Memory Lane: Rav Avraham Miller, zt”l

Memory Lane: Rav Avraham Miller, zt”l

In November of the year 1925, a delegation of Rabbanim traveled to Washington  on a mission of gratitude.

On October 6, 1925, the president spoke before the American Legion chapter in Omaha, Nebraska (an organization geared for army veterans)—an address that garnered headlines throughout the country under the headline “Tolerance Speech,” Intolerance is Rapped at Omaha Speech.”

He courageously addressed members of this organization who often resorted to nationalism (and in 1930 would host Mussolini) and called for tolerance and acceptance—denouncing the Klan which was highly active in the 1920’s.

This spurred the delegation of Rabbanim to travel to Washington to express their gratitude, and to ask him to ease restrictions on immigration for the Jews who were suffering so much between the World Wars in Easter Europe.

The Havre Daily Promoter, in Havre, Montana features a photograph of the Rabbanim under the title “Jewish Rabbis Thank Coolidge for his Tolerance, and one of the Rabbanim is identified as Rabbi Abraham Miller.

In the sefer Toldos Anshei Hashem b’artzos habris, detailing notable personalities of American Jewry, published in the year 1923, it states that Rabbi Miller was accepted as a Rav at Beth Israel in Boro Park (where it still stands at 11th avenue and 56th Street) two years prior, in the year 1921, after a stint in Williamsburg and other communities.

More information reveals that he was a prominent member of the Agudas Harrabanim/Union of Orthodox Rabbis, and is signed on a letter pertaining to that organizations’ handling of kashrus matters in America, alongside other prominent members such as Rav Yisroel Rosenberg, and its secretary, Harav Yehuda Leib Zelcer.    

In 1927 and 1928, we find that Harav Miller, representing the Agudas Harabanim, fought a milchemes Hashem to preserve the honor the deceased. The Interboro Highway—connecting Brooklyn and Queens— today known as the Jackie Robinson Parkway, after its renaming in 1997, was being planned. And the plan called for the road, which still today cuts through Mount Carmel Cemetery, to remove hundreds of Jewish graves.

They hired an engineer who presented the city board with alternative map for this road, but it was rejected. However, their lobbying was not for naught, as the planning board did change the plan on their own, bringing the number of exhumations down from a few hundred, to 30—as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from January 1928 reports:

“Before putting the motions for adoption of the amended map of Interboro Parkway within the limits of the Cypress Hills Cemetery, President McKee told Mr. Shapiro and Rabbi Miller that the Board of Estimate was most anxious to protect Jewish Law…”

A granddaughter of Rabbi Miller was 13 years old when he passed away in 1939. She remembers visiting him at his Bronx home, where he served the congregation She’erith Yisroel on Southern Parkway.

She relates that he served numerous congregations in America, and came to America under the name Charnofsky, and indeed, the 1920 census finds him by that name in Haverhill, Mass. Records from Ezras Torah, and a letter from the White House also find him by that name since he came from his native Kovno in 1911, until he changed it back to Miller in 1921.

Rav Avraham Miller was niftar suddenly in Lakewood, NJ, where he had a residence, on 29 Teves, 5700, at the age of 59.

Hamesilah from that month prints a small tribute to him as a Gadol b’Torah who did much for American Jewry, and served the communities of Salem and Haverhill, Mass, Plainfield, NJ, Williamsburg, Boro Park, and the Bronx—confirming the account from the family (who had not known that he ever resided in Brooklyn, but the census from 1930 lists his address as 1109 57th street, a stones’ throw from Beth Israel)—and an active member in Agudas Harabanim.

He is buried alongside his Rebbetzin Teibe in Beth David Cemetery, an askan and talmid chacham who served his fellow Jews in Boro Park of yesteryear.


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