Memory Lane: Rav Menashe Frankel, zt”l

Memory Lane: Rav Menashe Frankel, zt”l

The Last Lizensker Rov

14 Adar (I) marks the 56th yohrtzeit of Rav Menashe Frankel. 

Following his harrowing survival of the Holocaust, he settled in East New York—where he served as a major force in the community. As that area declined, he moved to Boro Park, where he lived for the final era of his remarkable life. 

Front Row in Galicia 

Rav Menashe hailed from the illustrious Rabbinic family, the Frankel’s of Vielipol, who were extremely prominent in Galicia where many served as Rabbonim throughout the region. 

Menashe was born to Rav Shlomo Zalman, and Gittel (a daughter of the illustrious Frankel-Tumim family), in the year 1903. 

He was exposed to an environment steeped in Torah from the youngest age. As a bachur, he found his way to the “Reisher Kloiz”, the closest thing Galicia had to a large yeshiva. His hasmodoh during was exceptional; he would not even return home for Yomim Tovim. The only thing that could interrupt his learning was chessed. It would be these two qualities that would define him for all his life. 

He married the daughter of Rav Yechezkel Landau, a descendant of the Nodah B’Yehuda, and the decade he spent learning with his father-in-law for many hours daily were the most serene of his life. His father-in-law invited him to sit with him on the Beis Din and join communal meetings. He soon delved further into the work of the klal, carrying upon his shoulders many of the community endeavors.   

Fortitude under Fire

The interwar period was very difficult for the Jews of Galicia, and the youth of Lizensk were not spared the winds of haskalah that were blowing with ferocity. Rav Menashe led them like a faithful shepherd. With the arrival of WWII, the young rov and his family were able to escape eastward, to Uzbekistan. An expert mohel, he risked his life numerous times to perform brisos. One incredible story was when he was hidden, with his mohel tools under a pile of hay, on the way to perform a bris. The wagon was stopped for inspection, and the policemen stuck a pitchfork forcefully into the pile, miraculously missing vital organs.  

Following the great Churban, he came to the DP Camp in Ulm, Germany. Later, he became the official rov of the Eschwege DP camp. 

He arrived in America in 1948, and went to East New York. Here too, he immediately became known as a tremendous talmid chochom, a go-to address for any shei’los—from the Alte Mirers of Beis Hatalmud, located in East New York, to the simple folk. For a few years, he was the rov of the large Beth Jacob Shul on Ashford Street, after which he opened his own shtiebel on Dumont Avenue.   

Boro Park 

By the late 1950’s, the Brownsville-East New York areas was declining rapidly, and Yidden were leaving the area—which in turn contributed to this once-glorious neighborhood’s (often termed “Yerushalayim d’America) further demise. 

Despite his wishes to be oleh to Eretz Yisroel, he ended up in Boro Park where he was kovei’ah his makom in the Sfardishe Shul, where he was revered by the people, as well as the great Rabbonim of the shul and throughout the community. 

One aspect of his sterling legacy whose impact remains to this day is Rav Menashe’s spearheading of the Boro Park Mikveh project. 

His levayah drew crowds from Boro Park and beyond, who packed the Sfardishe Shul. He was eulogized by Rav Meir Cohen of Agudas Harabanim, Rav Meir Pinsky and Rav Dovid Singer among others, who extolled his greatness and Torah and chessed. 

His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are among the great pillars in the world of chessed and askonus follow in the footsteps of the Lizensker Rov whose shining example continues to illuminate from Boro Park of yesteryear. 

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