Memory Lane: The Chernobyler Rebbes of Boro Park
A regal presence in Boro Park of yesteryear—revered among the Rebbeim of his time—was the Chernobyler Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Yisroel, who arrived a little while after his father Rebbe Shlomo Shmuel—whose 79th yahrtzeit falls this week— to Boro Park in 1934. Thus, we glimpse into the times of the Chernobiler Rebbes in the neighborhood of Boro Park of Yesteryear.
Rebbe Shlomo Shmuel was the son of Rebbe Baruch Asher, who was the son of Rebbe Aaron of Chernobyl, the son of Rebbe Mottele, the Chernobyler Maggid. Rebb Baruch Asher was the one to succeed his father as Chernobyler Rebbe, thus this line is the direct succession of the founders of this dynasty.
In 1925, Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel Rebbe married the daughter of Rebbe Yaakov Yosef of Orzischov, from the dynasty of Reb Yeivi, a student of the Ba’al Shem Tov. Since Boro Park was home to many Chassidim of the Chernobyler dynasty, and it was they who brought over Rav Shlomo Shmuel. He settled on Forty-Eighth Street.
The tenure of Rav Shlomo Shmuel on American shores was, unfortunately, not to last long. In 1935, the New York Times announced the passing of Rebbe Shlomo Shmuel (28 Adar II, 79 years ago): “Grand Rabbi Samuel Twersky, head of Association of Grand Rabbis of America, died yesterday at his home. The oldest Chassidic Rebbe in the United States, Rabbi Solomon Samuel Twersky, the noted Tchernobiler rebbe, died yesterday morning of a heart attack at his home, 1578 Forty-Eighth Street, Brooklyn. He was 70 years old. Rabbi Twersky, who was born in Tchernobile, Russia, came to this country from Riga, Latvia, a year ago.
Thus, Rav Yaakov Yisroel assumed his father’s role as Chernobyler Rebbe, and for the next half century would serve his fellow Jews with love and devotion.
The Chernobyler Rebbe’s home in Boro Park was open to one and all, no matter what they looked like… everyone was welcome—even those whom others would never bring into their homes.
All his love and tolerance of every Yid did not mean that the Rebbe could abide chilul Shabbos—which was tragically widespread in Boro Park of those years. He would not leave his home the entire Shabbos so as not be to be offended by the rampant desecration of the holy Shabbos, except for his early Shabbos morning walk to the mikveh.
When Reb Yakir Bigeleisen, a venerated Belzer Chossid, and legendary Boro Park consulted the previous Belzer Rav on who to honor with the Sandak for his newborn son, he chose the Chernobyler Rebbe, who was also his relative.
The Chernobyler Shtiebel on 48th Street was the place that hold such dear memories for so many young people of Boro Park who would come to be warmed by the Rebbe—especially during simchas Torah, which was a highlight of the year.
Rav Yaakov Yisroel was niftar in Boro Park, 5 Kislev of 1983, following a lifetime of piety, chessed, and fervent avodas Hashem. Wherever he went he was revered, and was always accorded great honor.
His offspring proudly carry on his legacy in America and Eretz Yisroel. In their possession as some priceless heirlooms originating from their illustrious ancestors.
The Rebbe is buried in an ohel alongside his illustrious father on the Chernobyler section of Beth David Cemetery.