Memory Lane: The Novominsker Rebbe, Rebbe Yehuda Aryeh Perlow, zt”l
Last week we told the story of Rav Menachem Zev Friedman—in honor of his yohrtzeit, 2 Elul—who left Boro Park in the early 1930’s because he could not stand the blatant chillul Shabbos taking place all around him.
Another aspect of the hostility to Yiddishkeit which was prevalent in Boro Park of that time was the opposition to establishment of chassidishe shtieblach in homes—and a number of Chassidic Rebbe’s endured great persecution when they attempted this, often at the hands of fellow Jews. Which brings us to the short-lived residence of the Novominsker Rebbe, zt”l, when he sought to settle here in the late 1920’s.
Steeped in Torah
He was born in 1837 to his father, Rebbe Yaakov Perlow, the first Novominsker Rebbe—which made him a brother to the “Tiferes Ish”, Rav Alter Yisroel Shimon of Novominsk, and uncle of his son, Rebbe Nachum Mordechai Perlow, the father of ybl”ch, the current Novominsker Rebbe who is named for the scion of this holy court.
These tzaddikim hailed from the great lights of the Chassidic movement, including Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin, the Zlochover maggid, Rebbe Mordechai of Neschiz, Rebbe Pinchas of Korets, and others—and was known as a Poilishe chassidus with a strong emphasis on Torah.
From his earliest days, his hasmadah in Torah was legendarily superhuman. He would spend days and nights immersed intense Torah study, with very little sleep. This is something that continued deep into his old age, when he would famously stand for hours upon hours with a Gemara in his hands (see the accompanying photo of this frequent sight). He rarely interacted with people, aside from learning.
In Elul of 1897, at the age of 20, he married Esther Reizel Twersky, the daughter of Rebbe Dovid of Makarov, thus entering the Chernobyler dynasty. Following the horrors of WWI, life in his native Wlodowa, Poland, were not the same, and upon the invitation of landsleit, the Rebbe came to America.
Rabbi Battles Police Ban
The Rebbe purchased the home at 15190 49th Street, with the intention of converting the lower level into a Shul. The Brooklyn Citizen reports in April of that year: “Rabbi Enjoins Police from Ending Rites. Authorities stopped services in home, Grand Rabbi Perlow charges. The city of New York, the Building Department of the City of New York, the Borough President of Brooklyn and the police department today were temporarily restrained by Supreme Court Justice from interfering with religious teaching done by Rabbi Judah Leib Perlow of No. 1519 49th Street, Borough Park…
Rabbi Perlow, in petition to Justice Dunne, said he is a “Chassidisher, or Grand Rabbie from Lublin, Poland. He…bought a $15,000 house at this present address.
“Later he said, some of his disciples came to this country and urged him to become their Rabbi. He then established Congregation Vlodaver society… A Mr. Zimmerman who lives across the street, objected to the services being conducted in his home, Rabbi Perlow said, and the police were called. He added that police had ordered him to discontinue the services. They warned him, he said, if he attempted to continue them his home would be closed to all but members of his family.”
Following this, the Rebbe moved to South 9th Street in Williamsburg. Over his years in America, the Rebbe completed Shas fourteen times b’iyun, and was known as a baki niflah in Shas and poskim. He had a yeshiva in the name of his ancestor Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, and was revered by his fellow Rebbes and Rabbanim. He authored the brilliant Lev Aryeh and Kol Yehuda.
Upon his passing, on 10 Elul, 5761 (1961) he was interred in the section that he inaugurated at Beth David-Elmont cemetery, with a prominent ohel built over his kever. A number of Perlow relatives are buried in proximity to their illustrious uncle who bridged Poland and America, having attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to settle in Boro Park of yesteryear.