Rav Yaakov Aryeh Grossman, zt”l
From Biyalistok to Boro Park
Last week we profiled Rav Yitzchok Waltman who served Knesses Israel/Hebrew Community of Boro Park, located at 1323 42nd Street from sometime around 1926, until his passing in 1938
15 years later, the shul was graced with the leadership of Rav Grossman, zt”l, a giant in Torah and character, a ba’al mussar, and an outstanding ba’al darshan and maggid. Having spent his early years in the proximity of giants, he continued that tradition on American soil, and left behind a remarkable legacy. Today, we take a glimpse into his extraordinary life.
He would later describe the kedusha that permeated the shtetl of Biyalistok, home of the great yeshiva Beis Yosef-Novaradok, and the spirit of mussar that was palpable in its populace shaped his youth. His father was a well-to-do businessman who spent hours in the beis hamedrash. In addition, he was the address for the needy, especially bnei Torah.
In 1905, a terrible pogrom overtook the city. Following this, Reb Yisroel Gedaliah took his family to Eretz Yisroel to wait it out. When it was over, the family returned to Poland, but Yaakov Aryeh remained there, learning in Chevron for another year. When he returned to Europe, he entered the great Yeshiva of Brisk—learning under Gedolim such as Rav Moshe Sokolovsky, and Masechta Kiddushin by Rav Elchonon Wasserman, zt”l, Hy”d, keeping a lifelong affinity for this masechta. He would often forego meals… remaining at his shtender in Brisk for hours upon hours.
In Radin came the most important influence in his life; his proximity to the heilige Chofetz Chaim whose visage would remain before him, inspiring him his entire life.
With the outbreak of WWI, the Radiner yeshiva was dispersed—and Rav Yaakov Aryeh found himself back in Biyalistok, in the shtiebel, sitting among an extraordinary group of lomdim. He continued learning in this way throughout the war.
He married Chaya Sarah Zundiner, the daughter of a great Talmid Chacham from Biyalistok (worried that she was not yet finding her zivug, she waited for long hours to receive a bracha from the Chofetz Chaim, when he came to Biyalistok. He benched her that she would shortly marry a great chosson). To support his young family, Rav Grossman began delivering shiurim to balebatim in the shtiblach of Biyalistok.
The family arrived in America in 1928, and Rav Grossman took a position in Harlem. Among those he was reunited with was Rav Joffen of Novaradok.
He then served as a rov in Harlem and the Bronx, and in 1941, he accepted the position at Ohel Abraham Mishkan Joseph, still in existence at 18th Avenue and 49th Street. In 1945, he accepted a position in Lakewood, then a resort town. During his years there, he toiled tremendously for the cause of the great yeshiva, and his home was frequented by the talmidim of the yeshiva. In addition, he established a yeshiva for the young children of Lakewood.
Finally, in 1953, he was appointed the rov of Knesses Israel of Boro Park where he remained to until his final illness, giving shiurim and inspiring his congregants. Simultaneously, he also served as the official rov of Maimonides where he cared for the spiritual and material need of its patients. Even when he fell ill, he was moser nefesh to continue giving shiurim as he had done throughout his life. He was niftar in Boro Park on 23 Sivan 1973, and was laid to rest on Har Hazeisim, near his father who had returned to live in the holy land.