Memory Lane: Rav Yosef Rosen, A Talmid of Rav Chaim Brisker
Rav Yosef was born in a town near Minsk in 1863 near Minsk to his father Rav Avraham Duber, who was a great lamdan and yarei Shamayim. At a very young age, he entered the Mirer yeshiva in Poland, which was a short distance from his hometown. He spent the early 1880’s there, and grew close to the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, where he was known as an iluy.
Like many Mirers, he went from there to Brisker, learning and being meshamesh under Rav Chaim Brisker in the later 1880’s. In 1891, he received semichah from the Netziv, and from Rav Yeruchem Leib Perlman, known as the “Minsker Gadol”—who wrote about his chiddushei Torah: A ma’ammik and mechadesh who brings up flawless diamonds.”
In 1899, he married the daughter ofteh Ga’on, Rav Duber Golub, and soon thereafter began a goilden Rabbinic tenure that would last his entire life, and would impact thousands of Yidden in Russia and America.
In 1901, Rav Rosen became the Rav of Śvisłač, (Svitzlotz), Russia (near Grodno), where he succeeded none other than Rav Shneur Zalman Kotler, the father of Rav Aharon, who was niftar at a young age. In Sefer Svitzlotz, we read: “after the passing of Rav Shneur Zalman, we accepted Rav Yosef Rosen, a tall man with a great hadras panim. He was a great, sharp lamdan, and in addition to this he was extremely wise, and familiar with world affairs.
“For this reason, people would come to him for dinei Torah—even those who would ordinarily have gone to the secular courts. He would seek compromises, and with his persuasion skills, he would convince the parties to come to an agreement. His derashos were in tune with the times, and his words would reach directly into the hearts of his listeners. The people of Svitzlotz—with many lomdim among them—were extremely satisfied.”
Like so many of his Russian brethren, he felt the terrible boot of Anti-Semitism and oppression upon his neck, and sought passage to America. After 22 years as the Rav of Svitzlotz, he left the blood-soaked continent.
In 1923, he arrived in America and was appointed as Rav of Shomrei Emunah—where he would serve for five years. Is this time, he gained great fame, and in one of the many Torah essays that he had published, he is signed, “Yosef Rosen, formerly of Switzlotz, now in Boro Park.”
In 1926, Rav Rosen was appointed chief Rabbi of Passaic. For close to thirty years he impacted every area of religious observance, and was a revered figure in the world of American Rabbanus. He was a great mediating force in many disputes, and was heavily involved in kashrus matters. The Rav was one in a three-person beis din which included Rav Chaim Benzion Notelevitz, to resolve a kashrus controversy that rocked the Jewish community of St. Louis. This is a testament to the caliber and stature of Rav Rosen and his ability to bring people to compromise.
Rav Rosen passed away in 1954 at the age of 90, following a lifetime of Brilliance in Torah and brilliance in leading his fellow Jews—for a number of years as the Rav of Shomrei Emunah, on 52nd Street, in Boro Park of yesteryear.