Memory Lane: Rav Mordechai Halperin, z”l.
Rav Yechiel Mordechai Gordon was a unique figure in the pre and postwar era in American Jewry. He was the son in law of Rav Eliezer Shulevitz, the founder of the Lomza yeshiva in Poland, which had by that time opened a branch in Petach Tikvah, where it still exists today.
In his sefer Netiv Yad, the Lomza Rosh Yeshiva expresses heartfelt thanks his brother in law Rav Mordechai, and his sister in law Sarah, for their unwavering support for the Lomza yeshiva over the decades. Who was Rav Mordechai Halperin?
Rav Yechiel Mordechai was a son in law of the Lomza Rosh Yeshiva and its founder, Rav Eliezer Shulevitz, zt”l. It turns out that the youngest Shulevitz daughter—Sarah—had been married, and widowed with two children. Those two children left this world due to an illness. That was when she married Mordechai Halperin, a Lomza talmid.
While the yeshiva continued to struggle terribly through WWI and its terrible aftermath, the Rosh Yeshiva fortuitously established a branch in Petach Tikvah, and this is where so many Gedolim, including Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, learned.
Writes Rav Gordon in his memoir: “…and about the question of funds, when the situation of the yeshiva was then very dire and there were enormous debts, I decided to travel to America in the winter of 1927. It was at that time that we sent about 40 bachurim along with one of the Ramim and the mashgiach, Harav Eliyahu Dushnitzer (to Eretz Yisroel), and I managed to pay down some of the debts.
“And in America, I received great assistance from my brother in law Rav Mordechai Halepern, the son in law of my father in law, toward my endeavor…”
In the year 1960, a dinner was given in his honor at “Riverside Plaza” honoring 40 years of dedicated work on behalf of the yeshiva. The event was graced by numerous Lomza alumni who illuminated America of yesteryear, including Rav Shimon Morduchowitz who noted the complete mesirus nefesh with which Rav Mordechai supported the yeshiva in the most trying of times.
Another daughter of Rav Shulevitz married Rav Moshe Leib Oizer, who headed the yeshiva in Petach Tikvah since the earliest days. His son, ybl”ch, Rav Eliezer shared his recollections of his uncle Rav Mordechai who moved to Bnei Brak in his later years.
“He was a truly special person—a supreme ba’al middos. When he would join us for Shabbosim, his zemiros were sung with such heart and emotion… the likes of which I have never seen.
“He was actually niftar in my arms,” further related Rav Oizer. “It was after a Shabbos that he had spent with us, and he wasn’t feeling well. He then collapsed in my arms…returning his soul to his Maker.
He was interred on Har Hamenuchos—after a lifetime of dedication to Torah and the Lomza Yeshiva.
Rav Halperin did not leave any children behind. The yahrtzeit of Rav Mordechai ben Nachum Yitzchok falls on 21 Adar. While he did not leave any biological children behind, his figurative offspring are the Torah that he enabled all the while the world was burning, thereby preserving a vestige for a rebuilt world—all from a humble abode on 46th Street in Boro Park of yesteryear.