Audio: The Unforgettable Rabbi David B. Hollander zt”l, On His Second Yahrtzeit, Today

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rabbi-david-hollander[Powerful audio files below.] Today, 24 Teves, is the second yahrtzeit of Rabbi David B. Hollander. Rabbi Hollander was the spiritual leader of the Hebrew Alliance-F.R.E.E. of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. He also served as rov at the Mount Eden Synagogue in the Bronx and was the former president of the Rabbinical Council of America. At age 96, he was the oldest full-time pulpit rabbi in America.

Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913, Rabbi Hollander immigrated with his family to New York when he was nine years old. During his teenage years, he attended Brooklyn Law School and Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon.

The youthful Rabbi Hollander took the helm of the Mount Eden Center in the Bronx. A gifted orator, he found the pulpit to be the perfect forum from which to lead the battle against assimilation and Jewish apologetics. His Shabbos speeches, delivered with a fiery passion, reflected his unwavering commitment to traditional Torah Judaism.

Rabbi Hollander’s outspoken nature did not always win him friends. Throughout his long career, Rabbi Hollander would remain an outspoken defender of daas Torah at great personal sacrifice. As Rabbi Faivel Rimler, rabbi of the New Brighton Jewish Center, noted, “It would pain him when others would distance themselves from him due to his ideology. In the end, however, he always remained true to his beliefs.”

His fight, Rabbi Hollander often noted, was an ideological battle against deception, not one against people. “He saw no classes within Judaism,” Mrs. Fay Hollander related shortly before his levaya. “To my husband there was only one Torah, and every Jew had a place in it.”

Rabbi Hollander’s speeches and personality appealed to the broader rabbinic community. In 1954 he was elected president of the  Rabbinical Council of America. The position, which lasted two years, became a springboard for his pioneering work in aid of Soviet Jewry. It was to this end that he led a delegation of rabbis to Moscow in the summer of 1956. At the time, Jews in the Soviet Union still hid under the shadow of the Kremlin and the legacy of Stalin’s bitterly anti-Semitic policies. It was a testament to Rabbi Hollander’s tenacity that a rabbinic delegation was allowed to visit.

Upon his return to America, he continued to devote himself to Russian Jewry and galvanized other leaders into action as well.

In the 1980s, the Bronx Jewish community began to dwindle and give way to changing demographics. Rabbi Hollander, then 70, became the rabbi of the Hebrew Alliance in Brighton Beach. Tapping into Brighton Beach’s growing Russian immigrant population, he partnered with the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (known by the acronym F.R.E.E.) to initiate several education and social projects. The childless rabbi took a special interest in family celebrations, making special effort to attend circumcisions and bar mitzvahs. Even in his later years, Rabbi Hollander made the six-block trek to shul on a regular basis. When climbing to the second-floor sanctuary became too difficult for him, the congregation moved the davening to the main floor so that their beloved rabbi could lead.

Rabbi David Okunov, associate director of F.R.E.E. recalls a particular episode in Rabbi Hollander’s move from the Bronx. When the Mount Eden Synagogue was being dismantled, Rabbi Hollander transported the plaques commemorating deceased members to his new community. “These aren’t just plaques,” he stated, “they are neshamos. These are people who need to be remembered!”

Rabbi Hollander was married to his wife of 61 years, Fay, who passed away last year. They did not have children. Well over 1,000 people attended the levaya. He was buried in Yerushalayim.

Yehi zichro boruch.

Click below to listen to three clips of powerful words of Torah hashkafah from Rabbi Hollander:

Audio 1, on debating with non-Orthodox clergy, from approx. fifteen years ago:

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Audio 2, on recognizing non-Orthodox clergy, from approx. twenty years ago:

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Audio 3, on the matzav in Eretz Yisroel, from approx. thirteen years ago:

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{Yossi Newscenter/Free of Brighton}


  1. Yasher Koach for the audio clips. Its interesting how the above recap of his life as well as the eulogy posted here upon his passing made no mention about his unbreakable relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l. Being the man of truth however, that he was, it is apparent in these small clips who he looked up to and where he got the power to fight the wars that he did all the days of his life. You listen to these short segments and the sad reality that dawns is the fact that we are a leaderless generation. There is nobody today who can impart advice and a path in life as he was able to despite those who sought to bring him down. Today everything is done in the name of political correctness and he did nothing in that vain and that is who we remember him as and he should be a meilitz Yosher on our behalf.

  2. R’ Hollander was one of the few rabbonim who was allowed to visit the Soviet Union during the years of oppression and fear. He visited Russia eight times in those years and did tremendous work on behalf of Soviet Jewry. In the book Dadushka, he reminisced about these trips:

    “I met the Rebbe two years after he was appointed Nasi of the Chabad movement. At that time, I was very preoccupied with Soviet Jewry. I intended to work for their freedom nonstop, and let others matters slide, and so I planned on leading a delegation of American rabbis to Russia. For this purpose, I went to the Russian embassy in Washington and presented a plan for an organized trip. I knew that they wouldn’t immediately approve it and indeed, it was a year and a half later that they granted approval.

    “It was after Stalin had died and Premier Khrushchev had taken over. The Russian government wanted to mollify the West a bit, and therefore they allowed the delegation of rabbis to visit. One other rabbi and I came from New York and the other rabbis were from other states.

    “Throughout the preparation period for the trip, I consulted with the Rebbe. Before the trip I had a yechidus and the Rebbe warned me to be careful what I said when I addressed Russian Jews. The Rebbe explained that although I would not be harmed, being an American citizen, the Jewish listeners could be harmed if we said things irresponsibly. I didn’t know if I would be allowed to speak in the shul in Moscow, but the Rebbe saw fit to warn me. The Rebbe also said that if Chassidim would want to meet with me, these meetings should be arranged extremely carefully.

    “When we were in Moscow for Shabbos, the rabbi of the shul told me to address the congregants (without prior preparation). The thought occurred to me to tell them what Rashi says about Bilaam, ‘and Bilaam got up in the morning and saddled his donkey.’ ‘Hashem said, Avrohom their father preceded you as it says, ‘and Avrohom got up in the morning and saddled his donkey.’’ With this I meant to encourage the Jews of Moscow, to tell them that their enemies would not succeed in harming the Jewish people since ‘their father Avrohom preceded you.’

    “From Moscow we went to Leningrad. Rabbi Shlomo Schleiffer accompanied us. He was the chief rabbi of Moscow.

    “When I returned to New York, I went to the Rebbe and the Rebbe asked me what I spoke about in my address at the shul. When I told the Rebbe what I had said, the Rebbe’s reaction was, ‘Is that called being careful with your words?’”

    R’ Hollander made other trips to Russia alone and he visited various cities where he met Chassidim who suffered greatly, like R’ Lazer Nannes (“Subbota”) who sent a letter with him for the Rebbe.

    One time, the Rebbe sent him to visit Kutaisi in Georgia and Bucharian cities. He also traveled to the Caucasus, Kiev, Odessa, etc. When he made trips close to Pesach, he brought shmura matza with him. Sometimes, they allowed him to bring in the matzos and sometimes they confiscated them at the airport.

    On one of his visits, he went to the shul in Kiev where he met a Jew whom he knew from previous visits. He asked how he was and how the Jews of Russia were. The man said: With Moshe Rabeinu in the box on the Nile it says that the daughter of Pharaoh, “opened it and saw him and behold, a child was crying.” It doesn’t say that the daughter of Pharaoh heard Moshe’s crying but as soon as “she saw him” it was apparent that “the child was crying.”

    When R’ Hollander returned to New York and repeated this to the Rebbe, the Rebbe had a look on his face which indicated that he deeply understood the plight of these crying Jews.

  3. The man questioning Rabbi Hollander regarding relations with Reform and Conservative in the beginning of one of the audio clips above, using the term kefirah movements, is Mr. Yitzchok ben Chaim (Arthur) Spear z”l, who was a good friend of Rabbi Hollander for many years and repeatedly hosted him as a speaker for his organization in Borough Park.

  4. Rabbi Hollander olov hashalom was a rabbi’s rabbi.

    Filled with Chochma and Yiras Shamayim.

    A fearless champion of Klal Yisrael and a person of deep commitment and accomplishment. Yehi Zichro Boruch


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