Living Legacy: Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner, zt”l, upon his 15th Yohrtzeit
By: Yehuda Alter
Friday, 14 Nissan, marks the fifteenth yohrtzeit of Rav Dunner, zt”l, longtime leader of the United Kehillos in London, head of its Kedasia Kashrus organization, Rov of Khal Adas Yisroel, and the leader of Agudas Yisroel of Europe.
He was born in Kieln, Germany, in the year 1913, to his father, R’ Baruch Chaim. In his youth he went to learn in the city of Berlin, under the famed Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, author of Sridei Eish, and he received semicha from him—launching his decades-long career in Rabbonus and communal leadership.
In the year 1936, while still a bachur, he was appointed the rov of Koenigsberg, Germany. Today, it is known as Kaliningrad, Russia (the burial place of Rav Yisroel Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement). Here, he led a beautiful community until the outbreak of WWII.
Rav Yosef Tzvi was a ga’on. The Gedolim of Europe lauded his incredible mastery and brilliance in Torah. In addition, he was an incredible orator—inspiring and enflaming the hearts of his community toward Hashem, and toward Torah, all in a rapidly-secularizing Germany.
With his compassion and soft personality, he connected with everyone with whom he came in contact—thereby persuading and influencing them. These qualities would greatly aid him throughout his brilliant career.
While in Koenigsberg, he married the daufhter of Reb Zev Frehen, one of the great activists of Agudah in Europe, and his eldest son, Rav Avrohom Moshe Abba Dunner—likewise a great Rov and activist—was born there in 1937.
When Kristalnacht arrived, Rabbi Dunner was arrested, along with many other Rabbonim and leaders. One month later, he received permits to enter England, along with his family. Here he began to deliver shiurim in the city of Westcliff, and later he was appointed a dayan in Lester. Following the war, he established Beis Yaakov seminary for girls in London. To date, it has educated thousands of girls.
In the year 1960, he became the rov of Adath Israel in London, where he served for the following 50 years. He invested all of his energies for his community, for greater English and European Jewry. So beloved was he with the community, that there was even founded a satellite kehillah of Adath Yisroel in Bnei Brak, geared to Ashkenazic Jewry—all under the leadership of Rav Dunner.
He took a leading role in promoting kashrus within his community. In his early years at the Adath and UOHC he chaired the Kashrus Committee (Kedassia), where he took a personal interest in seeing that all the requirements of halacha were met. He supervised personally the baking of machine matzos for the UOHC community, first at Bonn & Co in England and later at Ludmir's matzo bakery in Jerusalem, where he lost a finger in the process of meticulously checking the machinery.
Rav Dunner was niftar on 14 Nissan of 2007.