Photos: Bochurim Receive Visit from Talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchonon, Rav Boruch Ber, and Mir Poland


Imagine meeting a man who met the Chofetz Chaim. Who remembers when the concept of Bais Yaakov was controversial. A man who remembers Rav Elchonon Wasserman and with what kindness and care he treated his mother. Imagine meeting a man whose nearly century-long memory is crystal-sharp and whose gentility and charm have lasted all along the way.

This past week, the talmidim of Rav Yisroel Goldblatt’s yeshiva, Yeshiva Keser Torah in Lakewood, NJ, were visited by Rabbi Menashe Tzvi Winkler, who shared memories going back over ninety years – of his rich childhood in the close-knit, Torah-true kehillah of Copenhagen, Denmark; of his yeshiva days in Radin and Baranovitch; and of his escape to Sweden on a fishing boat in 1943.

Rabbi Winkler grew up in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, where his father became the rov of Machzikei Hadas.

A Yerushalmi who had learnt under Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, his father was a choshuve talmid chochom and community leader who knew Shas, both Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, as well as Sifri, Sifra and Tosefta. He was also a member of the Moetzes Gedolai Hatorah.

The last time he saw his father, Reb Menashe Tzvi was twelve years old and his father was traveling to America on a mission for Keren Hatorah, the organization of Agudas Yisrael for yeshivos worldwide. He went to raise money among German Jews in Washington Heights. One Shabbos, while in America, his father had a heart attack. They sent Reb Menashe Tzvi’s mother a telegram saying that her husband was “hingeshiden,” meaning niftar. Reb Menashe Tzvi was thirteen at that time and his only brother was eleven.

When Reb Menashe Tzvi was fourteen years old, his mother allowed him to go to Radin to join the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva. Reb Menashe Tzvi traveled to meet the Chofetz Chaim where he was staying in a village in the middle of a pine tree forest close to Radin. This was three weeks before the Chofetz Chaim was niftar, and he was very weak. Reb Menashe Tzvi shook hands with him. The Chofetz Chaim greeted Reb Menashe Tzvi and bentched him: “Shalom Aleichem. Zei gezunt… Shteigen in lernen…”

There were about two hundred members of the Radin Yeshiva at the time. Rav Mendel Zaks was among them, and the mashgiach was Rav Eliezer Kaplan. Reb Menashe Tzvi remembers Rav Moshe Londinski, Rav Yehoshua Lenenson and the menahel, Rav Hillel Ginsburg.

Later, Reb Menashe Tzvi went to learn by Rav Elchonon Wasserman in Baranovitch, where he stayed for one-and-a-half years. Reb Menashe Tzvi then learnt in Kamenitz under Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l.

Reb Menashe Tzvi eventually went to the Mir as well. He remembers Rav Chatzkel Levenstein’s mussar shmuessen and the way he emphasized bein adam lachaveiro, consideration for one’s fellow man.

Reb Menashe Tzvi’s friends from that time were Rav Yisroel Kanarek, Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro and Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, and in the Mir, Rav Leib Bakst.

Reb Menashe Tzvi’s wife, Esther Rivka Bezbroda, was part of the kehillah in Copenhagen, where they were introduced to each other and married. Their wedding actually took place under the German occupation of Copenhagen, when they had already heard news that there was going to be deportations of Jews. The wedding was quick, short and simple, and only closest friends were invited.

Reb Menashe Tzvi remembered, “Most of the Yidden found hiding places with gentile acquaintances. I hid with my wife, mother and mother-in-law with somebody my brother-in-law knew. My brother was hiding with another gentile. We hid for ten days while the Danish found fishing boats for us. They smuggled us to boats and we left to Sweden on Erev Yom Kippur. When we got close to Sweden, we saw Swedish soldiers waiting for us in their boats, welcoming us to Sweden. We landed in Lanskrona, a shore town with a Jewish community. (We later moved to Malmoe.) We brought nothing, but the Yidden there helped us, as did the Swedish government. The first job I got in Sweden was to clean rugs. I shlepped the carpets outside and banged the dirt out of them with a stick. I later got a job as a bookkeeper. We stayed in Sweden for a year and a half until May 1945, when we went back to Copenhagen. At the pier in Denmark, the gentiles gathered to welcome us back. It was very touching.”

When asked to what he attributes his bracha of arichus yomim, Reb Menashe Tzvi says, “The Aibishter gives. I did receive a bracha from the Chofetz Chaim of ‘Zei gezunt.’ I had a healthy and worry-less childhood in Denmark. My wife a”h took care of me for sixty-seven years.”


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{Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. How old is this man ? He’s gotta be at least 99 yrs old, bec the Chofetz Chaim was Niftar before the war started, any age for this man plz ?

  2. While R. Menashe is * far * from the oldest person in the world, or even the oldest Yid, or oldest frum Yid, it was still nice to see him.

    I remember R. Menashe Zvi fondly from when he lived in Brooklyn, on 16th avenue, some years back. Boruch Hashem, people are living longer these days. There are more people now over one hundred years old than there have ever been, it seems. So it is not as exceptional as it was at other times in the past.

    Not mentioned above are R. Menashe’s exemplary middos tovos, which are also a zechus for arichas yomim, as mentioned more than once in the gemara.

    To my friend ר’ מנשה שליט”א, I wish a כתיבה וחתימה טובה וכל טוב.

    כי אורך ימים ושנות חיים ושלום יוסיפו לך בעזרת השי”ת

  3. Kol hakavod to Yeshiva Keser Torah for making this happen. It is difficult to think of a better person to put in front of bochrim to speak than a person who actually saw these gedoli olam and ovdei Hashem.

  4. i grew up a few blocks away from him in Lakewood where he currently lives & still remember seeing him every morning in his Eighties waking up & walking with his briefcase to davening & then heading to work to continue supporting his family.

    may we all be blessed to have strength to still be working into our eighties

    may he continue living in health & happiness until after 120

  5. FYI, How old he is?
    Please READ:
    “When Reb Menashe Tzvi was *fourteen* years old, his mother allowed him to go to Radin to join the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva. Reb Menashe Tzvi traveled to meet the Chofetz Chaim where he was staying in a village in the middle of a pine tree forest close to Radin. This was *three weeks before the Chofetz Chaim was niftar*”

    The Chafetz Chaim was nifter Elul 5693/1933. You do the math.