Rav Avner German zt”l

52

avner-germanIt is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rav Avner German zt”l, renowned menahel of Be’er Hagolah Institutes, which was founded in 1979 at the behest of gedolim including Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, Rav Shneur Kotler and Rav Avrohom Pam, as a kiruv initiative to draw close our brethren who hailed from the former Soviet Union.

Rav Avner also served as rov of Cong. Bnai Israel, first in East New York and later in Starret City, Brooklyn, where he resided.

Rav Avner utilized a unique approach to chinuch that was the secret of success at Be’er Hagolah. Rav Avner understood that each child must be educated as an individual on his own level. He knew that each student comes from a different background and requires individualized, tailor-made chinuch according to each child’s level.

Rav Avner famously always insisted that Yiddishkeit must come alive for the talmidim of the school. The children cannot just be taught about Purim, Pesach, Sukkos or Shabbos, he would say. They must experience a Shabbos, a Purim and a Pesach.

Thanks to Rav Avner’s efforts, Be’er Hagolah has graduated thousands of students from both its boys’ and girls’ divisions. Every student who has passed through Be’er Hagolah has undergone a profound metamorphosis from the day of entry to the day of graduation. Virtually all entered with very minimal knowledge of observance and all left profoundly changed. Many have gone on to the best yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs and some are even repaying the community by becoming teachers of the next generation of Russian children. They are Rav Avner’s talmidim and talmidos, and their students are Rav Avner’s students. His impact on Klal Yisroel is inestimable.

These children, many who are now adults, are the legacy of Rav Avner German, a trailblazer who accomplished so much during his lifetime.

The mass exodus from the Former Soviet Union was truly a dream come true.  After years of tears and prayers, the floodgates opened and the immigrants began pouring on to our shores.  But that was only half the story.  The other half was a miracle brought about by Rav German that is actually still unfolding. It’s the story of children who are returning to their roots. The story of youngsters who are confronting their Yiddishkeit for the very first time. It is the story of the miracle happening at Be’er Hagolah thanks to the mesirus nefesh of Rav Avner.

The halls of Be’er Hagolah are vibrant and alive with the sounds of happy children. It is the largest school in the United States which educates Soviet immigrant children and provides them with a Torah education. Over eight hundred and fifty students attend Be’er Hagolah, spanning every level from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, boys and girls. Yet, while Rav Avner took great pride in his school’s many achievements, he refused to rest on his laurels.  He was always well aware that there are still thousands of immigrant children attending public school and desperately in need a Jewish education. Not a day went by that Rav Avner didn’t worry about how he can reach out to more Yiddishe neshamos and bring them into the warm Torah environment of his mosad. He lived and breathed what he viewed as his mission in spreading the word of Hashem.

Rav Avner and Be’er Hagolah worked tirelessly with the students as well as the many hundreds of former students, ensuring that they are maintaining a Torah-true lifestyle. There are Be’er Hagolah alumni, young men and women, studying in yeshivos gedolos, in prestigious seminaries, in the working environment, and on college campuses, who still maintained a strong and vibrant kesher with Rav Avner. Many of them maintain leadership positions on the campuses or in their communities. There are Be’er Hagolah graduates walking the streets of Brooklyn, Lakewood, Eretz Yisroel, and elsewhere, who are virtually indistinguishable from their American-born peers. They all credit their successes to Rav Avner and the love and devotion he demonstrated toward them.

These students and all of Klal Yisroel today mourn the passing of a giant in the field of kiruv and chinuch, an innovator who leaves a void that cannot be filled.

The levaya will take place today, at 1:30 p.m. at Beer Hagolah Institutes/Cong. Bnai Israel, located at 671 Louisiana Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, 11239.

Rav Avner is survived by his children, Rabbi Mordechai German, Mrs. Rochel Shlomowitz, Mrs. Nechama Pohrille, Mrs. Bruria Rotkin, Mrs. Shifra Brog and Mrs. Yocheved Shulman. His son, Rav Avrohom Yeshaya German zt”l, was niftar last month. His wife,  Rebbetzin Laya German a”h, passed away several years ago.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{Casriel Bauman-Matzav.com Newscenter}

52 COMMENTS

  1. oi oi oi … tatte in himmel ….
    i was not a talmid at be’er hagolah & didnt know him personally as the great mechanech etc. that he was. but i knew rav germain since i was a younsgter. such a gem of a mentsh. a shining example of a true “hechere” talmid chachom, shown in all his actions; such torahdike warmth, ahavas yisrael, toradike wisdom, yiras shamyim, anivus.etc. etc.
    i only wish i would have had the opportunity to be with him more often & learn so much from him. t.n.ts. bitsror hachayim

  2. He was my Rav in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. He impacted many young people from the ENY projects. My Yiddishkeit and that of my family if due to his influence. I am so very sad by his passing

  3. May Rabbi German once again tear down the Iron Curtain of Galus and be quickly reunited in Yerushalayim with his family and all his talmidim.

  4. Don’t forget the many fruitful years, before Be’er HaGolah, that Rabbi German spent as rabbi of Cong. B’nai Israel on Hendrix Street in East New York. He was an eloquent speaker whose sermons inspired many.

    Besides a large congregation, he led an after-school Hebrew school that graduated thousands of students, many of whom considered him their rabbi even decades later. Some of those students went on to study in yeshivas and to raise observant families.

    When that shul closed because of demographic changes, he did not despair. That was when he moved to Starrett City and opened Be’er HaGolah.

  5. BDE daey ltzerusaynu. He was zoche to have many choshuveh children and grandchildren espically my rebbi Harav Brog and his choshuveh rebetzin who are the pillar stones in Peekskill yeshiva. May he be a mailtiz yosher for gantz klal yisroel

  6. I knew him for over fifty years. In addition to everything else he was a fantastic person.

    Woe for he who is lost and can not be found!!!

  7. I cant believe he is gone. Less then a month ago I visited him at the shiva of his son. He was full of vigor and life. Those who knew him are forever privileged to have met such an extraordinary man in thier lifetime.
    Rebbe, I will miss you dearly. You had me reach heights in Torah that noone else believed I could. I am forever indebted to you my dear Rebbe. May Hashem send us Moshiah soon, so that we may dance with you once more to your favorite song “Kel Bnai”. May Hashem console the hearts of your children, and the hearts of all those youve left behind. Baruch Dayan Emet!

  8. This is truly a tragedy in our community. He was a great mentor and a wonderful leader who will surely be missed by his many students and all those who knew him.

  9. 22 years ago when i was 10 years old I went to shul on shabbos and wentover to the Rabbi to say good shabbos. He invited me to his house and i was there almost every shabbos till he sent me to one of the to yeshivos. My whole familys yideshkeit comes from this Tzadik and I am just one of many many families.May he be a mailtiz yosher for gantz klal yisroel

  10. I am saddened by the death of this wonderful Rabbi. I am one of the kids who attended Hebrew School at Congregation B’nai Israel back in the 1950’s, and I have always considered Rabbi German to be “my rabbi.” I reconnected with him several years ago at his Plaza Hotel celebration, and he later officiated at the funerals of both of my parents. He was truly special and will be missed.

  11. I remember the first time when I walked into Be’er Hagolah. I heard a friendly voice coming from someone. I turn around and realize it was Rabbi German. I aslo remember this passed summer when I had my bunk in the Gemara room, Rabbi German came inside to check if the room was clean. There was paper and crayons on the desk. He started to make me and my campers laugh by drawing random pictures and the paper and laughing as well. It’s so hard to believe that a Tzaddik like Rabbi German had to go. I will miss him greatly but his neshama will always be with us no matter what.

  12. 13 years ago he came to my son bar mitsva. I was very shock . As a principle of the Yeshiva of Beerhagola he left all his responsibilities and duties and came to congratulate his student my son and made a beutiful speech. He cares for each student. He will be deeply missed.

  13. Rabbi German was OUR Rabbi from the time I was 6 years old in ENY. His smile and the twinkle in his eyes, and the warmth of his Rebbetzin helped make Cong B’nai Israel a home for many future B’nai and B’not Torah. We always turned to him for answers to questions, and he comforted us in times of sorrow. His legacy of love for Torah and Klal Yisrael will continue to light the way for many generations. We will miss hime and will continue to strive to make him proud. Baruch Dayan Ha’emet.

  14. May Rabbi German rest in peace, for eternity.
    He was a leader, a mentor, an educator and a very fine man. We who knew him are all so much better off. He gave his ALL to his family, friends, congregants and community. May G-d bless Rabbi Avner German!

  15. The Rabbi presided at B’nai Israel in ENY during the Late 50’s and 60,s and into the 70’s. He was the shepherd of a group of misfits wise guys,some of whom became financially very successful some who became spritually successful most who just became your basic average joe ….but all without a doubt were better for having Rabbi Avner German in their lives… A remarkable man and I didnt know much about the rebbies work thru his Shul and Yeshiva but I can tell you first hand that his philosophy of providing each child a tailore and individual education was way ahead of his time and I experienced it first hand in the early sixties .. i was alousy student in conventional school however i excelled at Hebrew school because of the Rabbi….. The world has lost great man and we are worse off for his opassing
    May he rest in peace

  16. My earliest experience with Rabbi German was in the early 60’s at Congregation B’nai Israel on Hendrix St. We followed him to Starrett City which I lived until 2005 he was a great man, RIP Rabbi German

  17. HE WAS THE REASON MOST OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS STAYED CLEAN AND SOBER–MAKING SURE WE ALL CAME TO HEBREW SCHOOL–STANDING ON THE FRONT STEPS UNTIL WE ALL ARRIVED–ONCE WE THOUGHT WE WOULD CUT HEBREW–AND WHILE WE WERE EATING AT BELLA PIZZERIA–REBBI GERMAN (RONOUNCED GERMAIN) WALTZED RIGHT INTO THE PIZZARIA AND PULLED US OUT–TO GO TO HEBREW–P.S HE NEVER RATTED US OUT TO OUR PARENTS-A GREAT RABBI–A COOL GUY-AND WE ALL LOVED HIM AT B’NAI ISRAEL–REST IN PEASE MY BELOVED RABBI AND FRIEND

  18. HE WAS THE REASON MOST OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS STAYED CLEAN AND SOBER–MAKING SURE WE ALL CAME TO HEBREW SCHOOL–STANDING ON THE FRONT STEPS UNTIL WE ALL ARRIVED–ONCE WE THOUGHT WE WOULD CUT HEBREW–AND WHILE WE WERE EATING AT BELLA PIZZERIA–RABBI GERMAN (PRONOUNCED GERMAIN) WALTZED RIGHT INTO THE PIZZARIA AND PULLED US OUT–TO GO TO HEBREW–P.S HE NEVER RATTED US OUT TO OUR PARENTS-A GREAT RABBI–A COOL GUY-AND WE ALL LOVED HIM AT B’NAI ISRAEL–REST IN PEASE MY BELOVED RABBI AND FRIEND

  19. BARUCH DAYAN HAEMES

    OY! HE WAS A BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG TZADDIK!!!! THIS IS SUCH A LOSS FOR THE WORLD!!!! PLEASE DAVEN SO HIS NESHAMA CAN GO HIGHER AND HIGHER!!!!

    Thank You

  20. Dear Rabbi German (pronounced germain),
    You were always like a grandfather to me and knew me before I knew myself. Through life’s ups an downs, you never judged and never let them see you sweat.
    It was my/our honor to have you officiate at our wedding. That was a dream come true for me since I was a little girl.
    You always welcomed everyone into your home, and everyone in the starrett city community and far beyond, knew you and respected you.
    I couldnt understand why i was feeling so sick sat night, all night. A pain of what I now know was a soul, your soul, passing away..
    It was a dear childhood friend who thought of me and called me to let me know on one hand and to confirm on the other, he also hoping it wasnt true.
    Even in your advanced age, you had the spirit of a young man and the wisdom of only a few.
    I thank you for everything you did for our family and hope you are with the rebbetzen and your family in a place you never feared.
    Gd bless you rabbi, a human who did gd’s work.

  21. Rabbi German it’s only hitting me now that your absence from this world can never replace the atmosphere that BHI was with you leading it. I came home from your levaya and cried. And I cry now again. I will sorely miss you and Rebbetzin who was the most inspiring woman and educator that I’ve come across. We were privileged to be your students at BHI. BHI was my shul, my Jewish identity, my school, and a second home. You were my Rov. Who will be my shul, my Rov and my BHI now? BDE, Rest In Peace

    We Will Forever Remember

  22. My brother,sister and I were all students under the Rabbi,at the Shul on Hendrix street. He was always a freind and even a father when he had to be. RIP Rabbi, your power was in what you taught us and what we learned from you as children and adults.

  23. rabbi Germain you will always be missed and never be forgotten you were an Extraordinary man not even words can describe. I know that you were suffering for a long time without the rebbetzen by your side and i know now your reunited with her and my rebbe your son R.I.P.

  24. I had the merit of being a student of rabbi German, he was a person that didn’t give up on any individual no matter how bad the student was. When he teaches a halacha or a insight in Torah, he makes sure u know it 100% and will always remember that halacha for the rest of our lives. I really enjoied every second of his teachings and really am grateful that he opened his arms to me and my family. Rabbi German and his family should always be blessed . I am forever indebted to you.

  25. I was a resident of Starret City for many years and he was the Rabbi. Through services that were held in the “bubble” during the high holy days in the late 70’s to the shul in the shopping center to Beer Haagolah, he should tolerance and love for all his conversation no matter how religious or non religious we were. He Bar Mitzvahd me and we went down to the wire to learn my haftorah over and over til the day I got it right. Not to mention presiding over both my grandmother and grandfathers funeral, where even though a straightforward man actually shed a tear when my grandfather, who was active in the shul and in the Jewish War veterans passed away. Thank you Rabbi German for all you have done for all of us and may you always be blessed in hashems light!

  26. My grandpa’s and father davened with you under the “big tent” when we first moved to starret city in 1975. You bar-mitzvahed my best friends brother, married me, and named my daughter in shul. May your neshama elevate.

  27. I was a student at Cong B’nai Israel in ENY, was a Bar Mitzvah there and he officiated at my wedding – he will be missed by many

  28. I can say that everyone has written all of the greatness & virtues of this man, this scholar, this Rabbi, but I do have some things to add. Besides being “My Rabbi” like so many others, he was for some time more to me. He helped me through my times @ Congregation Bnai Israel. I remember first as a store front shul, to a building on Hendrix St. to a new building next door. I was the 1st to get bar mitzvahed in the “new” building. It was not even done yet, but being it August, as long as there was lights, A/C and seats, I wanted it in there. A year later, my mom died and the Rabbi, took me in more like a son where I spent much time with him. During my year of mourning, he & I went bike riding most mornings to Eastern Pkwy to daven and then home to eat and learn what is important about being Jewish. He taught me to lead the services with the evening minyan daily. I spent every Shabbat with him and his family. His wife’s cholent was to die for. I remember spending much time with his 2 sons, just like I was a brother to them, I felt. I would never have made it through without him. He later married my wife & I in his apartment in Starrett City. He again came to my rescue when my dad passed away years later. I also made it my need to be with him when he was honored at the Plaza. A few weeks ago, I received something from him for my father’s upcoming Yahtzeit and I thought, it was time to contact my Rebbe and just talk. I waited too long, but I am still talking to him and will never stop. You are missed.

  29. What a special person, what a role model! Growing up in ENY I too saw his and his wife’s dedication to spreading Yidishkeit. His home was opened to everyone, making time to listen to everyone’s problems. ENY wasn’t Boro Park but walking into his house you would never know. The level of Kashrus, Shabbos, Torah Learning& making sure the children all had proper Yeshiva educations were of utmost importance to the Germans’.So many lives were touched, so many lives were changed. May his family follow in his (their) footsteps and be comforted knowing how much they accomplished. May they be a meilitz yashar for everyone. Hamakon Yinachem Eschem Bisoch Shar Aveili Tzion Vyirushalayim

  30. I must say that these comments show the many sides of Rabbi German. He was at the core a good person. The years went on from the Lower East Side synagogue days and I knew him as an elderly rabbi and principal. I first met Rabbi German in the late 80’s when my grandfather took to me to Starret City holiday services when they were held in the Starret Community Center and under a big tent from what I recall. There was no Be’er Hagolah in Starret then and Rabbi German went door to door asking for donations himself. Even then, he showed physical enthusiasm few at that age possess. It took from 1974 to 1992 for the actual synagogue to be built. Funds were low and donations were scarce.

    The dream was finally achieved and the synagogue and yeshiva were built. Rabbi German had been involved with Be’er Hagolah when Mrs. Kaufman was principal back in the Kings Highway location. Rabbi German, even from the recollection of alumni now in their 40’s, was always involved with activities for boys. He always cared, even though most never appreciated it at the time.

    When I was 13, my mother was pregnant with twin and miscarried them. Shortly before the miscarriage I told Rabbi German that she had been very sick and he promptly had a brocha said during the reading of the Torah. He did it instantly and never asked me to give him money, which was customary and expected. As I grew up I realized how rare it was for someone to do something simply because he or she cared. He did it out of the goodness of his heart for a boy who would probably never see him after the school years ended.

    His wife was just the same. Very compassionate. The last time I went to see Rabbi German was during the shiva for Rebetzin German. Shabbos had just ended and the phone rang suddenly to convey the news that Rabbi German’s granddaughter gave birth to a girl and they named her Leah in honor of Rebetzin German. Rabbi German cried terribly both with immense grief and happiness. His wife’s memory would continue but life sadly went on. It was a bittersweet moment. He truly loved his wife and was never the same without her.

    As I grow older I have thought about Rabbi German and realize he was human just like the rest of us. When we were children, we assumed the staff didn’t have lives outside of school. Of course now I realize that’s conventional thinking of foolish children. What I found out later was that for years Rabbi German’s wife and son battled cancer. The pressure and sadness that must have been in his life cannot be expressed with words.

    Also, as he grew older the stress of being a principal of a 1000 children, managing his staff, and running a synagogue with its own challenges, must have been a burden at times. He was a full-time CEO in corporate terms. All the responsibility rested on his shoulders. His patience was tested many times and his response to challenges varied, but he kept doing what he felt was right.

    Lastly, I think that his lasting legacy was that he was someone who believed in what he did, notwithstanding the exasperation and irritations of trying to bring Jews closer to religion. He was a young man from St. Paul, Minnesota whose parents had come from Gomel in what was then Czarist Russia in 1904. He was the youngest of many siblings, and from what I remember hearing he was the only one who remained religious like his parents who passed away over 50 years ago when Rabbi German was a young man. I believe it was this example of his religious parents that carried him through life and his mission, which was to bring Jewish children and adults closer to Torah. He did that for 60 years and he will be remember for many more after. May he rest in peace.

  31. I remember Rabbi German from his cong in ENY, from exciting visits to his Shabbas or Yom Tov table. He always tried to include me and my family in everything. His love of Learning was infectious. It was evident that this spread to his kids. The recent passing of his son Rabbi Avram Yeshya, who was also very into kiruv, must have broken his heart. It brings me much joy that his son Rabbi Mordechai will lead Cong B’nai Israel for the next generation.
    Besides his son, he is survived by his five daughters and by two sisters. ( His sisters both raised fine modern orthodox families.)
    I will miss his gigantic but humble personality.

  32. My rabbi for my whole life starting in East New York on Hendrix street. He officiated at my bar mitzvah, my father’s funeral and my wedding. When my father died Rabbi German told me my father was a TZADIK EVEN THOUGH MY FATHER WAS NOT RELIGIOUS. Rabbi German was a true RABBI in every sense of the word. He lived and breathed yiddishkeit. I was never strictly observant and when I told Rabbi German that I was working on shabbos until 2pm he told me I was just in time for MINCHA and MAARIV. That is a GREAT RABBI and will always be MY RABBI- I will miss him greatly. HE IS WITH HASHEM NOW-

  33. There was an Orthodox Jewish boy who lived in Starret City. He was in his mid-teens and decided to go to Blockbuster video in the shopping plaza to steal a movie. The boy put the video in his Tefilin bag and of course, sensors detected it. The police were called and they were ready to arrest him and take him to central booking. The boy panicked and police asked if he has an adult who can be contacted about this. They called Rabbi German and the boy was let off the hook because Rabbi German convinced them that he would make sure this would never happen again. He said that as the rav of the shul the boy attends he would make sure this would never happen again.

    The young boy was let go and never arrested. Who knows what would have happened had he been arrested? Rabbi German never told his parents. He was a life saver.

  34. One particular day in February 2000 Rabbi German was contacted by a family that once lived in Starrett. Their son committed suicide.

    The authorities scheduled the autopsy for Friday afternoon. Rabbi German had to get in his car and race toward upstate NY to be present during the autopsy in order to make sure the coroner removed the bullets and did not desecrate the body. He dropped everything he was doing to make sure a young man, who had moved away years ago and once attended the shul, was not dishonored by the autopsy. Rabbi German attended and made sure everything was done according to Jewish law.

    A real mitzvah if there ever was one.

  35. I was shocked to hear about the passing to Heaven of Rabbi Germain.I was out of state for a month and just found out last night.
    As a Jew and a resident of Starrett city for many years i had the honor of getting to know the wisdom and passion of the Rabbi.
    I know now that he is with his precious wife and son and all his pain of their untimely loss will now be a reunion of joy. G-D bless you Rabbi you are a true Blessing.

  36. I JUST FOUND OUT THIS EVENING THAT PASSING OF
    RABBI GERMAIN. MY MEMORIES OF RABBI GERMAIN
    WHEN HE FIRST ARRIVED IN BROOKLYN IN THE EARLY
    60S FROM THE MIDWEST.HE BECAME THE RABBI FOR
    BNAI ISRAEL WHERE I ATTENDED HEBREW SCHOOL.I
    ALWAYS ENJOY ATTENDING THE HIGH HOLY DAYS
    WITH MY FAMILY AT HIS SHUL.WHEN MY FATHER PASSED AWAY
    RABBI GERMAIN GAVE A VERY NICE EULOGY.THAT IS TRUE
    IF YOU WERE PLAYING HOOKY FROM HEBREW SCHOOL RABBI
    GERMAIN WILL FIND YOU IN BELLAS PIZZA.REST IN PEACE
    I WILL REMBER YOU FOR ALL THE GOOD THINGS YOU
    DID FOR THE JEWISH COMMUNITY.

  37. Tears are still in my eyes AND HEART FOR THE PASSING OF THIS GREAT WARM,LOVING RABBI,HE WAS A GREAT INFLUENCE TO MY SON AND SURELY HAD BEEN KEPT IN OUR LIFE AS THE FATHER HE HADN’T HAD FOR SO MANY OF HIS CHILDHOOD YEARS.
    HE ALSO WAS A BIG INFLUENCE IN HIS LIFE AND LITERALLY KEPT MY FAMILY TOGETHER.
    HE OFFICIATED AT MY DAUGHTERS Marriage and my son’s bar mitzvah,… and a truLy loviing man, my strings ARE STILL IN BROOKLYN AFTER i moved to new jersey.MY SON SHUMMEL WENT TO MANY DINNERS SABBATH AT HIS HOME,i WILL EVER BE GREATFUL TO HIS SOUL,
    WE CAN keep HIM IN OUR HEART AND MIND ALWAYS, there is PEACE IN OUR HEARTS BECAUSE OF
    Rabbi Avner Germain.

  38. There are no words for this Titan who was truly Larger than life. When I would tell people where I lived, Starret City,or where i went to school, Beer Hagolah, they would quicky exclaim ‘RABBI GERMAN’, everything else was commentary.

    He was my rebbe and mentor. Rabbi German would often tell me the way it was. Eventhough at times it might have hurt, in retrospect I realize how far reaching and germane his advise was; i realize how prevelent his advise and guidance would be years down the line, almost boardering prophecy.

    He was a living legend in the days he roamed this earth. Now may the G-D of hosts place this loyal shepard of His children high enough so he may be able to witness the awesome extent of his selfless work.

    I love you Rabbi German, I truly believed you would never leave us.

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