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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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My Machberes

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Ozerover Rebbe Rebuilds Great-Grandfather’s Ohel

A new ohel (mausoleum) was built on the gravesite of Rabbi Aryeh Yehuda Leibish Epstein, zt”l (1837-1914), third Ozerover (or Ozjorover) Rebbe and author of Birkas Tov. The order of his names – Aryeh Yehuda Leibish and Yehuda Aryeh Leib varies according to the source. Founded in 1569, Ozerov, also called Ozjorov in Yiddish and Ozarow in Polish, is a town in Southeastern Poland, 40 miles from Lublin. Today, it has approximately 5,000 residents and its largest employer is a local cement factory. No Jews presently live in Ozarow.

Ozerover Rebbe

Ozarow was a small Polish town, a shtetl, one of the hundreds of such small towns scattered throughout Poland. However, in the Jewish world it was a source of chassidic inspiration. To this day the name Ozerov stands for Torah scholarship and piety.

A famous Jewish cemetery in the town dates back almost 400 years and is one of the limited number of remaining Jewish cemeteries in Poland. The cemetery wall was almost totally destroyed during World War II. Nazi soldiers used the tombstones in their nearby fortifications. In May 2001, Dr. Norman Weinberg organized the Ozarow Cemetery Restoration Project, and along with his wife and friends renovated and rebuilt the cemetery, which was completed on October 15, 2001. The new ohel also houses the gravesite of Rabbi Yosef Epstein, zt”l, son of the Birkas Tov.

In 2000, a complete tombstone was found in the river that runs adjacent to Ozarow. The inscription was fully legible and Jewish visitors to Ozarow were pleased to identify it as that of the Birkas Tov. In an endeavor spearheaded by Dr. Weinberg, in concert with the Ozarow municipality, Jewish monuments that had been scattered around the area by the Nazis were collected and restored to their rightful locations. In addition, a memorial monument was erected to honor the Jewish martyrs murdered in the Holocaust. A retaining wall was rebuilt around the cemetery to protect it. At that time, Rabbi Tanchum Benyamin Becker, sixth and present Ozerover Rebbe, together with a large group of Chassidim and Ozarow survivors and descendants, took an active part in the restoration efforts. The rededication took place on October 15, 2001.

Ozerover Rebbe at cemetery dedication.

Using the testimony of the few surviving witnesses, the exact location of graves of the Birkas Tov and his son was identified and the foundations of the original ohel were unearthed. The ohel had been destroyed by the Nazis. The lengthy and costly process of obtaining a permit was initiated and processed by the necessary intermediaries. The tombstones of the respective rebbetzins were found and their gravesites identified.

The resuscitation of the Ozarow Jewish cemetery is nothing less than miraculous. Keys to the cemetery are now available at the municipality office as well as with the cemetery caretaker. Visitors are urged to be considerate and to offer gratuities to those who extend beneficial services.

Efforts are now underway to redeem (i.e. repurchase) the Ozerov Beis Medrash where the Ozrov Rebbes and their chassidim davened, studied Torah, and conducted tisch. Sadly, the beis medrash itself, used as a cinema and a plumbing supply warehouse, is today run down. The shul’s courtyard is used as a shopping center.

Rabbi Becker, the current Ozerover Rebbe, was born in America. He is the son of Rebbetzin Miriam Becker, daughter of the fifth Ozerover Rebbe, married to Rabbi Dovid Eliyahu Becker of Milwaukee. The Ozerover Rebbe continuous the republication of his grandfathers’ sefarim. He is also the third Chentshiner Rebbe, succeeding his grandfather and his great-great-grandfather.

Rabbi Becker is the succeeding grandson of Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Epstein, zt”l (1890-1971), Ozerover-Chentshiner Rebbe. He is the fifth Ozerover Rebbe and author of Esh Dat (11 volumes) and Be’er Moshe (12 volumes). In addition, he served as the second Chentshiner Rebbe, succeeding his grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Horowitz-Sternfeld. Rabbi Moshe Yechiel moved to America in 1927 and lived on the Lower East Side and in the Bronx. In 1953 he moved to Tel Aviv. A leading Torah scholar, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Torah Literature in 1968. He is buried in Bnai Brak.

Rabbi Moshe Yechiel is the son of Rabbi Abraham Shlomo Epstein, zt”l (1865-1918), fourth Ozerover Rebbe and author of Sheiris Bracha. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Horowitz-Sternfeld, zt”l (1843-1915), founding Chentshiner Rebbe who lived in Eastern Europe but conducted his life according to Eretz Yisrael time.

Rabbi Abraham Shlomo is the son of Rabbi Aryeh Yehuda Leib Epstein (1837-1914), third Ozerover Rebbe and author of Birkas Tov; son of Rabbi Yechiel Chaim, zt”l (1820-1888), who succeeded is father at the age of 17 as second Ofalow Rebbe, then served as Apter Rebbe, and became the second Ozerover Rebbe; son of Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Epstein, zt”l (d. 1837), founding Ozerover Ofalow Rebbe.

In 1812, the first Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib was anointed Ozerover Rebbe. In 1827, as a disciple of Rabbi Meir Rotenberg, zt”l (1760-1827), Apta Rebbe and author of Ohr Lashamayim, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib was chosen as successor Apta Rebbe by the Apta chassidim. He served his followers for ten years. He passed away in Ofalow and is buried there.

Skulener Chassunah

On Tuesday, March 13, Chaim Yitzchok Isaac Weiss married the daughter of Rabbi Meir Dovid Sekula; son of Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Sekula, Sadona Rav and former menahel, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Rabbi Meir Dovid is a son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Dov Stern, Bnei Brak Skulener Rav; son of Rabbi Yitzchok Yehuda Stern zt”l, Bilitzer Rav. Rabbi Chaim Dov is a son-in-law of Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, Skulener Rebbe.

The Skulener Rebbe is the son of Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal, zt”l (1898-1982), beloved Skulener Rebbe and author of Noam Eliezer: son of Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, zt”l (d. 1915), Skulener Rebbe. Years before World War II, the Noam Eliezer moved from Skulen, where he was rav, to Chernowitz, where he became chief rabbi and president of Agudath Israel. After the Holocaust he adopted hundreds of Jewish orphans. Communist Romania imprisoned the Skulener Rebbe in 1959, together with his son, the present Skulener Rebbe, but the government yielded to tremendous international pressure and released the Rebbe and his son after five grueling months. The Rebbe came to the United States in 1960.

Skulener Rebbe

The kallah is the daughter of Rabbi Meir Elazar Weisz, Spinka Rebbe (18th Avenue); son of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Weiss, zt”l (1916-1988), Spinka Rebbe who resided in Jerusalem and in Boro Park; son of Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Weiss, zt”l hy”d (1875-1944), Spinka Rebbe and author of Chakal Yitzchok; son of Rabbi Yosef Mayer Weiss, zt”l (1838-1919), founding Spinka Rebbe. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, in his second marriage, was the son-in-law of his uncle, Rabbi Avrohom Abish Horowitz, zt”l Hy”d (1897-1944), Kruler Rav and son-in-law of the Chakal Yitzchok.

Rabbi Meir Elazar is the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordecai Dovid Rubin, Sosreigener Rebbe in Flatbush; son of Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Veshurun Rubin, zt”l Hy”d (1884-1944), Sosreigener Rebbe; son of Rabbi Boruch Rubin, zt”l (1864-1935), Gerla Rebbe and author of Sheiris Boruch; son of Rabbi Meir Rubin, zt”l (1829-1897), Glagover Rebbe; son-in-law of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin, zt”l (1806-1873), Glagover Rebbe; son of Rabbi Asher Yeshaye Rubin, zt”l (d. 1845), Ropshitzer Rebbe and author of Ohr Yeshai; son-in-law of Rabbi Naftaly Zvi Horowitz, zt”l (1760-1827), revered Ropshitzer Rebbe and author of Zera Kodesh.

The aufruf took place in the Spinka Beis Medrash on 18th Avenue. Unfortunately, the Skulener Rebbe felt ill on Thursday evening and, on the advice of his doctors, was admitted for observation to Mount Sinai Hospital. Baruch Hashem, the Rebbe felt much better and was released on Motzaei Shabbos. At home, the Rebbe conducted a melaveh malkah with a limited number of participants.

Rabbi Yeshaya Yaakov Portugal, eldest son of the Skulener Rebbe and Montreal Skulener Rav, is recuperating in Brooklyn from a liver transplant that he underwent at the end of December. Rabbi Yeshaya Yaakov joined his father at the melaveh malkah.

Chilula Kadisha On Sefarim Bestseller List

Di Tzeitung is a Yiddish weekly published in Boro Park. A few years ago, the paper began a weekly sefarim bestseller list culled from information given by sefarim stores in Boro Park, Williamsburg, and elsewhere.

Last week’s list was topped by Chilula KadishaAdar, historical vignettes and rich Torah sayings of gedolim whose yahrzeits fall during the month of Adar. The 1,200-page tome presents comprehensive reviews of more than 100 gedolim. The volume is the third in a series. The first release was Tammuz, the second Shevat. The masterwork is the product of Rabbi Menachem Yitzchok Meir Schiff with approbations from the Holeiner Rav and others. The series is a must-have and available at all sefarim and Judaica stores.

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One Response to “My Machberes”

  1. michael pell says:

    Mazel tov on the Skulener Chassunah!! Here is one request for an English translation of
    the Chilula Kadisha books and of the writings of the Ozerover Rebbes.

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