Memory Lane: Rav Menachem Zev Friedman

Memory Lane: Rav Menachem Zev Friedman

Yehuda Alter

Rav Friedman, who came to Boro Park in the mid 1920’s, was a rare story of a Hungarian Rov who came over to America in the 1920’s, and succeeded in raising generations of Torah Jews in America of those times. Rabbi Friedman lived in proximity to Thirteenth Avenue where most of the Jewish-owned stores were open on Shabbos in Boro Park of that era. He could not abide this, and sought to move out so his children would not be exposed to this. Perhaps it was these instincts that saved his generations.

Rav Menachem Zev was born in 1878 in Beregocz, Hungary, to his father Reb Yitzchok Friedman—and was one of five brothers. His father saw the potential for this child, and sent him far away to learn in yeshiva. He returned home only once to see his mother, who passed away moments after he arrived home.

He married Chana the daughter of Reb Eliezer, from a small town in Romania, and he took a position as a Rav in a small town in Romania. The couple had eleven children, many of them born with the blessing of the Chakal Yitzchok of Spinka, who was known as a great Tzaddik in Romania.

Due to the rising anti-Semitism, he made the decision to come to America in the 1920’s. One incident is retold in the family that he would go every year to obtain permission to bring in flour for the matzos, from the local commander at the garrison in Grosswardein, which was the large city in the area. One year, while waiting for the official, he witnessed how he brutally kicked a soldier, simply because he was in a bad mood. This got him thinking that when they would turn their fury on the Jews, it would not end well, and he decided then and there to leave.

He came to America in 1925, settling at 5324 12th Avenue. In the United States Census of 1930, he is listed at this address, with the occupation of “Rabbi”, but it is unknown whether he had an official position here. As noted, The chillul Shabbos on the nearby 13th Avenue was too much for him to bear, so he accepted a positon as the Rov of Congregation Achei Yehuda/First Hungarian Congregation of Yorkville (a section of the Bronx), at 352 East 78th Street.

He relocated to Williamsburg, around 1935. There he became the Rabbi of Congregation Leches Yosher at 126 Taylor Street. After the passing of his wife, in 1951, and his retirement from the Shul, he davened with the Satmar Rav.

Rabbi Menachem Zev was niftar in 1957, and was interred in Mount Hebron Cemetery—leaving behind Torah generations, and a premature residence in Boro Park of yesteryear.

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