On Sunday, June 18, 2023, the Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim, gathered together with family and friends at Congregation AAA Sfard of Canarsie, where the venerable Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Serebyanski serves as Rabbi, to commemorate the 20th Yahrzeit of its legendary Executive Vice-President, Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L, HaRav Nachum Zvi Ben HaRav Chaim Josephy.
Rabbi Moish Schmerler, executive director, Rabbinical Alliance of America opened the program by reciting Tehillim 130. Rabbi Schmerler described how, “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 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 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 Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America 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 Klass answered that Moshe attempted to defend the Mekoshesh Eitzim by arguing that he 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 violated the Sabbath. Hashem responded by commanding the mitzvah of tzitzis.
Rabbi Klass 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 America. 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 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 such Jews as 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 Yosef Yitzchok Serebyanski, commented that the greatest example of leadership was Moshe. His strongest character trait was thinking not that he was necessary and essential for Klal Yisrael, but asking what is needed of him. What can he do to advance Hashem’s mission of furthering and strengthening Torah and mitzvos? How can he further help accomplish this important objective, which is the purpose of Hashem creating the world? The Josephy family is renowned for being in the forefront of helping Klal Yisrael in any way they can. They come from the leadership perspective of Moshe, always asking where they are needed and where they can lend support to make Hashem’s will a reality. Their community service, their charity work and care and devotion for others, is voluminous. Their hard work is done quietly behind the scenes. They handle with pleasure and love the tedious work that is often less valued because they understand their purpose is to fortify Am Yisroel and to provide help wherever it is needed. They get this trait from their illustrious father. The imprint of Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L through his family, talmidim and friends lives in their achievements for Klal Yisrael, their work to further Torah and mitzvos.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, the executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America 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 in order to serve Klal Yisrael.”
Names in Pictures
Picture (1) Left to Right, Rabbi Kalman Sodden; Rabbi Tzvi Mandel; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Serebyanski, Congregation AAA Sfard, of Canarsie; Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Igud Harabonim; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Igud Harabbonim; Rabbi Nusi Josephy, son of Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L; and Rabbi Moish Schmerler, executive-director, Igud Harabbonim
Picture (2) Left to Right, Rabbi Moish Schmerler, executive-director, Igud Harabbonim;Rabbi Tzvi Mandel; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Serebyanski, Congregation AAA Sfard, of Canarsie; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Igud Harabbonim; Rabbi Nusi Josephy, son of Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L; and Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Igud Harabonim
Picture (3) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik; executive vice-president, Igud Harabbonim; Rabbi Tzvi Mandel; and Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman, Igud Harabonim
Picture (4) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Igud Harabonim; and Rabbi Nusi Josephy, son of Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, ZT’L
Picture (5) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Igud Harabonim;