Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin (Josh) Gordon, a beloved Torah scholar, congregational rabbi and educator who taught thousands of students around the globe through some of the world’s most widely viewed daily Torah classes, passed away last week in California after an extended illness. He was 66 years old.
A consummate rabbinic and communal leader, Rabbi Gordon was the founder and executive director of Chabad of the Valley in Southern California, established in 1973, and spiritual leader of Chabad of Encino. The rabbi oversaw a string of institutions, including 26 Chabad centers, Hebrew schools, adult-education institutes, summer camps and a host of other closely linked communal institutions.
Rabbi Gordon was an internationally acclaimed teacher of Torah, speaking in a style that was both lucid and highly engaging. Since 2009, his classes have streamed live on Chabad.org’s Jewish.tv, bringing Torah to thousands of eager students all over the globe, including extraordinarily popular daily classes in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, Chumash with Rashi’s commentary and Tanya.
Rabbi Gordon was born in 1949 in New Jersey to Rabbi Sholom B. and Miriam Gordon, Chabad emissaries to Newark, then a thriving Jewish metropolis. His father was rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Zion, at the time one of the largest synagogues in Newark, while his mother taught at its Hebrew and Sunday school, and led the city’s Chabad women’s organization.
After studying at Chabad yeshivahs in France and in Montreal, and then following his marriage to Deborah Pozepoff, the young rabbi and his wife moved to Detroit in 1972 to join the growing network of Chabad rabbis in the city.
In 1973, the Gordons were recruited by West Coast emissary Rabbi Shlomo Cunin to establish the Chabad in the San Fernando Valley. Beginning in a small home under the rabbi’s stewardship, Chabad in the Valley grew to encompass 26 centers, each one a vibrant generator of Jewish life.
Commenting on the rabbi’s outsized impact on the Jews of the Valley, radio talk-show host Dennis Prager noted: “This was largely a Jewish desert, Southern California, and there came a few rabbis, including Rabbi and Mrs. Gordon. If you would have said there will be 25 Chabad centers in the San Fernando Valley, they’d think you are as nutty as I am when I say I just visited Chabad of Cambodia.”
Although Rabbi Gordon had been teaching a daily class for decades, he had resisted recording the sessions. After regular attendee Daniel Aharonoff persisted locally—and Chabad.org’s leadership in New York relentlessly worked to convince him—the rabbi finally agreed to let the camera roll. In June 2009, Rabbi Gordon entered living rooms and boardrooms across the world.
The recordings remain on Jewish.tv, where thousands continue to study them on a daily basis. In the last year alone, his classes have been viewed more than 1.86 million times.
Off-camera, the rabbi was a patient and caring mentor to his community, as well as the many emissaries who sought his advice from all over the world.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children: Rabbi Yossi Gordon (Woodland Hills, Calif.), Yochanan Gordon (Tarzana, Calif.), Faygie Herzog (Encino, Calif.), Eli Gordon (Encino, Calif.), Dena Rabin (West Hills, Calif.) and Chaya Mushka Drizin (Los Angeles); in addition to his children-in-law and grandchildren. He is also survived by siblings Yocheved Baitelman (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Chani Friedman (St. Paul, Minn.), Rabbi Yosef Y. Gordon (Melbourne, Australia), Bluma Rivkin (New Orleans), Rabbi Mendel Gordon (London) and Frumie Posner (Birmingham, Ala.).