Reb Gershon Neiman, z”l, Legendary Gabbai, Pillar of Viznitz-Monsey Community
In the early hours of this morning (Monday) came the news of the passing of Reb Gershon, z”l, a central pillar of the Viznitz-Monsey community. In many ways his passing marks the end of an era.
Born in Williamsburg of 1938, he was the third generation of the legendary Neiman Mishpacha of Viznitzer chassidim in America. His grandfather, Reb Baruch Neiman, a chossid of the Ahavas Yisroel came to America at the turn-of-the-century, and clung fiercely to the traditions of his Viznitzer roots, raising generations of American-born chassidim.
The Neiman’s were there to meet the Toras Mordechai, Rebbe Mottele of Viznitz, at the pier, when he arrived from war-torn Europe, and gave him his first pidyon on American shores.
Reb Gershon learned in Torah Vodaas, and later in the Zehlimer Yeshiva, which was then led by the Kashauer Rov—with whom he would remain connected, and he would travel to him on many occasions.
After marrying the daughter of Reb Yisroel Hersh Friedman, founder of Yere’im chapel in Williamsburg 70 years ago, the family settled in Williamsburg—following Rebbe Mottele to Monsey when established his court there.
The couple struggled to have children for the first year of their marriage. One year on Beis Sivan, the yohrtzeit of the Ahavas Yisroel of Viznitz, the daughter of the Imrei Chaim came to him, and pleaded: “Reb Shloime Neiman (the father of Reb Gershon) carried the Aron of your father, the Ahavas Yisroel, with his truck from the port of Haifa to his resting place in Bnei Brak. Isn't’ it time that something could be done for his son who doesn’t yet have children?” To which the Imrei Chaim responded: “Gershon is shoin ah geholfener.” And within one year, the couple gave birth to their bechor, Rav Nissan, zt”l, who was a dayan in Yerushalayim for many years. They would establish a large family, ka”h, of Talmidei Chachomim and chassidim.
After one year in Monsey, the Rebbe asked Reb Gershon to serve as the gabbai of the Viznitzer Shul, and with this he became one of the most legendary figures in teh chasidus; a demus of a true chossid and yerei Shomayim, always at the Rebbe’s side with exceptional dedication at all hours of the day or night.
His home of Phyllis Terrace was directly opposite the shul, and it became a center for every single Yid in need of a place; from Rebbe’s and Rabbonim who needed a chashuve place to stay when coming to Viznitz, to the undesirables whom no one else would take in. It was open at all hours, to everyone. This went on until the last weeks of his life.
Reb Gerson was a nehene m’yegia’a kapav—he worked very hard for his parnassah at a bindery in New Jersey for many years. But as soon as he retired, he was right back to his beloved Gemara. For a time, he would travel every day to the yeshiva in Gibbers to learn with bachurim who needed help, transforming them with love and concern, and implanting in them ahavas haTorah.
About one year ago, he was diagnosed with the machalah. He was mekabel the yisurim b’ahavah, and did his absolute best to carry on with his avodas hakodesh until very recently, when he strength was sapped of him.
An acquaintance observed that his daily minyan was the first minyan of the day in Viznitz, and this was the precise time that his neshamah ascended to Shomayim, in the wee hours of the morning—following a lifetime of mesirus nefesh, dedication to his holy Rebbe, chessed, ahavas Yisroel, and always rising above the tide of America with chassidishkeit and emunah peshutah.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.