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.
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.
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.