Boro Park’s Memory Lane: Rav Mendel Monsohn, z”l
It is no secret that America had many great Talmidei Chachomim, beginning in the early 1900’s, and even before that—many of them in Boro Park. Rav Mendel Monsohn began as a rov at Congregation Ahavas Achim, located at 404 Gates Avenue in Williamsburg (Bedford-Styvyusant area) beginning in the 1930’s. Around 1950, when he got older, he came to live with his children in Boro Park.
Rav Monsohn was born in 1895 in Eretz Yisroel to his father Reb Avrohom Leib (known as “Avrohom Leib Shammes”), who was a from the first minyan of the “prushim” community in the old Yishuv of Yerushalayim, beginning in 1832.
Rav Monsohn received semichah at the tender age of 16 (!) from the first Askkenazic Chief Rabbi of British Palestine, Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, zt”l.
For a while, before leaving Eretz Yisroel, he worked at the A.L. Monsohn lithographic printing press, run by his father, Reb Avraham Leib, and his uncle Moshe Mordechai. It was located at 6 Ohr Hachaim Street in Jerusalem’s Old City. They were the only color printers of that time, and printed for the Ottoman Empire as well. Rav Monsohns printing of his own sefer after coming to America was made easier through his experience in the printing business.
Rabbi Monsohn came along with a group of Rabbanim who came from Eretz Yisroel to the United States in 1924 to accept various rabbinic positions.
Rav Monsohn is known for his monumental work Mipninei Harambam, from the pearls of the Rambam. It is a work compiling the many teachings of the Rambam in order of the parashiyos, gleaning from the great Torah wisdom of the Rambam for each pasuk. Perusing the introduction to the sefer, one is at once struck by the fusion of the author’s brilliance, eloquent pen, and keen insight—all the while maintaining a great sense of utter humility and awe at approaching the works of the Rambam.
A grandchild, Professor David Bunis, is today a professor of languages at Hebrew University, and also grew up in Boro Park—on 49th street and 10th avenue. He recalled that his father, Reb Yonah Bunis, a son in law of Harav Monsohn, along with his brother—Boro Park residents all— worked in a butcher shop on Fort Hamilton Parkway.
A grandson recalls: “He was known to be an absolute genius, and a great scholar. I can vividly recall how he would come down the hall to our apartment to lead the seder, and it would go on for hours and hours.”
Rav Menachem Mendel Monsohn was niftar in New York on 23 Elul of the year 5713 (1953), and lies in the Baron Hirsh Cemetery in Staten Island.