Written by his grandchildren
How does one begin to write about a man who was a fixture in the community, a beloved Zaidy and Super-Zaidy to his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a man who utilized every day of his 99 years? With what words can we be maspid him?
Zaidy was born in Cheshvan 5674 and grew up in Sosnovitz, Poland. As a young boy, Zaidy lost his younger brother in a tragic accident and before his bar mitzvah, his mother passed away from an incurable illness. Money was scarce and Zaidy decided to help the family. Zaidy learned how to be a printer and excelled at this trade. Zaidy’s father, Nosson Mordechai, z’l, was a devout Radomsker chossid, and Zaidy absorbed the teachings of the Radomsker Rebbe and embodied those qualities that the yeshiva stood for: yashrus in all that one does, dignity in action and appearance, and emunah and bitachon without questions.
When the Nazis destroyed Zaidy’s town, they also shattered Zaidy’s family. His father and four of his five sisters were murdered. Zaidy was sent to Auschwitz, where he zealously kept track of the days of the week. When Shabbos arrived, Zaidy sang Kabbolas Shabbos using niggunei Radomsk and welcomed Shabbos into the camp. Upon liberation, Zaidy had two dreams: to raise a Yiddishe family and to rebuild the royal court of Radomsk. Zaidy used to say that if he wasn’t killed al kiddush Hashem, then it was his job to live al kiddush Hashem. In fact, the number tattooed by the Nazis onto Zaidy’s arm was 171962, the sum of which is 26-the gematria of shem Hashem.
Zaidy truly did carry Hashem with him wherever he went, both in public and in private. After the war, Zaidy went to Sweden where he met and married his eishes chayil of 65 years, ybl’c Chaya Raizel Stern. Bubby and Zaidy moved to New York in 1951, recognizing that life in Sweden, though comfortable, would not allow them to build the Torah home they aspired to create. With the skills he learned as a printer, Zaidy tried to find employment. He was offered a golden opportunity to work for the US Mint, but he turned it down-Zaidy would not work on Shabbos. For 11 years, every Friday afternoon, Zaidy would return home with a paycheck, and the news that he had been fired. Bubby recalls that not once during those difficult years did Zaidy ever complain about the challenges he encountered; Zaidy truly believed: “Ki eshmera Shabbos, Kel yishmiraini.” When Zaidy finally found one job that wouldn’t require him to work on Shabbos, there was one caveat; he needed to take a certification exam that was only given on Friday afternoon. And so, Zaidy took the exam and slept on the floor of the factory that Friday night, eating his lonely Shabbos meals far from his family so that he would not be mechalel Shabbos.
In 1963, Zaidy and Bubby opened their own printing shop, Mash Printing, in Boro Park. With pride, Zaidy and Bubby would close the store for Shabbos. One Sunday, a man burst into the store. “You!” he shouted as he pointed at Zaidy. “You close the store on Shabbos and walk around with a yarmulke on your head! It’s Jews like you who will bring Hitler to America!” But nothing would deter Zaidy. Shabbos was his special day, the day he honored above all else. Zaidy quietly whispered, “L’kavod Shabbos kodesh” before partaking of any food on Shabbos, and sang zemiros with joy. Zaidy, who was so careful to honor Shabbos and to keep Shabbos, was zoche to be niftar on Shabbos.
Zaidy’s dedication to his Rebbe earned him a bracha for arichus yamim. The Radomsker Rebbe’s daughter was married for many years without children. The Rebbe asked for a bracha from the Minchas Elazar, the Munkaczer Rebbe, and he promised the couple that they would have a son if they agreed that he could act as mohel and sandek at the bris. The Munkaczer Rebbe arrived in Radomsk for the bris a year later, and zealous youths who disagreed with some of the ideas of Munkacz decided to protest against his presence there. The Radomsker Rebbe instructed some talmidim to protect the kavod of the Munkaczer at all costs. The Rebbe was so moved that there were bochurim willing to risk personal injury to protect his kavod, that he blessed them with arichas yamim. Of the bochurim that Zaidy knew, each lived into his 90’s, including Zaidy, who was zoche to live to 99 years old.
Zaidy put his energy and resources into preserving the Radomsker chassidus. The few remaining survivors of Radomsk established the Radomsker shteeble in Boro Park. Zaidy and the shteeble were inseparable. Zaidy would scrub the floors, stack the sefarim, and roll the sifrei Torah to make sure that the shteeble was in order. Zaidy performed all these tasks with joy and with love. Zaidy was an accomplished ba’al tefillah and the niggunim of Radomsk would come alive on the Yomim Noraim when Zaidy would daven for the kehillah. Until right before his petirah, Zaidy was still davening for the amud with a bren that was reminiscent of yesteryear. How appropriate that Zaidy’s shloshim fell out on the same day as the yarzheit of the second Radomsker Rebbe, a date that Zaidy was so careful to honor each year, which was honored by him even after he was niftar.
Zaidy’s avodas Hashem was inspiring to witness. When Zaidy was liberated, all he asked from the Va’ad Hatzolah was for tzizis and a yarmulke. Zaidy was makpid to daven every tefillah with a minyan, even toward the end of his life. Grandchildren have vivid memories of Zaidy’s palpable joy when lighting the menorah, the way his face would shine while in the sukkah, and how he would kiss the mezuzah on every doorpost. Zaidy’s sefarim were well-worn and very few people knew until after he was niftar that Zaidy completed Shas at least 14 times.
Zaidy’s simchas hachayim was legendary. His blue eyes twinkled with a joy for life that defied the horrors he survived. Zaidy had a great sense of humor and an infectious laugh and greeted everyone with a warm smile. Toward the end of his life, many people would stop Zaidy in shul or on the street and ask for a bracha. A yid who embodied simcha who also had a number on his arm-from him it was a zechus to receive a bracha.
Zaidy was his happiest when surrounded by his family. Every year on Pesach, the anniversary of his liberation from Auschwitz, he would look around the table at the generations that he was zoche to have, and he would stand up with tears in his eyes and cry out, “B’chol dor v’dor! They tried to destroy us and look what I have! V’Hakadosh Baruch Hu matzilanu miyadam! Look what I have!”
Zaidy, take pride in the yiddishe doros you’ve established and be a meilitz yosher for the family and for all of klal Yisrael.
Yehi zichro boruch.