Memory Lane: Rebbe Alter Yitzchok Safrin-Komarna Rebbe
On October 4, 1941, the Forverts published an overhead image of three pure-faced boys erecting a sukkah on East Third Street on the Lower East Side. They were the sons of the Rebbe and Mekubal, Rav Chaim Yaakov Safrin of Komarna. The bachur in the center was Rebbe Alter Yitzchok Elimelech who resided in Boro Park for decades, until his passing in recent years.
He was born in the year 1924 to his father Rav Chaim Yaakov Safrin, the great-grandson of the famed Rav Aizik’l of Komarna, the patriarch of this dynasty which is renowned for its deep emphasis of its Rebbeim on Toras hanistar. Rav Chaim Yaakov realized early on that he needed to flee the continent, and he urged others to flee as well—advice that saved them and their families.
The family arrived in America in 1938 through great miracles. Chassidim of Rav Chaim Yaakov opened for him “Bnei Yaakov Anshei Komarno” on the Lower East Side. Here, they set down their roots, and the shul became a beacon of light and holiness to the area, and numerous people were helped—spiritually and materially—by the Safrins. The Rebbetzin especially oversaw the chinuch of the children so that not a shred of the American influence entered their home. During these years, the Rebbe enjoyed an especially close relationship with his father and drew inspiration from his memory until his last days.
Thus, the young Alter Yitzchok Elimelech was raised as though back in the shtetl. He learned with tremendous diligence in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath—where he became a talmid muvhak of Rav Shlomo Heiman and Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l.
After a while, he moved into the newest neighborhood where Jews were settling; our shtetl of Boro Park. He would daven at the Bluzover Rebbes shul, and would serve as the Ba’al tokeah at the Stuchinher Rebbe’s Shul. In general, he was drawn close to all of Boro Park’s Rebbeim.
In 1937, the final chapter was opened, with the establishment of Heichal Habracha on 59th Street. The Rebbe’s inspiring tefillos, thought-provoking divrei Torah and engaging personality made him an especially beloved figure. Many families have the tradition that they were helped in many ways directly due to brachos from the Komarna Rebbe
He would strictly mark the yahrtzeit occasions of his ancestors, share of their divrei Torah, and their nigunim. He took great pride in carrying on the mesorah of the Komarna dynasty, known for its mystical depth in Torah and avodah. Rav Safrin had an extraordinary knowledge of the minhagim and divrei Torah of his great ancestors and was meticulous in remaining true to their hallowed traditions. He also reprinted many of the seforim of his father and his grandparents.
For the last decade of his life, the Rebbe suffered from illness, and despite this, he prevailed in continuing to lead his people with great fortitude. Perhaps his most important accomplishment is his family of Rabbanim, marbitzei Torah, and pious chassidim that he raised.
Rav Alter Chaim Yaakov Safrin, Komarna Rebbe of Boro Park, left this world in the summer of 2016, and his levayas drew large crowds. Both here and in Eretz Yisroel, he was eulogized by members of the extended Safrin-Komarna families. He was laid to rest on Har Hazeisim, in proximity to his great father, following a lifetime of immersion in Torah and avodah, and inspiring and uplifting the Yidden in Park of Yesteryear.