were sent to live with the Farkash grandparents. Bobbi grew up in the comfort of her grandparents’ home. They hired a melamed to teach the girls Chumash and a governess to watch them and to teach them secular studies. Bobbi’s father, Efraim Fishl, would eventually marry a woman from Borsa, Rintze, and together they would have eleven more children (later settling in Satmar). The couple and seven of those children perished in Auschwitz on the 6th of Tammuz 5704 (June 27th, 1944). One son, Shmuel Dov, died shortly after liberation in the DP camps.The three oldest, Shloime, Rivkah and Itzik survived, and today Rivkah lives in Jerusalem.
This shidduch, unique in Zeidy’s family, bridged two diverse cultures. The chosson, Zeidy Moshe Yosef, was a scion of an Old World rebbisher family; the kalla, Bobbi Sarah, was more modern and worldly. (In due course, when she became the young Rebbetzin of Cimpulung, the fact that she was financially savvy equipped her to set up a relief program for the local paupers and to organize a Chevras Bikkur Cholim.) At any rate, this bridge of cultures was reflected in the very appearance of their sons. They grew up frum and ehrlich, yet at the same time studied medicine and engineering. At that time Sarah was still young, so her grandfather and father agreed to the shidduch on condition that it be deferred for a year or so. The couple duly married on the 4th of Nissan, 5681 (April 12, 192130) and settled in Romuli (Strimba). On the 7th of Kislev, 5683 (November 27, 1922) their first son, Shmuel Schmelke, was born in Romuli. 30
In Der Cimpulunger Rav, I state that the wedding took place in 1918, which is incorrect.
Reb Moshe Moskowitz
Reb Moshe Moskowitz in later years
Chaya Farkash and her daughter Sarah (Bobbi)
Reb Efraim Fishl Farkash
Kvitl written by Reb Efraim Fishl to his Rebbe, Reb Arele Roth, the Shomrei Emunim
Taken from a sefer on the talmidim of Reb Arele
Bobbi with friends (1930s)
Bobbi (in white kerchief) with Schmelke, circa 1924
Soon after, at the age of 29, Reb Moshe Yosef was elected to serve as Rov of Cimpulung, in Bukovina, Romania, and the family moved there. In this position he succeeded a profound scholar, Rabbi Dr. Volf Mischel. Members of the Kehilla declared that since the foundation of the Jewish community in Cimpulung, never before had there been such a unanimous consensus during a rabbinical election. It was then that Zeidy acquired the title he would carry for the rest of his life: Der Cimpulunger Rov. Zeidy Moshe Yosef had wanted to be Rov of this town specifically, as he felt it presented a challenge and needed a new rabbi. The challenge was real and palpable. Cimpulung was a rather secular town, a veritable bastion of the Haskala, the self-styled “Enlightenment” movement. Indeed, among the children who absorbed a sense of genuine Yiddishkeit by attending his cheder klali, there were some from unobservant families. This was one of the accomplishments that made him a pioneer in the history of kiruv. But in other ways, too, Zeidy was unique among the Rabbis serving his generation. On the one hand, his exact nussach, his minhagim, and his impressive yichus made him very much the traditional rabbi. So, too, his deep soulful voice. The niggunim of his davening could be described as “golus-niggunim” – melodies, simultaneously sweet and sad, that expressed the dveikus-yearning of a thirsting soul. Likewise, his beard, his peyos and his garb, all attested to his chassidic way of life, especially as the son of a line of chassidic Rebbeim. Yet he mastered the local language, even though he became a Romanian at age 23, and remained very much aware of the latest culture that surrounded him, and indeed took out a university degree. His commitment to the doctrine of HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch alone produced a contradictory combination, as chassidic Jews did not typically subscribe to this doctrine at all. But Cimpulung benefited richly from the amalgamation that was Rabbi Rubin. By combining the strengths of his roots with the urgent needs unique to his generation, their dynamic new Rov was able to focus on the fundamental changes that would energize their community. Another facet of Zeidy’s spiritual personality distinguished him as not being typical of the Old World Rabbonim who were his contemporaries, namely, his deeply-felt wish to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel. As he expressed it, “I would love to spend my life in the land of our blessed ancestors.” And on another occasion: “I would rather push a wooden plow than wander in golus and be showered with honorific titles.” This wish he inherited from his Kosover Zeides, especially Reb Yosef Alter who, as we have seen, had actually made the move. In practice, however, Zeidy’s warm and loving family ties prevailed.
î&#x20AC;Ş Cimpulung Zeidy was strong-minded and idealistic and became deeply involved in every aspect of his new kehilla. During the first few years of his tenure he quickly rejuvenated it, whereas only a few years earlier it had been shrinking in size and morale. The economic situation in Romania was also improving at the time, due to a new government policy that began admitting foreign capital in order to finance new industries. Living conditions for Romanian Jews had definitely improved, both spiritually and materially. However, since Zeidy was never satisfied with his achievements, the scope of his activities expanded. Other people were carefully following his communal work and his successes. In 1926, the Jewish communities of Cimpulung, Gura Humorului and Vatra-Dornei elected him to serve as their representative in the provincial assembly of Bukovina. There, as the only Jewish member of a completely gentile institution, Zeidy frequently fought and blocked anti-Semitic legislation from being passed by the assembly. Other parliamentarians would seek his support before proposing legislation, even if it had no apparent connection to Jewish issues. Order of the Romanian Crown presented to Zeidy by King Michael of Romania
In Cimpulung he also arranged for the construction of new, tastefully-appointed mikvaos. He strengthened the provision of kashrus facilities and founded a Shomrei Shabbos Organization to encourage Shabbos observance. As time progressed, his influence was felt on a wider scale. In 1934 he was invited to take part in the Knessia Gedola of Agudas Yisrael in Vienna. Recognizing the leadership role which Zeidy played within Romanian Jewry, the Agudah elected him as a member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the Council of Torah Sages. At that time, that body comprised twenty-three leading Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva. At a later Knessia, in Marienbad, the Agudah elected him as one of their vice-presidents. As his fame grew, others had their eye on the talented Rov. During the 1930s he was offered the rabbonus of Sibui (Seben) and briefly considered accepting a petition to run for the rabbonus of Chernovitz. However, the Kehilla of Cimpulung was not agreeable to giving up their beloved Rov so easily, so he stayed on in his hometown. He also served as one of the three Rabbonim who had to certify all new Rabbis ordained in the country. He was closely aligned with the senior Rabbonim of Romania and he pooled their collective power to achieve important goals. These Rabbonim included his brother-in-law Reb Meshulam Rath of Chernovitz, Reb Yehuda Tzirelson of Kishinev, Reb Chaim Mordechai Roller of Petra Niamz, Reb Moshe Kahana Blank of Bacau and Reb Jacob Isaac Niemorower, Chief Rabbi of Romania. Uncle Schmelke recalled that Zeidy “had real political power in Romania” and “he was a force to be reckoned with.” In 1938, as the Nazis came to power in Germany, Zeidy organized a large group of Rabbonim, including his brothers-in-law Reb Meshulam and Reb Sholom Lamm as well as his brother Reb Usher, into a committee to represent the Jewish community of Romania and protect their rights as citizens. The committee successfully convinced the Romanian government to abolish a law which could have led to the deportation of thousands of Romanian Jews. The committee – in this case courageously represented by Zeidy, singlehanded – was also responsible for the reversal of a law which would have made it illegal for a Jew to close his business on Shabbos.31 In those years leading up to the War, Zeidy also began delegating some of his duties to Schmelke. The young man proved to be a great asset to his father, helping him organize many community matters. In 1939, he began serving as Rov in the kehilla of Vama, a village adjoining Cimpulung.
See foot of p. 56 above.
On the 9th of Kislev 5700 (November 21, 1939), just after the outbreak of World War II in Romania’s neighboring countries, a second son, Yaakov Kopel,32 was born to Zeidy and Bobby, seventeen years younger than his only brother, Shmuel Schmelke. In honor of the bris, Reb Mendele Rubin traveled from Seret to Cimpulung, where he served as sandek to his new grandson. The bris took place in the Alter Shul and the mohel was Reb Aryeh Fried.
Bobbi and Abba — Cimpulung 1939.
The skies, however, were quickly darkening, and in late 1940 Cimpulung experienced a foretaste of what was yet to come. As the month of Tishrei approached, a fearful wave of anti-Semitism surged through Romania. The Iron Guard gangs, also known as the Green Shirts, which had the support of Germany, forced the King of Romania into exile, leaving his country effectively under German control. The Romanian “legionnaires” conducted themselves exactly like Nazi soldiers and were even helped to organize themselves by the German SS. A municipal law had been passed in September, forbidding Jewish businesses in Cimpulung to close on Shabbos and Jewish holidays. The Romanian “Prefect” – a sadist called Russu, head of the Iron Guard militants – demanded that Zeidy announce in his shul that all Jews were to obey this decree, but Zeidy defied him. On Rosh HaShana, all the Jews of Cimpulung were in shul and not one business was left open. On Yom Kippur, the Iron Guard was determined to take revenge. Kol Nidrei was intoned under terror, because Green Shirts had been stationed in every shul to keep 32
Interestingly, in all of the 150-odd years from the passing of Reb Yaakov Kopel Chossid until the year 1939, his descendants did not give any of their children his name, but in 1939, within a span of several months, two grandchildren of Reb Mendele of Seret received this name. The first was born in the town of Kotzman in northern Bukovina to the local Rov, Reb Avrohom Usher, and his wife, Rebbetzin Sarah Rubin. The second was born on the 9th of Kislev in CimpulungMoldevenesc in southern Bukovina to the local Rov, Reb Moshe Yosef, and his wife, Rebbetzin Sarah Rubin. One of the reasons the two brothers, Reb Moshe Yosef and Reb Avrohom Usher Rubin, chose to name their respective sons Yaakov Kopel is that the name יעקב קאפילincluded the letters beis, yud, lamed and alef, which spell the name Beila, the name of their beloved late mother, the holy Rebbetzin of Seret, Beila Rubin.
all their entrances under surveillance. By morning, a man in green uniform was posted at the door of every Jewish home, and in the course of the day they raided and ransacked most of the town’s Jewish homes, and stored their loot in the Green House. In the middle of the davening, heavily armed, the Iron Guard stormed into the main shul, known locally as Der Alter Shul, took our Zeidy by brute force to the Temple Shul, and there announced that they had discovered a secret plot that the Jews were planning to revolt against the city’s rule. Opening the Aron Kodesh, they pulled out a pack of explosives that they themselves had planted there. Their commandant asked the Rabbi: “From where did you bring this dynamite that was hidden in the synagogue?” Zeidy answered that he had no idea how that packet got there. The Iron Guard commandant, Vistic Erhan, a brutal giant with a thick criminal record, told him: “You’ll see soon enough where this dynamite came from!” And the cruel beating began. Erhan then wrote up a document accusing the Jews of the plot. When he ordered Zeidy to sign as a witness, Zeidy said: “Today is Yom Kippur; I will sign nothing.” The commandant pointed his gun at Zeidy’s head and was about to shoot. Zeidy, wearing his tallis and kittel and zhipitze, stood firm: “I’m not going to sign. Shoot!” He immediately began to say vidui and was sure his life had come to its end. Miraculously, a peasant standing there seized the gun from the commandant’s hand. In response, the commandant and his followers carried Zeidy through all the synagogues in the city and in each holy place they broke open the Aron Kodesh with their guns, took out the sifrei Torah and mishandled them. Inside the Talmud Torah shul they repeated the same game, except that this time they used a revolver that had been placed in advance in the closet. Again the commandant challenged the rabbi: “Why do you have so many revolvers and dynamite in your synagogues?” The torture started afresh and lasted until 2 PM. At that time the entire group of thugs went to the Rubin home where they proceeded to search through the entire house. They ransacked every room, including Zeidy’s precious library. This famous library was one of the most treasured of all Jewish libraries; it included manuscript religious documents that were over 600 years old, and priceless antique books that dated from soon after the invention of the printing press. The legionnaires then dragged Zeidy out of his home together with Schmelke. They dumped many seforim and other objects on a waiting wagon, harnessed Zeidy and Schmelke in place of horses to the front of the wagon, and ordered them to drag it around the city streets. The other Yidden of Cimpulung were not spared. Some were arrested and beaten, while others were locked in their
homes so they could not help their Rov and his son, who staunchly stood by his father throughout the ordeal. And as the legionnaires beat father and son while they dragged the wagon in pain, the local Romanian goyim stood by and watched from the sidewalks. This brutal attack was reported on the BBC World Bulletin in London and Jerusalem. Years later, when Zeidy was asked what was going through his mind during this painful and humiliating experience, he answered: “I am always asked how I felt then. I did not know whether I was walking on the ground or on rooftops. All I knew was that this was being done to me because I am a Jew and that gave me the strength to continue dragging the wagon even as they beat us. As I did so I kept repeating quietly in my heart: Baruch ata HaShem Eloikeinu Melech HaOlam, sheloi osani goy! This torture continued until 4 PM on Yom Kippur day, when Zeidy was brought to the police station. They locked him in a cell where he met more Jews who had been brought there since morning. When they saw their Rabbi coming in they were shocked, but he spoke to their hearts and encouraged them. When he then began to say Yizkor, they joined him with bitter tears. Around 6 PM the detainees were called out one by one to appear before the police chief and were freed. The Rov was among the last ones to be released. On Motzaei Yom Kippur, a local Jewish lawyer by the name of Saul Kern who had influential friends in the municipality visited Zeidy and told him that the police commissioner, who was sympathetic to Zeidy, had asked him to pass on his message to the Rabbi: “Leave town as soon as possible.” And indeed, the unspeakable terrors of that day had made it more than clear that Cimpulung was no longer a safe place for Zeidy and his family. Despite his warm attachment to the kehilla in which he had invested so much of himself, he had no option but to make immediate arrangements to move to the capital city of Bucharest, some 500 km south of Cimpulung. They made the move after Sukkos, on the last train that was allowed to travel freely from Bukovina into Romania proper.
Bucharest The Torah tells us that Yosef HaTzaddik was sold as a slave to Egypt and soon rose to become viceroy. When his brothers came from Canaan to replenish their stores of food, he told them: “It was the decree of HaShem that I be sent here. He wanted me to be able to supply you with food during the years of hunger!”
That episode reminds one of this stage in the life of Reb Moshe Yosef. Due to anti-Semitic violence, as we have seen, he had been forced to leave his community and move to Bucharest, which saved him from deportation. Now, like Yosef HaTzaddik, he was in a position to save his brethren in need. Among the first things that Zeidy did when he arrived in Bucharest was to try and leave Romania for Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Safran, the Chief Rabbi, and the Palestinian Office, both contacted Chief Rabbi Dr. Yitzchok Aizik Herzog, who joined in their efforts to obtain the necessary certificate and the Turkish transit visa. In those days the postal and telegraphic services were very slow. Months passed with no result. The gates of Europe were closing and Zeidy began to settle down in Bucharest. A few lines will not suffice to describe his activities during his six-year stay in the capital. Shortly after his arrival, he rented a nine-room apartment at #7 Sf. Ion Nu Street and set up a beis medrash where Bukovinean expatriates and locals could study and daven, and where later so many refugees could find a meal and a place to sleep. He guided many Jewish souls with his teachings, and tried to do the utmost to promote truth and good. The kindness of his heart lent strength to many at that difficult time. His belief in the inherent goodness of every human being encouraged people. The evening lectures he delivered in his beis medrash made a deep impression on the Jewish community. They attracted an intellectual circle that was drawn to his philosophy, which was based on the works of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch. However, as the war raged on, terrible times awaited the Jewish community of Bucharest. In 1941, the furies of the Legionnaires’ rebellion and the Bucharest pogrom wrought havoc from the 21st to the 23rd of January. At that time Zeidy was living in the Vacaresti borough, exactly where the “legionnaire” Iron Guard gangs launched their pogrom with unbelievable cruelty. Among the hundreds of Jews killed by these beasts was Paul Katz, a lawyer who just a few days earlier had paid a visit to Zeidy to look over his writings. Zeidy felt that was his duty to go to the funeral of this man. That evening, after he returned home from the cemetery, he delivered one of his famous lectures. Traian Weissman, a lawyer who was present that evening, stated later that he would never forget that lecture. He added that it was remarkable how Zeidy was able to deliver such a shiur in those moments, after he had just come from the burial of hundreds of Jews who had been barbarically murdered.
Later in 1941, the deportation of the Jews of Bukovina began. With no clothes and no food, thousands were driven out of their homes and deported. It is well documented in research papers and in testimonies held in the archive of Yad Vashem that Zeidy was the first who tried to help them. He founded a support committee, in which he was joined by several men of goodwill, including Nathan Klipper, Leib Gutt, Traian Weissman, Dr. Chaim Gelber, Osias Schauer and Abraham Gartner. After a few months those who had been deported to Craiova were sent back to their homes in Bukovina, and after a short while they were again deported, to Transnistria. This disaster took the Jewish community of Bucharest, which until then had been living in relative safety, completely by surprise. The official Union of Jewish Communities was forced to end its activity to make room for “The Centralized Jewish Organization” created by the Antonescu regime. There was thus no organized Jewish response in Bucharest to come to the aid of the almost 300,000 Jews who were deported to what became known as Death Valley, in Transnistria. Even many weeks after the deportations, no one knew where those men, women and children, the old and the sick, had been taken. Testimony of the circumstances surrounding the formation of Zeidy’s rescue committee (known in history books as The Bukovinean Committee) was given at Yad Vashem by attorney Dr. Rivka Ruckenstein. She had become one of the main activists in assisting the Transnistria deportees, and particularly the children who were orphaned there. She testified as follows: “On Sukkos 1941 I received a postcard from my father.... He informed me that they were waiting any moment for the deportation of the entire Jewish population [of his city, Suceava] to an unknown destination. ‘God help us,’ he wrote. With postcard in hand, I ran to Rabbi Rubin.... I burst into the Yizkor service shouting and crying, and the postcard with the dreadful news passed from hand to hand. We immediately gathered together to find ways to help our brethren. Among those present were Mayer Falik and Sumer Wolf from Suceava; Rabbi Rubin; Dr. Jacob Schechter; and Mr. Bibring from Chernovitz. We decided to send an officer or a senior official to follow the deportees in order to determine their location. This was the beginning of aid activity for the deportees.” Accordingly, Zeidy together with his committee sent a courier to try to find out what was happening to the deportees in Transnistria. As soon as Zeidy received
the information, he founded the support committee in order to collect funds – which proved to be the first to reach Transnistria. This aid project was mainly an outgrowth of the initiative of ex-Bukovinians in Bucharest, who sought to help their dearly-loved relatives and friends who had been deported to Transnistria. The vortex of this activity was Zeidy’s shul, most of whose worshipers were, like himself, former Bukovinians. The committee’s funds came mainly from people of means and from solicitations in the synagogues, which took place mostly on Shabbosim. Zeidy’s committee began its activity at a time when any help to the Transnistria deportees was utterly forbidden, when those who violated this prohibition could expect severe punishment, and when the exiles were at the height of their distress. From the testimony of Saul Schnap at Yad Vashem we learn that “the dispatch of the [committee’s] first aid was medicine for typhus. About 5,000 capsules of Cardiazol, a medication to strengthen the heart, were gathered from all that was available in the pharmacies in Bucharest. The shipment was taken by a Romanian courier to the Mogilev Committee, and its receipt was acknowledged.... The first sum handed to the committee was 500,000 lei. It was brought by Mr. Gelber, the treasurer of the Jewish community, who had not received instructions from his superiors to do so. He declared that if thousands of Jews were dying there, he would also take upon himself the risk of being accused of having authorized the use of the community’s money without receiving instructions.” The official Jewish organizations in Bucharest were permitted to send funds to the deportees only much Contemporary newspapers report of Zeidy’s wartime relief initiatives. The Yiddish headline at left means, “a coin in exchange for a Jew.”
later. The circumstances under which Zeidy’s committee performed its activities make them sound quite incredible. From 1943 to 1944 a huge stream of Jewish refugees from Poland and Hungary, escaping the Nazi hell, started to come to Bucharest. They were legally not allowed to be there and the police searched for them in the streets in order to arrest them. Some of them were caught and sent back to Poland to the hands of the Gestapo. Zeidy and his committee met with a high-ranking official of the Romanian border guard, a man named Dimitrescu. They reached an agreement: for every Jew brought safely from the border to Bucharest, Dimitrescu would receive a gold coin! Zeidy used to refer to this agreement as a rendel a Yid (“a coin in exchange for a Jew”). Zeidy and Bobbi opened their doors wide to help these stricken arrivals. For months the house was filled with refugees. (In fact, Abba remembers his parents sleeping in the pantry while he slept in the kitchen, because all the other rooms were occupied by sleeping refugees!) Finally, Zeidy’s committee succeeded in having the Centralized Jewish Organization create a boarding house for these people, which was located in Sf. Ion Nou Street, No. 25. Many still came to Zeidy’s home and he was always helping them. Later, he and his committee worked to obtain legal status for all those refugees. The most famous person to find refuge in the Rubins’ house was the Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shlomo Halberstam who, after losing his wife and two of his children, finally made his way to Bucharest. When he arrived in town, Zeidy dispatched Samuel Baraf, a close friend and a member of the committee, to meet the Rebbe and bring him to the Rubins’ home. The Bobover Rebbe would remain in that house for several months, after which he was able to rent an apartment nearby. Even then, he continued to daven at Zeidy’s shul, helped Zeidy with his hatzala efforts, and joined the committee. Many years later, the Bobover Rebbe had this to say about his redeemer: “A man can be known by the way you see him in a dangerous situation. It was under such circumstances that I learned the worth of Rabbi Rubin. It was wartime, and every few weeks refugees would be dropped off at Rabbi Rubin’s home. I would watch from my window, witnessing the daily spectacle of trucks transporting Jews and unloading them at 7 Sf. Ion Nou Street.” On one occasion, Abba, then a young child, witnessed refugees climbing down from trucks in the courtyard of their home. He even remembers seeing his father handing money to the soldiers standing at the side of the truck. Abba also remembers a man once coming to the door and asking Bobbi if a Rabbi Halberstam lived at the house.
When Bobbi said she’d never heard of him, young Abba – always one to be helpful – spoke up: “But isn’t that man…” He was promptly quieted by Bobbi, and says that he must have gotten a good smack afterwards to still remember that story today… Little wonder, then, that during the decades following the war, it was not uncommon for perfect strangers to approach Zeidy and thank him for saving their lives. When a similar disaster fell upon Hungarian Jewry, Zeidy again toiled to save as many people as possible. He started a new aid campaign in which he was joined by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Reb Chaim Meir, and other Rabbonim and askonim. Ever since arriving in Bucharest, Zeidy sought to arrange for Schmelke to escape wartorn Europe. In 1944 Schmelke boarded an illegal ship and eventually arrived in Eretz Yisroel, where he enrolled in the famous Chevron Yeshiva, then located in Jerusalem. Zeidy also did a great deal for the poor among the local Jewish population of Bucharest. He seriously looked into their needs and helped them as much as he could. He was also a frequent and helpful visitor to the Jewish home for victims of tuberculosis, as well as other hospitals. In the memoirs of many Holocaust survivors who spent the postwar period in Bucharest, Zeidy is remembered as a leading figure in Romania. His beis medrash was one of the main centers of the Jewish revival in the city. A very large oilam davened there and Uncle Schmelke recalled that the weekly shaleshudess that Zeidy
Rabbinical conference at Zeidy’s Beis Medrash in Bucharest
î&#x20AC;Ş Bobbi and Abba. Bucharest, circa 1946
Simchah at the Bucharest Beis Medrash
The Mesivta in Bucharest. Abba is the young boy in the sailor suit
conducted would attract so many people that it had the appearance of a Rebbisher tish, complete with divrei Torah, singing and dancing. After the liberation of Bucharest, while war still raged on in Europe, an organization was founded to address the needs of the refugees in Romania. It was named the Agudas HaRabbonim of Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Zeidy was elected to stand at its head, and under his leadership, the Agudah established the first Yeshiva ever to exist in Bucharest, with about 150 young men from Romania, Poland and Hungary. The Rosh Yeshiva was Reb Shmuel Abba Tzimering of Bevalia. The Yeshiva followed the Torah im derech eretz model set by Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, and many of its alumni became prominent Rabbonim in Israel and the Diaspora. When the Allies arrived in Bucharest, Zeidy received official recognition for his outstanding rescue work. The British Ambassador presented the Bukovinean Committee with a large number of certificates permitting emigration to Eretz Yisrael; the American Ambassador made available a generous quantity of penicillin for the sick refugees; while the Soviet Ambassador visited Zeidy at his home. (The Bobover Rebbe was present at the time of the visit.)
Zeidy, Bobbi and Abba with Usher’s widow, Sarah Rubin, and their sons Naftali and Yaakov Kopel, Bucharest 1945.
Nechama Stempel nee Halberstam with her children and niece along with Abba on the left, Bucharest early 1940s.
n October 29, 1944, at the Beis HaMedrash of Mishmar HaDas in Bucharest, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Rabbi Moshe Yosef Rubin’s rabbinical activity was celebrated by an impressive gathering, including the leading rabbis and community leaders of Romanian Jewry. Below are some excerpts33 of the thoughts – grateful, admiring, and sometimes heartwrenching – that the oldtimers shared at that event: Romanian Chief Rabbi Dr. Alexander Safran: “I have known HaRav Rubin personally for about four years, but I have known his name since my childhood. I always heard it from my late father, who used to exchange letters with HaRav Rubin and consult with him on halachic matters. He described HaRav Rubin as one of the leading rabbis in the country. Later I learned more about his activity. He was the founder and head of the Shomrei Shabbos organization in Romania that accomplished great things. I heard about his heroic conduct on Yom Kippur, 1940, when he defended our most cherished religious values. I do not want talk about this at length on this anniversary occasion, because many books will yet be written on it. Instead, I would like to mention HaRav Rubin’s accomplishments since he came to Bucharest. In this holy building he worked and spread the word of G-d through his wonderful lectures that captivated the hearts of his listeners. “… In that dark era, Rabbi Rubin’s work brought a ray of light to our miserable souls, a ray that originates from the endless light springs of our eternal religion. But he also brought joy and material light to the shabbiest huts of our poor brothers deported in Transnistria. The clothing and the material aid that he sent there brought happiness to their hearts. I often had the opportunity to visit the Mishmar HaDas shul and to participate in the distribution of clothes for the poor Jewish children of Bucharest — a project initiated by HaRav Rubin. His social work is a torch that lights up the entire rabbinate of our country…” Reb Chaim Meir Hager, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe: “The Torah tells us that Avrohom Avinu won the hearts of the population with his concept of Der Eibershter. As is widely known, Der Eibershter gave the man we are honoring today a precious gift, the power to explain His word to the Jewish people,
Translated from the Jubilee book published in Zeidy’s honor in 1944, in Romanian.
in order to strengthen their belief in the highest values of our religion. We also all know what he did for the Jewish people deported to Transnistria as well as for the refugees from Poland and Hungary. His duties were true to Avrohom Avinu’s philanthropic spirit and hospitality. As he now enters in a new stage of his life, we wish him the same success in Eretz Yisroel.” Reb Shlomo Halberstam, the Bobover Rebbe: “Our parsha starts with the words,Ve’eileh toldos Noach, but instead of continuing with the names of his children, it goes on to tell us that ‘Noach was a righteous man, a complete man for his generation.’ ” He himself is characterized as his own end result. This possuk created an opportunity for our Chachomim to conclude that a man’s first produce, the first fruit of his activity, is his own character. “The same explanation could be given about HaRav Rubin. He distinguishes himself with all of the three crowns listed by Rabbi Shimon, who teaches us that ‘There are three crowns: the crown of Torah scholarship, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship — but a good name is superior to them all.’ ” HaRav Rubin is known for his geonus in Torah; he wears the crown of priesthood because for the last 25 years he has taught our people the word of G-d; he wears the crown of kingship because he spread the word of G-d and defended the principles of the Torah before kings and princes — but his noble reputation outshines them all. This he deserves because he sacrificed himself for his people and for Torah. The entire Jewish world heard on the radio — Jerusalem Radio and London’s BBC — what happened to him on that Yom Kippur day. For two years he fought to save thousands of Jews deported to Transnistria from certain death, at a time when this was a forbidden activity punishable by law. It was he who founded the first aid committees, working day and night, saving whatever could be saved, and hiding many of the refugees in his home when they started to come from Hungary. This activity too was heavily punished by the Antonescu regime. Work through which a man endangers his life day after day makes him deservedly admired. And as the Mishna says, a good name is superior to them all .” Rabbi Pinchos Horowitz, a refugee who returned from Mogilev, vividly described the disaster that befell the deported Jews of Bukovina, as follows: “When the calamity began in Transnistria, to which my family and I were deported, when thousands of Jews were expelled from their homes and deported to Death Valley on a fearsome wintry day and forced to live in houses with no
doors, windows or roof, the first aid that promptly arrived for some of those miserable people was from Rabbi Rubin. That immediate aid saved many people from death at that time, and it continued to be delivered till the end. A few hundred children, from the Talmud Torah of Mogilev, many of them orphans, were given spiritual and material supplies as well as warm classrooms, due to HaRav Rubin’s support. They were also provided with shirts, jackets, winter coats, socks and boots.” Mr. Herling of Gura Humorului, also a returnee from Transnistria: “I would also like to say few words, but my voice is giving up on me… I cannot talk. Since I was persecuted in Transnistria I have not been able to talk. When I saw my father, mother, my brothers and sisters dying before my eyes because I had no medication or food to give them, when I saw wagons stacked high with dead bodies passing daily by the courtyards to load the bodies of those who had died during the night — when I saw all this tragedy, I stopped talking. With my own hands I buried the people I loved so dearly –parents, brothers, sisters… It is true that we are still alive, but we are walking through this world like ghosts. “Yet in the gloomy sky of Transnistria, Rabbi Rubin’s activity shone like a star. He helped not only the Rebbes and the orphaned children from the Talmud Torah, but sent food supplies to the canteens, and clothes and shoes to a great and wide range of deportees.” Dr. Berger: “We salute Rabbi Rubin’s activity performed for the refugees. At the same time, we would urge him to expand his activities and include efforts to revive the religious life of Romanian Jewry. […]” “The Jewish people are in need of another Dr. Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, whom Providence placed at a turning point in Jewish history in order to spark a religious revival. We have here tonight one of the great scholars of Hirsch’s works, a man with a profound knowledge of ‘Judaic science,’ a man deeply versed in the classic works on Jewish scholarship and philosophy, and we are all familiar with his educational work in Cimpulung, Bukovina.” “Rabbi Rubin! With the above in mind, we would like to address to you the encouraging words of the Bible:’Proceed with this power, and save the Jewish people!’ ”34
Mr. Beiner read a letter sent by Professor Dr. Zarinek: “I thank the Jubilee Committee for this invitation and am honored to participate in this anniversary. I ask you all to be so kind as to excuse my absence, because I am confined by illness to my bed. I congratulate the guest of honor. “Rabbi Rubin! Twenty-five years have passed since you began to dedicate yourself to your people, and you have always performed your duties faithfully. You must find it wonderful to be able to look back in time at your honorable career and all your good work! With tireless devotion you have dedicated yourself to your profession, not only for the Jewish people but also for humanity in general. As a non–Jew, I am glad to have this opportunity to express these thoughts in public. I had the honor of meeting you during a difficult and tragic era. That was in 1916, during the First World War, when Providence brought us together in a camp at Ialomita and later at Falciu. Numerous people of various nationalities and beliefs owe you their life. I am one of those people. “When medication was lacking during the fatal typhus epidemic, you were the one who, together with Dr. Gottdiener, walked like angels among the ailing deportees, taking care of them while ignoring the danger of contamination. You treated every individual, Christian or Jewish, with the same love and devotion. For this the hearts of these people will always be grateful to you. I myself am not an antiSemite because I was Masaryk’s student, and besides, I think in Dimeni village to which we had been deported there was no room for anti-Semitism because all of us, the deportees and the local peasants alike, had a chance to meet these two real Jewish people.” “Gentlemen! That was my initial encounter with Rabbi Rubin. I realized from our later discussions that this person was not only a prince in the kingdom of kindness, but despite his young age, he was also an enlightened spirit, a profound thinker – gifts that would also make him a prince in the kingdom of wisdom and science. I am happy to observe that my predictions were right. During his stay in Bucharest I often visited Rabbi Rubin and tried to study his writings. They were able to influence a reader’s conception of God, the world, and humanity. You feel that his writings are inspired by the spirit of the divinely-given Bible. They arouse within us not only thoughts and feelings; beyond that, they directly influence a man’s will in a way that calls for practical action, not only thinking. May you be privileged to see all these works published, and may God bless you with a lot of strength and health, so that your learning will be able to contribute to the happiness of many people.“
Dr. L. Lieberman described a canteen that was exclusively supported by HaRav Rubin and his committee, and went on to say: “I walked through all of Transnistria and everywhere I met Jews who told me that they were still alive because of HaRav Rubin’s support.” “One day I arrived in Mogilev accompanied by a Romanian soldier. We ended up on a side street which the Romanian soldier did not want to take. When I asked him why, he answered that there was a house in that little street, where orphans were crying out of hunger and cold. Their cries were so heartbreaking that he could not bring himself to pass by that house. You can imagine what impact that soldier’s words had on me… After a while I returned to Mogilev and while I was visiting the Talmud Torah school I saw that the rooms were warmed, and the orphans unexpectedly looked cheerful. When I asked them why, they answered that from that day on they would have bread and marmalade, because HaRav Rubin of Cimpulung had sent them help.” Mr. Coppelman: “When the misery started in Hungary, the only possible way to save those people was to bring them over the border to Romania and from here to Palestine. HaRav Rubin was the first one to create a committee. At the meetings that took place in his house the participants included: The Buhusher Rebbe; the Vizhnitzer Rebbe; HaRav Scharfstein, President of the Orthodox Jewish community of Arad; Mr. Schonbrun, President of the Orthodox Jewish community of Timisoara; together with many other influential people from Bucharest who made the first steps to organize this difficult task. As everyone knows, Antonescu’s law stipulated the death sentence for any Hungarian Jew who crossed the border into Romania, as well as for the people who offered them shelter and help. In spite of that, hundreds of these poor Jewish people found shelter for months in HaRav Rubin’s home. In 1943 he offered the same help to the refugees from Poland who came to Bucharest through Chernovitz. All the rooms in his house were filled with Jewish refugees from Poland.” “In addition, HaRav Rubin and Mr. Nathan Klipper successfully fought to legalize the refugees’ status in Romania.”
Mr. Linder: “We often thought that the end had come for our nation because of those turbulent times in our history. But we repeatedly observed that soon after that, Jewish life started afresh; after dry and faded times there began a new period of blooming. Our generation survived the most horrifying era in Jewish history. We thought the end had come. But as long as Torah has no end, the existence of the Jewish people has no end. That reminds us that our people must embrace the Torah, and only then will we be protected from disappearance. Here in Bucharest we saw a light; among the millions of Jews from Poland and Hungary we saw a group who were saved, and from that little group, a minority carried on with Torah values...” “Among those Jews were refugee orphans who ended up here, in this very synagogue, Mishmar HaDas — a place in which they could continue studying Torah. Seeing this, I told myself: This nation will never disappear! Allow me to express my admiration and gratitude to Rabbi Rubin, who supported this noble cause. His home became not only a shelter for the refugees but also a place where they could study Torah. In time this school for refugees has found the ideal setting, but it still lacks material support. That is why I ask of all of you today to support and sustain this school.” Mr. Raphael Horowitz, secretary of the Mishmar HaDas Shul: “I was moved to hear these speeches that publicly acknowledged the activity of HaRav Rubin, who worked discreetly for four years, trying to bring a warm ray of light to the frozen hearts of our brothers who were deported in Transnistria, and why we were so secretive about such a worthy project? “Since the former regime did not approve of this aid activity that was initiated to save our brothers, any indiscretion could have ended with the deportation of the entire committee to Transnistria. HaRav Rubin therefore asked everyone involved to be discreet, and not to turn this humanitarian activity into a parade. The words shared here by the people who themselves saw the results of his work are the best reward for us and bring us a lot of satisfaction. I personally thank G-d Who gave me the chance to be one of the devoted people who, following HaRav Rubin’s advice, extended support to our needy brothers.” “To fully appreciate the outcome of these activities, you have to understand that we were not assisted by foreign funds and received very limited funds from this country. I have to add that our action was not supported by the rich people, nor by the great majority of people from Bucharest, since the latter were forced to contribute to the budget of the Centralized Jewish Organization. Our activity was supported only by a handful of people, HaRav Rubin’s friends. Yet despite all those obstacles, we saw the results: The Talmud Torah canteen maintained its daily
activity based on our supplies, and many Jews survived due to our contribution in money, clothes and shoes.” “Don’t you ask yourselves how such a wonder came to reality? After all, there were no foreign funds, no local subventions, no help from the wealthy people nor from the great majority of Jewish people! The answer is a very simple one:” “The effort of our committee was successful because of a few honest and good-hearted Jews who understood how to handle public money carefully, keeping a straight record of all money coming in and going out. These were people who did not think of any material reward. They worked devotedly only to save the lives of needy people. We thank all those people, especially Rabbi Moshe Yosef Rubin. And let us not forget his son, the young Rabbi Schmelke Rubin, who worked with his father both on social and charity matters. May G-d grant them a long and blessed life.” Mr. Fischler (Halutz), a returnee from Transnistria, related: “Hundreds of families were living on potato peels. But at a certain point even the peels became difficult to find. When we became desperate we used to say, ‘Help is on the way!’ And that was exactly what was happening. Right then, Rabbi Rubin’s emissary would arrive and the light was back again in the Jewish homes. Thousands of Jewish lives were saved, thanks to Rabbi Rubin’s help. If in Bucharest there are now only a few hundred people who came to thank him, that is because not all of them came to the capital. It is my duty to talk on behalf of all of those whom he helped.” Mr. Abraham Tanner, former President of the Jewish Community of Cimpulung: “Although I should speak about Rabbi Rubin’s social work in Transnistria, where my late wife and I suffered seriously, I won’t do so because the previous speakers have already described it. I will speak only about a few of Rabbi Rubin’s accomplishments as the spiritual leader of the Cimpulung region, because I think it is my duty to do so. I could tell you about a lot of laudable incidents, but I must restrict myself only to some of them, because I have to allow other speakers to express their feelings of gratitude. “Twenty years ago, when the position for Rabbi of Cimpulung was vacant after the passing of Rabbi Mischel, Rabbi Rubin together with ten or twelve other candidates competed for the position. If I remember correctly, during the rabbinical elections there were usually two or three parties that fought each other until the final day. From the very beginning, Rabbi Rubin’s election took place without any
electoral fights. I myself was one of the community board members and I remember all the good work that was accomplished. For over 20 years, my committee coworkers and I had the great pleasure of having been among those who contributed to the hiring of our spiritual leader. “Immediately after his appointment, Rabbi Rubin embarked on his energetic activity in the religious education of the young people, in philanthropy, and in the support of our poor townsmen. He advanced those activities via the lectures that he delivered on Shabbosim, and on any other days on which observant Yidden came together. “Rabbi Rubin undertook a very difficult task, because our Jewish community and especially its young people were somewhat estranged from religious life. As a result of his efforts and his lectures, he succeeded in a very short time to implant a religious feeling in their hearts, especially in the hearts of young people. By means of endless effort, he founded and developed the following institutions for the benefit of his community: An institution that provided relief for the poorest Jews, especially during the winter; the Tomchei Ani’im organization that provided free means and board for the hundreds of poor Jews who used to pass through Cimpulung; the Gemilas Chessed Kasse for the numerous poor and old craftsmen who had no means of earning a livelihood; and a Cheder Klali, in which great numbers of children were educated in a religious spirit, free of charge.” “In addition, Rabbi Rubin was involved in many other charitable projects, even if at times this was done at the expense of his family’s income.” “In 1937, when the anti-Semitic era began in Romania, especially in Bukovina, a Prefect was appointed as the political head of Cimpulung. He soon launched a persecution campaign against the Jewish community. He banned the performance of any bris and decreed that all Jewish commercial and industrial companies be open for business on Saturdays and any other religious holidays. Rabbi Rubin suffered deeply and tried to have those decrees annulled by writing to the national authorities in Bucharest. Rabbi Rubin was repeatedly threatened with Martial Court by the Prefect and his followers, when they discovered that he was urging his people not to obey the new orders. Unintimidated, he continued to fight. I was a witness one Shabbos morning when Rabbi Rubin left the shul and went around to tell Jewish merchants to close their businesses. The merchants, without thinking of the consequences, listened to him because their Rabbi’s word was as the word of law. This was the immediate cause that triggered the ordeal to which he was subjected on Yom Kippur, 1940. Later, when we heard that our rabbi might be
elected as the Rabbi of Chernovitz or Sibiu, the leaders of our community made every effort to make him change his mind and not to leave us.” “And at this point, on behalf of the Cimpulung regional community, I wish him and his family good health and success on his trip to Eretz Yisroel.” Mr. Nathan Klipper: “What Rabbi Rubin did for our brothers from Transnistria is already known, but the efforts that he made to remove the danger that hung over the heads of the Jews who were left in Chernovitz and Transylvania are unknown. When his efforts failed (he tried to persuade a high church dignitary to make the authorities renounce their plan to kill innocent Jews), Rabbi Rubin was not discouraged. He approached another church dignitary, who listened to his request compassionately. Future chapters of history will clarify how much his intervention contributed to removing the danger that was so close to the Jews who were left in Chernovitz and Transylvania. I do not want this episode to be omitted. I trust that this distinguished personality will continue to intervene successfully for the community, from Eretz Yisroel. “Let me add that in his above activities, Rabbi Rubin was supported by a lawyer named Lascar Saraga, Herscovici the watchmaker, and Mr. O. Schauer.” Mr. L. Landberg, speaking on behalf of the Jewish merchants of Cimpulung: “In our county, Rabbi Rubin was warmly appreciated as a supporter of the poor Jewish merchants. Many of us owe him our very existence. Through the Gemilas Chessed Kasse that he founded, he helped us with interest-free loans. Only a few of us came back from Transnistria. On behalf of all the merchants who were helped by Rabbi Rubin, I congratulate him.”
Mr. Feivel Schieber, of Vatra Dornei, one of the owners of the Schieber forest companies: “I too lived in the county in which Rabbi Rubin worked for over two decades. For all of us it was an honor to have such a rabbinical leader in our midst, in the South of Bukovina. I too was deported to Transnistria and thus saw with my own eyes how vital was his aid campaign for the welfare of the deportees as well as for the Talmud Torah. Therefore, echoing the words of our Sages, let me say: How great is the zechus of someone who saves even one soul, so how great is the merit of someone who saved so many souls! “The blessings of the entire Jewish people will no doubt accompany Rabbi Rubin in his new field of activity.” Mr. Samuel Baraf, President of the Mishmar HaDas Synagogue: “The end of 1940. That was a very difficult year for the Jewish people. It was a difficult year for me, too, because I lost my dear father who was a good and honest man. Like any son of our people, I observed the custom of saying Kaddish, praying daily in the old Malbim Synagogue, a fortress of Yiddishkeit and a refuge for our souls in those terrible times, when day after day we were morally and materially victimized by anti-Semitic laws.” “On one of those days, hearing that in Bucharest there existed an Orthodox community and synagogue while we, the oldtimers from the Regat,35 had no idea about the differences between rites, I decided out of curiosity to go and pray there. So one Shabbos I went in Negru Voda Street where I found many religious people saying their prayers. Because of the tragic times in which we were living, the intense atmosphere was overwhelming. After the Reading of the Torah, an imposing man stood up and spoke… His words emanated the power of a prophet’s voice, and obviously had a huge effect upon the minds of his listeners. At a time when Jews were persecuted, deprived of their belongings and sometimes of their daily bread, at a time when you were not sure about your very life… a rabbi — that was Rabbi Rubin — told us that now more than ever we have to listen to the word of God and spread it. He told us about the great theological works of Dr. Shamshon Raphael Hirsch and he demonstrated that each word of our beloved Torah was G-d’s work, that each word contained something linked to the creation of the world.” *** 35
Lit, “the Realm.” This was term used to to refer to Romania proper, in its original pre-WWI borders.
he sad irony is that during the Holocaust, while Zeidy was able to save so many of his fellow Jews, the vast majority of his family and Bobbi’s family were murdered. Zeidy lost his father and three of his four siblings, as well as a niece and a nephew. Bobbi lost her father, all her three siblings and their children, as well as eight half-siblings, in addition to numerous uncles, aunts and cousins. Bobbi’s half-sister Rivka Gross remembers how Bobbi, together with Abba who was then six years old, arrived in Satmar after the War, looking around to find who in her family had survived. It was during these early post-war years that many Jews scrambled to leave Romania for safer shores. The struggle for Jewish independence in Eretz Yisrael influenced Romanian Jews, and the goal of aliya, which had long been deeply rooted in the community, now became a powerful force. The decisive factor in the life of Romanian Jews after World War II, however, was the new Communist regime in Romania, which exercised its authority over the community life of Romanian Jewry, determined its organizational structure, and limited its aspirations. As these realities dawned upon Zeidy he decided to apply for visas for himself and his family to leave Romania and find safer shores, either in Eretz Yisrael or in the Unites States. In late 1946 he was granted an exit visa, which he utilized to travel to Prague. His intention was to use his connections there to arrange for Bobbi and Abba to obtain exit visas as well. Not surprisingly, in view of the horror he had witnessed and all the devastating losses he had endured, Zeidy had a gallbladder attack shortly after his arrival in Prague and was admitted to a hospital. His son Schmelke, then studying medicine in Geneva, quickly made his way to Prague to oversee the treatment. When Zeidy was discharged, he and Schmelke moved into a hotel where Zeidy recuperated for many weeks. Back in Bucharest, Bobbi was desperately worried as there was a long delay in securing her exit visa. Eventually, in 1947, it was granted and Bobbi and Abba were soon in Prague. At last, the Rubins were reunited. It then took over a year until they were able to obtain entry visas to the United States. Finally, in early March 1948, they boarded the Queen Elizabeth, preparing themselves for a new and safer life. Schmelke, by then already in his mid-twenties, remained in Switzerland to complete his medical degree, and followed his parents and brother across the Atlantic several years later. Marienbad, 1947
America/Long Beach Soon after Zeidy’s arrival in the US, and after his discharge from hospital following gallbladder surgery, two receptions were held in his honor, one at the Romanian Synagogue, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and the other at Congregation Beth Shmuel in Brooklyn. Several hundred prominent representatives of organizations, fraternal groups and societies participated in these receptions. Mr. Max Shoenfield, President of the Union of Romanian Jews in North America, addressed the gathering at the Romanian Synagogue, and other speakers included Mr. P. Lekwornik, President of the Seret Society and Mr. Leib Horowitz. as well as some of the most respected rabbis in New York at the time. Among them were: Rabbi Mordechai Aaron Kaplan, Chairman of the Boro Park Rabbinate; Rabbi Chaim Pohrille; Rabbi Moshe Steinberg, formerly of Cracow and Brod; and Rabbi Eliezer Eichenstein, secretary of the Mizrachi organization in America. They all spoke highly of his outstanding personality and spoke of what a blessing it was for American Jewry to welcome him into their midst. Especially impressive was the address of Rabbi Rubin’s friend, the Bobover Rebbe, who had already made his way to America. The Rebbe told the audience stories of Zeidy’s self-sacrificing activities during the War, and related how he had saved many Jews from the hands of those who sought to do them harm. Also addressing the gathering was Mr. H. Burg, the President of the Staneste Association. “Our guest,” he said, “is renowned not only as a learned scholar, but also as a giant who was active in rescuing scores of Jews during the war. Rabbi Rubin has become a legendary figure among the Jews of Romania and its surrounding countries.” When Zeidy arrived in the United States, Mr. Chaim Lieberman, a popular columnist of the Yiddish Forward newspaper, wrote several articles about him, initiating a wave of letters from readers in various corners of the world. Typical of the letters received are the two quoted here: “ . . . We are a group of Romanian Jews who have been living in Germany now for almost two years. It is with understandable interest that we read your illuminating articles about the fate of Romanian Jews who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust.
“When future historians write the tragic story of the Romanian Jews, they will have to give a prominent place in that narrative to the heroic deeds of that noble personality, Rabbi Moses Josef Rubin. Those of us who are at present in Germany also owe a great debt of gratitude to this worthy Rabbi. We Romanian Jews, survivors of the terrible death-camps known as Transnistria, will remember as long as we live our immeasurable debt to our beloved friend and rescuer, Rabbi M. J. Rubin. “We should like to thank you, dear Mr. Lieberman, for helping to publicize the suffering of the Romanian Jews. Very respectfully yours, Dr. Zvi Gottlieb 41 Beethoven Street , Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany And likewise: “Dear Mr. Lieberman, I have read your articles in the Forward entitled ‘Kiddush HaShem.’ I must tell you how happy it made me to learn that Rabbi Rubin has won admirers for himself across the sea in America. He is certainly deserving of such gratitude. Being a native of Romania (at present a refugee in Switzerland), I felt I ought to write to you and tell you about a matter which is too little known. It was in the year 1938, in Romania, that a severe decree threatened to ban the observance of Shabbos and Shechita. At the same time, Jews in Bukovina were forbidden to speak Yiddish! It was unanimously decided that Rabbi Rubin was the best man to handle so delicate and grave a situation. He then made the trip to Bucharest, accompanied by the Rov of Chernovitz, and sought an audience with the Minister of Interior, Calinescu. Fortunately for Romanian Jewry, Rabbi Rubin is a most gifted speaker and is a master of the Romanian language, and after that audience the minister was convinced that he should annul the decrees. Rabbi Rubin’s name was famous throughout Europe.” Eliezer Kleski 82 Bd. Arve. Pont Diarry, Geneva, Switzerland
The Rubins with Schmelke and Gabby Horowitz and Chaim Lieberman and his wife, Long Beach, circa 1950
At Schmelke and Bella’s wedding, 1954
The Rubins eventually settled in Long Beach, NY in 1950, where Zeidy served as the Rov of a congregation (which he named Mishmar HaDas) and established a Vaad HaKashrus. The community bought them a house and Zeidy devoted himself to establishing the hashgacha in Long Beach on a fresh and sound footing. Many of the things he did were reminiscent of activities he had successfully implemented so many years earlier in Cimpulung. He also wrote a booklet on the subject of kashrus, which was widely received. In fact, over 150,000 copies were published. The Rubins lived in Long Beach for over ten years. They were soon joined there by their nephew Schmelke (Yolles) Horowitz and his wife Gabby and their young son Chaim. As mentioned earlier, Schmelke Horowitz served as
the Rov of a congregation in Long Beach for many years. Meanwhile, their son Schmelke Rubin36 had graduated from medical school in Switzerland and tried unsuccessfully to obtain a visa to enter the United States. In the end he applied to enter Canada, and after his application was accepted, he arrived in Montreal in the early 1950s. He soon secured employment as an attending physician at Hospital Hotel Dieu. In 1954 he married Bella, the daughter of Reb Yosef and Miriam Roth of Manhattan’s East Side. The kalla’s mother was a first cousin of Zeidy. (Her mother, Gitta, and Zeidy’s mother, Beila, were sisters—daughters of Reb Pinchas Halevi Ish Horowitz of Vulye.)
World Center of European Rabbis and Geder Avos
For Zeidy, as for many European Rabbis, postwar life in the United States was a dramatic change from what they had been accustomed to in the Old Country, der alter heim. In 1952 he led a group of other prominent Rabbonim in forming a rabbinic association that would address the issues pertaining to immigrant Rabbis and their followers. The association was named the World Center of European Rabbis. One of its initial aims was to secure monetary reparations through the Claims Conference for hundreds of European Rabbonim. This was considered
Dr. Schmelke Rubin was a well-known figure in the Montreal Jewish community. He was a prominent doctor, yet as an accomplished talmid chochom he spent much of his free time studying Torah. He enjoyed a close relationship with many Rebbes and Rabbonim and was as comfortable in their company as he was at a medical conference. He was a Renaissance man, yet at heart he was always Schmelke, son of the Cimpulunger Rov. He was zocheh to have Torah u’gedulah al shulchan echod. When his health waned after the passing of his wife Bella, he moved to New York to be near his children, and enjoyed rich nachas from them. Though he was no longer his former robust self, his life was fuelled by his constant study of Torah. Hence the the possuk engraved on his matzeivah: Lulei Sorascha shaashuai, az avad’ti be’onyi – “If Your Torah was not my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” (Tehillim 119:92). Schmelke passed away at age 89 on the 15th of Tammuz, 5772 (2012).
a small measure of justice for Rabbis who had been victims of Nazi persecution. Zeidy (assisted by Bobbi) pursued this goal through a combination of negotiations and lobbying with the Claims Conference and the German and U.S. governments. The Center of Rabbis was also very active in sending food parcels and other aid to poor Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel and in the former Soviet Union. In addition, the Center worked to ease the lives of the many Jews still living in Romania. In the 1950s it became clear that thousands of Jewish cemeteries across Europe were being neglected, or destroyed. When the news of this rampant vandalism reached the Unites States, Zeidy was horrified. He felt that those who survived the Holocaust were kept alive by G-d not by chance, but for a purpose and a mission. He was not a man to remain silent when the memorials of the Jews of Europe were under threat of ruin. He immediately began plans for the Center of European Rabbis to convene a major conference of Rabbonim in New York to alert the Jewish world of the fate of these cemeteries and mass graves. Held in 1960, the conference was attended by many prominent spiritual leaders who unanimously decided to found an organization called Geder Avos,37 dedicated to combating the destruction of 2,000 cemeteries and mass graves in Europe. The conference elected Zeidy to lead this organization. Its primary goal would be to marshal vocal protests from world governments and from key members of Congress to vigorously demand that the desecration stop. The conference made a powerful impact, both in Israel and among Jews in the Diaspora, in raising awareness to this issue. From the time Geder Avos was incepted, Zeidy dedicated the rest of his life to the cause of saving the Jewish cemeteries in Europe. During Communist rule over Eastern Europe, it was virtually impossible to gain free access to rebuild the cemeteries, 37
Literally, “A Fence around the Fathers.”
but by igniting a public outcry, Geder Avos succeeded in thwarting the designs of governments that planned to desecrate the graves. When the grave of the Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) in Cracow was in danger of being plowed under, Zeidy was the one to alarm the Jewish world, and delegated to Rabbi Eliezer Silver the responsibility of safeguarding the grave. When the Polish government decided to destroy the Warsaw-Gensaw cemetery in 1963, Zeidy convened another conference of European Rabbis in Jerusalem. Among the many dignitaries in attendance was the Polish ambassador. Upon hearing the protests and outrage voiced by the over five hundred rabbis in attendance, he personally intervened and had the decree annulled. When the Austrian government decided to destroy the cemetery in which the Shefa Tal (Rabbi Sheftl Horowitz) is interred, Zeidy again intervened. He collected thousands of signatures, sent them to US Senators, and successfully had this decree overturned. Zeidy eventually found a supporter in Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, who introduced and had a resolution passed in the Unites States Senate condemning the destruction of the European cemeteries. A similar resolution also passed in the House of Representatives. When the grave of the Baal Shem Tov was in danger of being destroyed, a conference was again convened—this time in Montreal, Canada. The Conference designated Rabbi L. Hechtman to visit Mezhibuzh, where he was successful in having the order canceled. One of Zeidy’s lasting legacies is the accomplishments of Geder Avos. Many Jewish cemeteries in Europe were saved from destruction in his merit. Since the fall of Communism, many cemeteries were restored and are now accessible for the numerous Yidden around the world who wish to visit the gravesites of their ancestors. The activities of Geder Avos continue until today, working in partnership with the Israel-based Oholei Tzadikim run by Rabbi Israel Meir Gabay. In recent years Geder Avos has helped restore dozens of cemeteries and kivrei tzadikkim throughout Eastern Europe. In 1960, the CARE international relief organization recognized Zeidy’s efforts in organizing various societies to send food parcels to Eretz Yisroel and Russia. Later that year, the Bond Drive for Israel held a dinner to honor him. The dinner helped raise $500,000 for the Israel Bonds, an impressive sum at that time.
Zeidy with Ima (his new daughter-in-law)
Borough Park Over the years, the Jewish community of Long Beach grew and became more diverse. Consequently, Zeidy’s strict adherence to the high level of kashrus standards he had instituted resulted in increased friction. After briefly moving to Montreal (1960-1962), to live near Schmelke and Bella, Zeidy and Bobbi decided to move to Brooklyn to find a shidduch for Abba. Abba, by then a twenty-four year old graduate of Torah VaDaas, had already received his Master’s degree in electrical engineering from New York University and was beginning a successful career. In 1965 Abba married our Ima, Leah Drizin, daughter of the famed Lubavitcher chossid Reb Avrohom and his wife Sarah Drizin. During their years in America, Zeidy and Bobbi Rubin were zocheh to watch their two sons establish beautiful families. Each new eynikl brought new simcha to their lives — a fresh branch on the tree whose renewed growth they were slowly nurturing. They derived much nachas from their grandchildren and great grandchildren, and had the zechus to see that they are all frum and proud Jews, following in their path.
Zeidy and Bobbi with Chaya and Rivkah
Zeidy and his sons
Zeidy spent his last seventeen years in Borough Park where, thanks to his knowledge and experience in Halacha, he was appointed rosh beis din of the local Vaad HaRabbonim, in those days a prominent beis din in the community. His patience and personality contributed to the success he enjoyed when presiding over a case. In addition, many people sought his counsel privately. He was thus able to avoid many With George McGovern at the home of the unnecessary cases, having Bobover Rebbe during the 1972 campaign already made both parties in a dispute satisfied with the outcome. During those years, he also vigorously continued his efforts for Geder Avos, marshaling the support of American politicians and Congressmen for the rescue of threatened cemeteries. On Motzaei Shabbos Parshas Tzav, 5738 (1968), a large Melaveh Malka honored the fiftieth anniversary of Zeidy’s rabbinical activity in the hall of the Bobover Yeshiva in Borough Park. The Bobover Rebbe spoke warmly of the deep friendship between himself and Zeidy. Rabbi Nissen Telushkin, Rabbi Dr. I. Schorr and Rabbi Schmelke Horowitz also spoke. Toward the end of the dinner, the Bobover Rebbe called on Zeidy to share some thoughts with the audience. In his usual manner, Zeidy’s eloquent address was enriched by numerous divrei Torah. He also expressed his gratitude and offered blessings to his many listeners. In his last years, Zeidy spent much of his time at his writing desk, transcribing his numerous lectures and Torah thoughts. He fervently believed that Israel’s miraculous victories over her Arab neighbors heralded the coming of Moshiach, and expressed this idea many times in his writings. Zeidy Moshe Yosef passed away on erev Shabbos, shortly before candle lighting, hei Adar, 5740 (1980).
î&#x20AC;Ş Abba recalls how on that Friday, though Zeidy was no longer conscious, it was clear it that he was waiting for his son Schmelke, then traveling from Montreal, to arrive at the house. And indeed, as Schmelke entered the room, Zeidy passed away, surrounded by his wife and two sons. Bobbi Sarah passed away on erev Shabbos, the 21st of Shvat, 5746 (1986). May their memory be a blessing.
At the wedding of Menachem and Annette Rubin, 1983 Obituary for Zeidy published in the Algemeiner Journal
Excerpt from a Letter addressed in 1980 by Chaim Weissman, a Former Talmid of Zeidy’s in Bucharest, to Dr. Schmelke Rubin:
…The bitter news of your father’s passing pained the very depths of my soul. My first thought was that perhaps I was obligated to tear keria. In fact that didn’t happen: I simply didn’t have the psychological or physical strength to do it. Besides, the delayed tidings raised the question of shemua rechoka. At any rate, I didn’t check the din, nor did I rend my shirt, but this news truly rent my already-torn heart. Even after all this time I haven’t got the psychological strength to concentrate and to let you know what your father, my mentor, was to me. (May the memory of the righteous be a blessing!) Just this I will say. Of all the people that I have ever known and revered, no one has ever made such an impact on me – and surely, to the end of my days, no one will ever make such an impact on me – as your father did. I was a fully believing Yid who observed mitzvos, to the best of my ability and of my understanding, even before the Rov of Cimpulung came to Bucharest. Nevertheless, from the time of our first acquaintance, a change took place, because he implanted within me a sense of belonging, unreservedly, to what is commonly known as chareidi Yiddishkeit. It was your father who opened up for me the gates to the thinking of Reb Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, and it was in your father that I first saw firsthand a full life of Torah and avodas HaShem. It goes without saying that in these few words I have expressed only a fraction of what I feel. It distresses me that during his lifetime I never repaid my spiritual debt to him – not even one drop of that vast ocean of debt, which will now remain unpaid until the coming of the Goel Tzedek.
Here lies HaRav HaGaon HaGadol — an extraordinarily eloquent man of stature who forever sought the welfare of his brethren, a scion of the tzaddikim of Kosov, Ropschitz and Belz — our mentor, HaRav Reb Moshe Yosef zatza”l Rubin, the son of HaRav HaTzaddik Admu”r Pinchos Menachem of Seret Formerly the Av Beis Din of Cimpulung, Bukovina, and later Rosh Av Beis Din of Vaad HaRabbonim of Borough Park He dedicated his entire life to fortifying the study of Torah study and the practice of Yiddishkeit During the Holocaust he was the first to establish a Vaad Hatzalah for the Yidn exiled to Transnistria, thereby saving the lives of hundreds of refugees, and in the midst of the war years he established a Mesivta in Bucharest He dedicated his later years in America to founding Geder Avos, which fought to save cemeteries and kivrei tzaddikim in Europe from destruction He passed away at a ripe old age on 4 Adar, 5740 (1980) May his soul be bound up in the Bond of Life.
Here lies a woman of noble spirit, the pride of her husband and children: Rebbitzin Sarah Rubin, wife of the Gaon HaRav Moshe Yosef Rubin – who was formerly Av Beis Din of Cimpulung, Bukovina, and later Rav Av Beis Din of Vaad HaRabbonim of Borough Park – and daughter of the holy Kabbalist HaRav Efraim Fishl She devoted her life to bringing up her children to a love of Torah and to Yiras Shamayim In Cimpulung she established an organization for the relief of needy townsmen and a Bikkur Cholim Society In the War years she opened the doors of her home and with Mesirus Nefesh provided meals for hundreds of refugees She passed away at a ripe old age on 21 Shvat, 5746 (1986) May her soul be bound up in the Bond of Life
Abba and Ima, with the participation of all their children, merited in recent years to rededicate two sifrei Torah — one in memory of their parents, Zeidy and Bobbi Rubin, and Zeide and Bobbe Drizin, and the other in memory of Abba’s four grandparents.
î&#x20AC;Ş May Hashem bless Abba and Ima with arichus yomim veshonim with much nachas from the entire family and may we all merit to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily in our days.
R’ Yitzchok HaLevi Ish Horowitz of Hamburg
R’ Zalman Perele’s
Hinda Rapaport Horowitz
R’ Avrohom Aryeh HaLevi Ish Horowitz of Brody
Baila Horowitz Rubin
R’ Menachem Mendel Rubin Linsker Rav
Devorah Horowitz (Grandaughter of Baal Hafla’ah)
R’ Manis HaLevi Ish Horowitz of Rimenov
Rochel Horowitz Rabin Chirever Rebbetzin
R’ Shmuel Schmelke Horowitz of Roman
R’ Naftoli Tzvi Horowitz Ropshitzer Rebbe
Rechel Breindel Horowitz
R’ Avrohom Chaim Horowitz - Linsker Rav
Ratza Horowitz Rubin
R’ Moshe Chaim Efroim Rabin Baligroder Rav
Gitta Horowitz Rubin
R’ Pinchos HaLevi Ish Horowitz - Volyer Rav
Chana Rabin Horowitz
R’ Elimelech Rubin Sokolover Rav
R’ Yitzchok Rubin of Brody
R’ Shmuel Schmelke Rubin Sereter Rebbe
R’ Yehoshua Lamm
Gitta Horowitz Lamm
Baila Horowitz Rubin
R’ Menachem Pinchos (Mendel) Rubin Sereter Rebbe
Miriam Lamm Roth
R’ Yosef Yehoshua Roth
Chaya Hager Rubin
(Zaidy) R’ Moshe Yosef Rubin Cimpulunger Rav
Baila Roth Rubin
R’ Shmuel Schmelke Rubin
(Abba) R’ Yaakov Kopel Rubin
R’ Yaakov Kopel Chosid Talmid of the Baal Shem Tov
R’ Pinchos Koritzer
R’Yaakov Shamshon of Shepetovka
R’ Menachem Mendel Kosover Rebbe
R’ Yehuda Meir Shapiro Shepetovker Rebbe
Sara Miriam Shapiro
R’ Chaim Hager Kosover Rebbe
Tzippora Shapiro Hager
R’ Moshe Tzvi Gitterman Savraner Rebbe
R’ Usher Yeshaya Rubin Ropshitzer Rebbe
Dinah Rubin Grandaughter of Apter Rav
R’ Sholom Rokeach First Belzer Rebbe
Malka Ramraz Rokeach
Yutta Faiga Gitterman
R’ Yosef Alter Hager Radovitzer Rebbe
Eydl Rokeach Rubin
R’ Efraim Fishl Fishman
R’ Elimelech Farkash
Reiza Fishman Farkash
R’ Shmuel Ber Farkash
R’ Pesach Moskowitz
Gittel Weisman Moskowitz
R’ Moshe Moskowitz
Frimet Gottesman Moskowitz
R’ Efraim Fishl Farkash
Chaya Moskowitz Farkash
(Bobbi) Sarah Farkash Rubin
(Zeide) R’ Avrohom Drizin
(Bobbe) Sarah HaYitzchoki Drizin
(Ima) Leah Basya Drizin Rubin
Translation of the letter (see original on page 55) from Reb Dovid Aryeh Fried, a shochet from Cimpulung, informing Zeidy, Reb Moshe Yosef Rubin, of the date of the passing of the latter’s father, Reb Mendele of Seret. B”H Thursday, the second day of Chol HaMoed Sukkos, Cimpulung Let me wish a Gmar Tov and a good and blessed year to the esteemed, pious and holy lamp of Torah and yiras Shamayim, mentor and Av Beis Din of our community – HaRav HaGaon Reb Moshe Yosef Rubin. I am writing now in response to the Rosh HaShanah card which was addressed to me by your revered self and which reached me today. I spoke with our friend Reb Pinchas, the local shochet. He [?] knows the date of the yahrzeit for certain, because his brother Yosef passed away on Wednesday night, on the eve of Thursday, 17 Cheshvan, and HaRav HaTzaddik, your father (May his zechus protect us!), passed away soon after midday on Wednesday, 16 Cheshvan. That was in the year 5702 (1941). They were both brought to burial on the same day – Thursday, 17 Cheshvan. Reb Pinchas accompanied them to the House of the Living [that is, to the cemetery] in Mogilev (Mohilev), and therefore knows the date of your father’s yahrzeit exactly, namely, 16 Cheshvan, which was the date of his passing. You ask whether I want to leave for Czechoslovakia. I am not yet able to give a clear answer because, as my dear son Zvi wrote to me from Yerushalayim, day after day I am still waiting to receive a permit [from the British mandatory authorities in Palestine] to make aliyah. That is now my entire goal, because painfully (May G-d preserve us!) I have been bereft of all my daughters and [other] sons. My sole desire is therefore to be together with the surviving remnant of my family – that is, with my dear son, to be close to him, and never again to be parted from him […]. Just now I wrote my dear son that he should assess the situation. If I am likely to receive a permit in the next few days, well and good. If he sees that I will be unable to receive a permit (G-d forbid!), he should let me know, and then with G-d’s help I will travel to Czechoslovakia. For me that is easy, because all the letters I ever received from Czechoslovakian citizens are filed with the municipal secretariat here and with the nationwide secretariat in Bucharest, [the capital city,] and I will be able to trace them. In addition, the passport that I once had is filed with the latter office, so when I approach the consul with those letters he will certainly give me a visa for admission to Czechoslavakia. All that appears to be obvious. I will now sign off, as a friend who seeks your welfare, and the welfare of your Rebbetzin (to whom my wife also sends warm regards), and the welfare of your sons, Dovid Aryeh Fried the shochet