Memory Lane: Reb Leibel Emert, z”l, Legendary Shammos of Bnei Yehuda
For half a century, Congregation Bnei Yehuda—which recently celebrated its centennial—was
tended to by its legendary gabbai who tirelessly oversaw every detail of its operation during the
shul’s heyday and beyond.
A lifelong, ardent Gerer chassid, Reb Leibel was born on the auspicious day of hei Shevat, the
yahrtzeit of the holy Sfas Emes, and was named Yehuda Aryeh Leib for the great tzaddik. The
family lived in the town of Ostrów, in Poland, where there was a large concentration of Gerer
chassidim, and there he absorbed a chassidisher bren from the mashpi’im—including Reb
Eliezer Tzvi and his son Simcha Bunim Zafranowitz— who nurtured the young chassidisher
Upon one nesi’ah to Gur for Shavuos, he tried mightily to get a glimpse of the Imrei Emes.
Being short in stature, a friend attempted to help him jump higher. Due to the tremendous
clamoring, Leibel fell flat onto the tisch. The Imrei Emes who noticed this sent shirayim for the
young man—l’chaim, and a slice of orange. For the remainder of his life, he attributed his
surviving the war—something that most of the people he knew did not merit—to the shirayim
that the Rebbe sent him.
With the blessing of the Imrei Emes, he entered the Novaradoker yeshivah in Biyalistok, where
he acquired sterling middos and a supremely refined character that defined him for life. He never
forgot a single yahrtzeit of a mispallel, and never neglected to participate in a simchah—and he
would also take upon himself to learn mishnayos and say kaddish for those who had no relatives.
His life was a fusion of Ger and Novaradok, and lived and breathed the teachings of both of
Out of a family of 13 children, only two remained after the terrible churban. He endured terrible
suffering in Siberia, along with Rav Yankele Galisnky, zt”l, who was maspid him at his levayah.
Despite this, never was a word of complaint heard from him—only praise and thanks for
everything that he had.
His dedication to Bnei Yehuda and its mispallelim was legendary, beginning in the days that he
lived in Bensonhurst, and he would trek for an hour each way—never missing a tefillah in the
shul. He would choose perfectly the lulavim and esrogim for each person, intuitively knowing
what they would prefer. He delivered shiurim and served as a ba’al korei, and ba’al
tefillah—and ensured that needy mispallelim would be able to make Yom Tov.
In later years he reflected that upon emerging from Siberia he did not know whether there were
any Jews left in the world. Emerging from that inferno, he channeled all of his love and
dedication to the spiritual and material needs of his brethren for half a century in Boro Park of