BDE: Reb Yehuda Aryeh Spira, z”l, Legendary Gabbai, Eldest Belzer Chossid in the World
We are saddened to inform you of the passing of Reb Yehuda Aryeh Spira, reverently and lovingly known by generations of Belzer Chassidim as “Reb Yidel.” He was 97 years of age, and carried with him close to a century of old-fashioned chassidishe chein, yiras Shomayim, with a number of those years spent in the geihinom of Auschwitz.
Reb Yidel was born in Czechoslovakia, near Munkatch, to his father Reb Duvid, an ardent Belzer chossid. From the earliest age, the love and the reverence for Belz was infused in him—and it would not depart from him until his last day.
As a bachur he learned in the Yeshivos of Galanta and Munkatch, and traveled often to Belz where he became tethered to the previous Belzer Ruv with heart and soul.
Following the terrible Churban he made his way to Eretz Yisroel, and enrolled in the Dushinsky Yeshiva. Simultaneously, he began serving as a Gabbai to Rebbe Aaron of Belz, zy”a, and with this began a lifetime of service to the Belzer Chassidus, which would continue until his last years.
He married into the Viznitzer Hass family, from the Seret-Viznitz community in Haifa, and went to work as a bookkeeper in the Carmel-Mizrahi wine company. At some point, the couple arrived in America, settling in Crown Heights, where so many Galicianer chassidim were rebuilding their lives.
He began serving as the Gabbai in the Belzer Shtiebel—a capacity in which he became a central pillar in the American community of Belzer chassidim, an admired figure within the Belzer chassidus around the world, and a role model of wisdom, ehrlichkeit, Torah, chassidus, and of every possible good middah.
Until well into his 90’s Reb Yidel never missed a morning of arising at 4:30 to learn with multiple chavrusos before davening.
Speaking with numerous “graduates” the Belzer shtiebel on 15th avenue, transplanted from the flagship on 16th avenue, we come to learn of a unique personality who executed his duties with dedication, with wisdom and with middos tovos, alongside his legendary partner, Reb Lozer Fasten, z”l.
“He never raised his voice, and he never got into “complicated” situations in the 50 years that I knew him,” recalled Reb Aaron Orlander, a longtime, multiple-generation mispallel in the shtiebel. He understood people, he respected people… and he was so loved and revered in return… he will be sorely missed by so many.”
With the passing of this legend, the Belzer chassidus in particular, and the Boro Park community in general, have lost a true link to the past who transmitted the holy Torah and Eidelkeit of the old world of Belz and Hungary to Boro Park of the 21st century.
The levaya—a fitting kavod acharon for a legend who always gave respect to others—will take place at the shtiebel which he so dedicatedly nurtured: 5015 15th avenue, at 10:00
Yehi Zichro Baruch