Reb Meir Katz, z”l: Shaped Generations for Half a Century
By: Yehuda Alter
This past week we lost a precious member of the dwindling she’eiris hapleitah with the passing of Reb Meir Katz, z”l.
Following the horrific churban, he joined his fellow survivors in the rebuilding—but on another level altogether: shaping the young generations that were born in the half-century following the Holocaust, and he is remembered fondly by all of them.
Today, we pay tribute to his incredible life by telling his story to the readers of Boropark24.
He was born in the town of Uhel, Hungary, in the year 1926. His father was a legendary Yid by the name of Reb Yehoshua Katz (he would survive the war, and later serve as the longtime administrator of the Zehlimer Mikva in Williamsburg).
The Katz’s were ardent Munkatcher chassidim, and Reb Yehoshua would travel often to the Minchas Elozor. It was a vibrant Jewish life in Uhel, and they davened in the Chassidishe Kloiz in the town. He would recall the yohrtzeit of the Yismach Moshe in Uhel, when large crowds would come to the tziyun, the Satmar Rebbe among them.
This idyllic life came to a screeching halt with the advent of WWII. It began when the Hungarian’s sent his father to forced labor, known as the Munkatabor. At the end of the spring of 1944, the deportations began to Auschwitz. “My father, my brother, and myself were sent to the right, while my mother and the rest of my siblings were sent to the left, never to be seen again, Hy”d,” he would recall.
Following the liberation, he was reunited with his father. They made their way to the Feldafing D.P. Camp, where his father established a kosher kitchen, and where he served as a melamed for four years before moving to America. Reb Hershele of Spinka was one of the rabbonim who would come farher the children.
After some time in Brownsville and Williamsburg, Reb Meir married and settled in Boro Park, where he worked in a belt factory for many years.
Although the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington is notoriously sparse in material on the rich Jewish life of the orthodox community in the prewar and postwar era, among the few items on display is a photo of a melamed in the Feldafing D.P. Camp, along with his talmidim, celebrating Lag Ba’omer. The melamed is none other than Reb Meir Katz, z”l.
The exhibit is an enduring testament to the spirit of our beautiful heritage that Reb Meir imbued in those children of the postwar days—a calling in which he continued for half a century in Boro Park.