Memory Lane: A Chassidishe Shabbos in Boro Park of 1922
It was in the aftermath of the first wave of Eastern European immigration to the Unites States (between the World Wars), and the New York area was teeming with Jewish immigrants from the shtetlach in Europe. So many of them gravitated to their landsman shuls and shtieblach, and grabbed any opportunity that they could to be in proximity of the einiklach, those scions of the Rabbinic dynasties to which they and their families had been close and loved.
Thus, Der Morgen Journal, one of the most heavily read newspapers among the Yiddish-speaking public in America of the time, announces in the year 1922; “Groise Chassidishe Shabbos in Boro Park, a bug Chassidishe Shabbos in Boro Park.”
Big indeed, because Reb Mottele Chodorov, the Rebbe of Tolna-Viznitz, whose arrival to America had been widely hailed and anticipated in the years prior, would be spending Shabbos parashas Shelach of 5682, in Boro Park, in the seven-year-old Congregation Anshei Sefard, the now 100-year-old Sfardishe Shul.
The article calls for Boro Park residents with a kesher to Chernobyl-Tolna, and Ruzhin Viznitzer chassidim to join the Shabbos.
So who was this holy fusion of these holy courts?
Reb Mottele Chodorov, zy”a, was the son of the daughter of Harav Dovid of Tolna, of the holy Chernobiler dynasty. He was the son in law of the Imrei Baruch of Viznitz, the father of the Ahavas Yisroel of Viznitz (since the Tzemach Tzadik of Viznitz was a son in law of the holy Ruzinhner, this made him a Ruzhiner einikel as well). The Vishiver Rav, Harav Menachem Mendel, a son of the Ahavas Yisroel, became his son in law.
Much effort was expanded by the Chassidim in America to bring over Reb Mottele, zt”l, and upon that event, much ado is made in the Yiddish papers about a kabbalas panim for him.
In 1936, 80 years ago, his illustrious son in law, came for six months for a visit, and since he was known for his greatness, this too was a seminal event in Jewish America of the time. A breathtakingly clear photo of the Vishever Rav’s beard swaying in the wind, while he grasps the arm of Harav Marton, then the Rav of the Sfardishe Shul, recently came to light—to the joy of those who appreciate history and tzidkus.
The notice in Der Morgen Journal announces the Rebbe’s host as being one Mr. David Pankin, of 1237 48th Street. It seems that Mr. Pankin was of a wealthy banking family, with successful ventures in New York City.
What becomes apparent after some searching is that Mr. David Pankin married Sadie, the daughter of one Mr. Israel Friedman who lived next door to them, at 1235 48th Street.
A 1930 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announces the passing of Mr. Friedman, “a retired necktie manufacturer and charity worker,” of heart disease, at age 58. He was influential in numerous Boro Park institutions of the time—including the United Israel Zion Hospital (after its merger with another hospital), Machzikei Talmud Torah, Hebrew Academy Talmud Torah of Borough Park, and many others. His burial was in the new Mount Carmel Cemetery in Cypress Hills.
The Rebbe Reb Mottle of Tolna-Viznitz was known as a tzaddik who inspired the Yidden of America of the time. His tzurah exuded kedushah and kindness. He was influential, and served as the honorary chairman of the Agudas Ha’admorim, an organization that was geared toward assisting Rebbes both in America and abroad.
His son, Rav Menachem Mendel Dovid—named for both his holy ancestors of the Chernobbyler and Viznitzer dynasties—was known as a great askan both in the Agudas Ha’admorim as well as the Agudas Harabbanim.
The Rebbe’s bais medrash—Gedulas Mordechai—was begun on Second Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and later moved to 173rd Street in the Bronx, where he welcomed all Yidden with love, in the ways of his ancestors.
But on Shabbos of parashas Shelach 5762 (1922), the fledgling neighborhood of Boro Park, and the chassidim within in got a taste of kedushah of this scion of the holiest of tsaddikim.