Memory Lane: Reb Yechiel Mechel Rabinowitz, Scion of Skolya Dynasty
In Boro Park of yesteryear lived Reb Mechel Rabinowitz Z”L, a talmid chochom, a brilliant mind, an inventor, philanthropist and activist who impacted the Boro Park community greatly.
He was born in the Polish town of Skolye to his father, Rebbe Baruch Pinchas, ZTK”L founder of the Skolya dynasty who hailed from the greatest luminaries of the Chassidic movement. He was named for his ancestor, Rebbe Yechiel Mechel of Zlochev ZTK”L. He spent his childhood years warmed by the glow of his holy father who spent his days immersed in Torah and tefillah, and performing mofsim for his fellow Yidden. He was known as a masmid from his youth.
In the days following WWI, the Skolya family settled in Vienna, where the Skolya Rebbe ZTK”L was niftar in 1919. He was succeeded by his older son, Rebbe Dovid Yitzchok Eizik ZTK”L who would lead the court in America as well.
Reb Mechel’s brilliant mind began working on inventing products, and he began to see success. At the same time, he channeled his talents to the welfare of the Jewish community in Vienna. But as WWII approached, he understood that he was too dangerous to remain in Vienna, and he moved to London in 1936. They endured the war years between London and the British countryside where they escaped the bombings in the city.
Reb Mechel’s grandfather, Rebbe Eliezer Chaim of Yompola ZTK”L, arrived in the United States in the year 1915, most likely the first chassidishe Rebbe on American shores. The Rabinowitz’s had cousins in America, and they finally joined them in the year 1948.
They soon moved to Boro Park, where they purchased a home. Their son was enrolled in Yeshiva Toras Emes, while their daughters went to Beis Yaakov of Boro Park. He continued his many business ventures, with varying degrees of success, but one thing was constant; his devotion to his community.
Reb Mechel was a major supporter of the Boro Park Mikveh, and undertook a major commitment when it was being built. He was a major supporter of Beis Yaakov of Boro Park, and was known as a ba’al tzedakah who sought to help anyone in need to the best of his ability.
He was a pillar of the Sfardishe Shul, where he davened in the “downstairs minyan” which was led by Rabbi Meir Pinsky. He was the ba’al tefillah for Shachris on Yamim Nora’im, and so sweet were his tefillos, that people would come down from the upstairs minyan to hear him. He became vice president and later president of the Shul.
He was also instrumental in founding Ohel Children’s Home. He understood that there were no children’s homes in America that catered to religious children. He poured his heart and soul into the founding of the organization, just like he did with all communal endeavors in which he was involved.
His always retained his love for learning, and authored a sefer, which he gave away for free.
In the 1980’s, Reb Mechel and his wife fulfilled a lifelong dream of making aliya to Eretz Yisroel. They lived in the Bayit Vegan area of Yerushalayim, where they were surrounded by children and grandchildren.
Reb Mechel Z”L was niftar in Yerushalayim on 29 Adar, 1994, following a lifetime of devotion to Torah and Yiddishkeit, helping his fellow Yidden, and serving as a beautiful link in his illustrious family’s golden chain.