Memory Lane: The Lashkkovitzer Rebbe
On 45th Street in Boro Park in the 1960’s arrived the Lashkovitzer Rebbe, a seventh-generation descendant of the Ba’al Shem Tov—and he is remembered by many children of that time who would frequent his shtiebel, both in Boro Park, as well as previously on the Lower East Side.
The Rebbe hailed from the famed Gottesman-Heller family, who are direct descendants of the Tosafos Yom Tov. He was the son of Rebbe Avraham Yosef Yuska, the Lashkovitzer Rebbe, who was a great-grandson of Rebbe Meir’l of Premishlan, and was also descended from many great tzaddikim. His father served in Zalitchik, Poland, and this is where he was born in the year 1902.
He married into the Teitelbaum family, descendants of the Yismach Moshe, as his father in law was Rav Chaim Yosef Teitelbaum, a son of the Volowa Rav. When his father passed away, in 1933, he inherited the title of Lashkowitzer Rebbe, and was appointed Rav in Jarczów, Poland (pronounced Yarchov), and as we see in the accompanying photograph, he was escorted into the town with great fanfare.
Flight and Tragedy
The bliss did not last long, and with the outbreak of WWII, he sought to escape. After many miracles he arrived in America in the year 1940. The Lashkowitzer Chassidim established for him the Ohev Yisroel Shul, at 65 East 3rd Street on the Lower East Side, where he soon gained renown, breathing warmth into the drab Manhattan of the 1940’s.
Following the war, the following horrific notice was published in one of the Yiddish papers: “300 Jewish daughters murdered by Nazis in Lashkewitz. The Lashkevitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Gottesman, 44 East 3rd Street in New York received notification from Rabbi Ephraim Weinberger of Zalitchik—who fled from the Nazi geihinom to Yerushalayim—that the Nazis have murdered in 300 Jewish daughters, and the majority of the Jews of the town. The terrible massacre occurred on 24 Cheshvan, 1942… and this is the time of their yahrtzeit. Among them was the Rebbetzin Perl Gottesman, the Zalitchiker Rebbetzin.”
Thus the Rebbe lost his mother, along with tens of thousands of Jews from his area.
A Spiritual Outpost in America
In his Shul on the East Side, the Rebbe had join him none other than the venerable Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l, a revered figure on the Lower East Side, where he headed Ezras Torah for decades, and where he served as one of America’s greatest poskim.
His Shul was a unique place of warmth, and is remembered by children who would love to come there. He was universally beloved by the Rabbanim and Rebbeim of his time, as well as the laymen. In the 1960’s, the Rebbe traveled to Eretz Yisroel to found a neighborhood in Eretz Yisroel in the name of his holy ancestor, the Ba’al Shem Tov (it is unclear whether this materialized).
The final chapter of his life was lived in Boro Park. He moved to 1368 45th Street, and lived above the Shul. He was an exceptional ba’al tefillah¸ and is remembered to have davened with great emotion and passion.
A Sefer Torah of the Besh”t in Boro Park
Being a descendant of the founder of the Chassidic movement, the Rebbe was heir to the sefer Torah that he owned. Der Morgen Zhournal writes in the year “Sefer Torah of the Ba’al Shem with the Lashkowitzer Rebbe in Boro Park. A sefer Torah which was read in the beis Medrash of the Baal Shem… was recently brought to Boro Park, and is now in the home of the Lashkowitzer Rebbe of Boro Park
The Sefer Torah which was written more than 250 years ago by “Rav Hirsch Sofer”, a student of the Ba’al Shem, has endured many travails in many cities and lands, and through the war years was guarded with great mesirus nefesh through countless pogroms and massacres until it finally arrived to Eretz Yisroel. The famed cantor Samuel Kovetzky purchased the scroll for a large sum and gifted it to the Lashkowvitzer Rebbe, who is a seventh-generation descendant of the Ba’al Shem.
Rav Shmuel was niftar in the winter of 1968, and was interred on Har Hamenuchos, following a lifetime of Rabbanus, and years of inspiring the Yidden in Boro Park of Yesteryear.