On Sunday, June 6, 2021, the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim, together with family and friends, gathered at Congregation Shaaray Tefila of Lawrence, New York, to commemorate the 17th Yahrzeit of its legendary Executive Vice-President, Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L, HaRav Nachum Zvi Ben HaRav Chaim Josephy.
Mr. Stanley Seidel opened the program by reciting Tehillim 130. Rabbi Zvi Warnick spoke on behalf of the family. “Rabbi Josephy was beloved by all who met him. He dedicated his life to Klal Yisrael. One of Rabbi Josephy’s crowning achievements was his warm embrace of Jews from the Soviet Union and from Uzbekistan. He single-handedly worked with Jews from Uzbekistan and helped to raise their level of observance and their integration into the Jewish community.
“The Gemara in Bava Kama (16b) relates the virtues of Chizkiyahu Hamelech. During the reign of King Chizkiyahu, the rabbis conducted an investigation across the country — from Dan to Be’er Sheva — and were unable to find a single person who was not well versed in the laws of Tumah and Tahara, ritual purification. These intricate areas of Jewish law are difficult and even learned, accomplished scholars find this area of Jewish law challenging to master.
“Rabbi Josephy’s reach was similarly broad. Wherever you go — from Mexico City to Houston, to Los Angeles, to Pittsburgh, to Borough Park — people will tell you that he was there for them. From the proverbial Dan to Be’er Sheva, Rabbi Josephy’s legacy lives on.
“The Gemara continues that after Chizkiyahu’s passing, the people made a yeshiva on his resting spot. This means that they perpetuated his tradition of excellence by continuing in the path of his devotion to Torah. The same with Rabbi Josephy, we continue in his loving ways.”
Rabbi Meir Melnicke, a highly respected member of the Igud HaRabbonim and a close family friend of Rabbi Josephy, asked a question on the Torah reading of Shelach. “What is the connection between the Mekoshesh Eitzim, the biblical sinner who desecrated the Sabbath by gathering wood, and the commandment to wear tzitzis?”
Rabbi Melnicke answered that Moshe argued that the Mekoshesh Eitzim sinned on the Sabbath day because there is no positive command to don tefillin on Shabbos. Had there been such a mitzvah, perhaps there would never have been a Mekoshesh Eitzim. Hashem responded by commanding the mitzvah of tzitzis.
Rabbi Melnicke continued, “Talking about Rabbi Josephy is no simple task. It would take hours to even begin to do him justice. Rabbi Josephy was the tzitzis of Los Angeles. Rabbi Josephy spoke softly and convinced people to embrace Yiddishkeit. He came to Los Angeles when Yiddishkeit was starting to grow and became one of its main architects. Rabbi Josephy proudly wore a shtreimel down the streets of Los Angeles at a time when observant people did not even own one. Rabbi Josephy made the shtreimel popular, fashionable and trendy. He influenced people one on one. Many people are observant today thanks to his efforts.”
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, the venerable Av Bais Din of the Bais Din of the Igud HaRabbonim, recounted, “how much effort Rabbi Josephy placed in organizing and running the monthly Rosh Chodesh conferences of the Igud HaRabbonim.” Rabbi Kurzrock quoted from the Likutei Basar Likutei on Avos that three times the Torah uses the phrase “re’isem, you see.” It is found in reference to the Meraglim, spies; in the passage about tzitzis; and regarding Yocheved and Miriam when they served as midwives in Egypt, saving the lives of the newly born Jewish boys.
“I remember when I spoke at Rabbi Josephy’s Shloshim commemoration at Munkacs and I described an encounter that I had while visiting Rabbi Josephy in the hospital. Due to Rabbi Josephy’s illness, he was losing his hair. He was concerned with his beard. Rabbi Josephy was extremely distressed over the possibility of losing the hair from the beard, thereby detracting from his appearance as an observant Jew. He worried about how that could detrimentally impact his spirituality.
“When a person fulfills Re’isem and he goes out to the land to achieve a spiritual or a material accomplishment, he must have a mesorah, a tradition, to influence others for the better. He must have the Re’isem of the tzitis to protect him and the Re’isem from Yocheved and Miriam to have a moral backbone to stand up for what is right. This was Rabbi Josephy. He had the courage and vision to help many people come home to their traditions.”
Mr. Kenneth Carter, son-in-law of Rabbi Josephy, remarked, “sadly 60% of American Jews are intermarrying. The world population has doubled in recent decades while the Jewish population remains stagnant. Orthodoxy, thanks to advocates such as Rabbi Josephy, has increased in popularity and population.
“We read this past Shabbos the tale of the spies who failed in their scouting of the Promised Land. It is interesting that these spies were great people, and respected leaders, but they failed. A leader is supposed to be confident and optimistic, hopeful and enthusiastic. Sadly, the spies were pessimistic and exasperated fear, doubt, insecurity and negativity.
“Rabbi Josephy was the extreme optimist. His contagious smile, warmth and love touched all whom he encountered. He was always positive and saw positivity in all people.”
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Presidium Chairman of the Igud HaRabbonim, posed a question. “Why is the Mekoshes Eitzim viewed as an embarrassment? On the contrary, it shows how great the Jewish nation was that only one person violated the Shabbos and the multitudes of the Jewish nation had proper respect and observed the Shabbos.”
In answering the question, Rabbi Klass made reference to a Torah thought by his and Rabbi Josephy’s friend, Rabbi Philp Harris Singer, ZT’L of Brooklyn’s Avenue O Jewish Center. “Rabbi Singer asked a question. We can understand why the spoon and feather in Bedikas Chometz are burnt because they came into contact with Chometz. But why is the candle burnt? It did not come into contact with the chometz. Rabbi Singer responded, because the candle through its light found the chometz. It found negativity.
“The Mekoshes Eitzim, although he was just one isolated individual who violated the Sabbath, that by itself is a disgrace for the Jewish nation. How can we, the community, lose any Jew? Losing even one Jew is too much, a monumental failure as a people. It should have been 100% of the Jews observing Shabbos. Rabbi Josephy firmly believed that we must use all resources to save that single lone Jew, to intervene and prevent our people from losing such an individual. He believed that we must make the light to find the positive and not act as the light that discovers the chometz, the negative.
“Rabbi Josephy truly brought out the dormant Pintele Yid, the spiritual spark. He would kindle it in each individual and make it shine as a proud Jew.”
Rabbi Dovid Katz, Menahel of the Igud HaRabbonim recounted, “when Rabbi Josephy was in Pittsburgh, the observant people wanted to have Cholov Yisroel milk. However, in those days to obtain Cholov Yisrael in Pittsburgh was expensive and not a simple task to accomplish. To that end, Rabbi Josephy convinced the school board to order Cholov Yisrael so the school and the entire observant community in Pittsburgh was able to find Cholov Yisrael. Rabbi Josephy was a visionary who whenever he saw a mission, he found a way to get done. He never settled for failure; he made it his business to get a solution and make it work.”
Rabbi Zvi Mandel, from Kahal Bnai Yisrael, recounts how he often visited Rabbi Josephy in his synagogue and saw that he had many members from Uzbekistan. “Rabbi Josephy told me that he has the highest admiration and respect for these Jews of Uzbekistan. They came from an area that for the last 400 years had no rabbis. Their Yiddishkeit came from the faith and respect that they had for their parents and grandparents. As a rabbi, I find their devotion to Yiddishkeit so admirable and strong that it strengthens my own connection to Yiddishkeit. I am honored to have them part of my synagogue. Rabbi Josephy was able to model and strengthen this faith by drawing everyone to him as if they were family..”
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, the Executive Vice-President of the Igud HaRabbonim remarked that, “Rabbi Josephy gave faith to everyone. He gave faith to his family, friends and the Jewish people. At the Igud HaRabbonim he made every Rosh Chodesh conference special. He made every rabbi from the diverse Orthodox communities they represented feel welcome, special and important. Through this unity and love he helped his colleagues become better rabbis, spiritual guides and leaders. We at the Igud HaRabbonim owe Rabbi Josephy a debt we can never repay. Only Hashem can reward Rabbi Josephy. Sadly, his absence has left a void that no one can fill. However, we try to emulate Rabbi Josephy the best we can to accomplish for Klal Yisrael.”
Rabbi Mirocznik publicly acknowledged the presence of Rabbi Dr. Joseph Frager, Chairman of Igud HaRabbonim’s Israel Advocacy Commission, as well as Mr. Larry Gordon, Publisher and Editor of the Five Towns Jewish Times, “for their passion, love and advocacy of the Jewish people…There is not a thing in the world that Rabbi Dr. Frager and Mr. Larry Gordon would not do for Klal Yisrael. Rabbi Dr. Frager and Mr. Larry Gordon have an abundance of Ahvas Yisrael and they have the courage and determination to stand up for what is right. There are times that both Rabbi Dr. Frager and Mr. Larry Gordon have taken unpopular positions even within the Jewish community for the sake of standing up for Israel and the Jewish community. It is this courage that we at the Rabbinical Alliance of America respect, cherish and admire. We gain inspiration from their heartfelt conviction to speak their conscience and to advocate for Klal Yisrael. Gentlemen, on behalf of the Igud HaRabbonim know that we appreciate and respect your Meleches HaKodesh and we thank you for being what you are: good, proud Jews. You truly are inspirational.”
Rabbi Yaakov Shulman, Rabbi of the Talmud Torah of Flatbush was installed as member of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, filling the vacancy created by the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Spivak.
In installing Rabbi Shulman as a member of the Presidium, Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Presidium Chairman of the Igud HaRabbonim, was joined by Rabbi Dr. Hanania Elbaz, Presidium Member; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice-President; Rabbi Gil Student, Director of the Halacha Commission; Rabbi Moish Schmerler, Administrative Director; and Rabbi Dovid Katz, Menahel.
Rabbi Klass remarked, “the Igud HaRabbonim has seen growth and we are happy and confident that with the addition of Rabbi Shulman to the Presidium, we will continue that growth and attract many new rabbis to the Igud HaRabbonim.”
Rabbi Shulman, in his acceptance remarks, stated, “the importance of the Igud HaRabbonim is to serve rabbis. The newly established retirement plan available exclusively for members of the Igud HaRabbonim and the ability to consult with rabbis on matters of Halacha or on any area with which the rabbi may need assistance, are important. As a rabbinic association, our most important function is to be a resource for our members. The job of the Presidium is to work hand in hand with Rabbi Mirocznik, our Executive Vice-President, and our Executive Team of Rabbi Student, Rabbi Schmerler and Rabbi Katz, to get that important job done. I feel honored, privileged and humbled to take on this responsibility and look forward with Hashem’s help only to see the Igud HaRabbonim grow and attract many more rabbis.”
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Picture (1) Left to Right, Mr. Larry Gordon, publisher and editor of the highly acclaimed Five Towns Jewish Times, is greeted by Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America, and Rabbi Dr. Joseph Frager, chairman, Israel Advocacy Commission, Rabbinical Alliance of America
Picture (2) Left to Right, Rabbi Dovid Katz, Menahel, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Meir Melnicke; Rabbi Yaakov Shulman, newly appointed and installed presidium member, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Av Bais Din, Bais Din Igud HaRabbonim; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Moish Schmerler, administrative director, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Rabbi Nusi Josephy, son of Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L
Picture (3) Installing Rabbi Yaakov Shulman as a Presidium Member of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Left to Right, Rabbi Gil Student, director, Halacha Commission, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Dovid Katz, Menahel, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Yaakov Shulman, newly appointed and installed presidium member, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Dr. Hanania Elbaz, Presidium Member, Rabbinical Alliance of America; by Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Rabbi Moish Schmerler, administrative director, Rabbinical Alliance of America