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Tuesday
May162017

CHASSID AND PARAGON OF CHESED

The warm, pleasant, sweet persona of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitsch, Hy”d, was known to thousands of people who met him along the various stations of his storied life, as director of schools in Aubervilliers , as a central figure in the Chabad community in Migdal HaEmek, and as an outstanding host in charge of the Hachnasas Orchim near the Ohel of the Alter Rebbe in Haditch. * The life of this very special Chassid was cut short by four vicious Ukrainian thugs.

Half a year after Rabbi Menachem Mendel Mordechai Deitsch was attacked in a train station in Zhitomir, he passed away at the age of 64 on Erev Shvii shel Pesach. Following the attack, R’ Deitsch was airlifted to Eretz Yisroel where doctors were unable to help him

STARTING OUT

R’ Mendel Deitsch was born on 4 Shevat 5713 in Yerushalayim to R’ Yosef Eliyahu, a mekubal, director of Kollel Anshei Maamad, and Mrs. Miriam (Segal), a descendant of the Alter Rebbe.

Over the years, his older brother, the Chabad mashpia, R’ Chaim Sholom, was drawn to the study of Chabad Chassidus. Their mother imbued the home with a Chabad atmosphere and would occasionally reminisce about her childhood when she and her family saw the Rebbe Rayatz on his visit to Eretz Yisroel. This atmosphere pushed R’ Mendel, then a talmid in Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, to join the Tanya classes given by Rabbi Yosef Segal to yeshiva bachurim. R’ Mendel was swept up in the world of Lubavitch and eventually switched to learn in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Kfar Chabad where he absorbed much from the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman.

He married Shterna Sara, daughter of R’ Sholom Mendel Kalmanson of Aubervilliers, a suburb outside Paris. R’ Kalmanson ran the Shneur schools where many were educated in the ways of Torah and Chassidus. The schools expanded over the years and R’ Kalmanson felt he did not have the strength for it. He wanted to bring in a young menahel, but every time he suggested names to the Rebbe, the Rebbe did not respond.

R’ Kalmanson’s daughter married R’ Mendel and a short while after her wedding, the new chassan ran a public seder for mekuravim. The way he organized and ran it, despite his unfamiliarity with the language, appealed to his father-in-law. R’ Kalmanson suggested his son-in-law as the menahel to the Rebbe and the Rebbe agreed. R’ Kalmanson handed over the reins to his son-in-law who immediately set to work expanding the Shneur schools and obtaining the necessary funding.

THE REBBE PRAISED THE SUCCESS OF A CHASSID

R’ Mendel ran the schools for nearly 25 years and turned them into a veritable empire. “My father-in-law had many good qualities which gave him tremendous success in expanding the mosdos,” said his son-inlaw, R’ Sholom Friedland. “He had lots of positive energy, was always active, and constantly thought forward, how to develop, where to add, and how to expand the mosdos. He viewed everything through optimistic glasses. He never looked at the hardships, only at how to solve the challenges and be successful. My father-in-law wasn’t fazed by any sums of money, large or small. What he looked at was the importance of the growth of the mosdos.

“He was gifted with extraordinary charisma which helped him everywhere he went at various points in his life. He had good relationships with many people and was able to bring in large donations to the mosdos he ran and built. He turned a relatively limited school system into a mighty empire where thousands of students were educated.”

The Rebbe favorably viewed the development of the schools in Aubervilliers. One day, Rabbi Binyomin Gorodetzky, the Rebbe’s European representative, met R’ Deitsch and said that when he presented various problems that the shluchim in France were contending with, the Rebbe commented that R’ Deitsch went to France and despite not knowing the language, was successful in all areas.

R’ Mendel once had yechidus in the course of which the Rebbe asked how much money he raised recently. When he answered, the Rebbe wrote it down. It was a huge sum of money.

The ways of Hashem are hidden from us and after many years of running the mosdos, he had to leave France. He moved back to Eretz Yisroel in 5760 where he settled in Migdal HaEmek. From there he continued to work in fundraising for the mosdos he had built and he often made trips abroad.

In Migdal HaEmek, the Chabad community is relatively younger, for the most part, while R’ Deitsch, with his silvery beard, big smile, and vast Chassidic knowledge, became a draw for people of all backgrounds, who thanks to him were drawn close to Chassidus. Although he wasn’t well-off financially, his home was packed with guests every Shabbos as it was in France. He was mekarev his guests in Migdal HaEmek to the ways of Chassidus and to the Rebbe.

In every place, at every time, and in every circumstance, R’ Mendel, with his signature broad smile, would readily spout Chassidic sayings and Chassidic stories, and was a magnet for many people who became interested in Chassidus.

THE HOST IN HADITCH

As a descendant of the Alter Rebbe, R’ Mendel did much to honor the resting place of the Alter Rebbe in Haditch. His trips to Haditch began as soon as the Iron Curtain fell, in the early 90’s. Back then, R’ Mendel and a few Chassidim went to Haditch and arranged farbrengens as well as going to the tziyun on 24 Teves. As always, R’ Mendel did not only look out for himself. Together with his brother R’ Moshe Shmuel and friends, they set up a hospitality house and the Heichal Admur HaZakein within sight of the Alter Rebbe’s tziyun.

This is how Beis Moshiach reported it a few years ago:

“Together with a large crowd, a chanukas ha’bayis was celebrated for the hospitality house and mikva near the tziyun of the Alter Rebbe in Haditch on 24 Teves. The impressive event was one of a series of events held on the yom hilula, with the attendance of about a thousand people who arrived from Eretz Yisroel, the United States, the FSU, and other parts of the world.

“The farbrengen and chanukas ha’bayis began at three in the afternoon at the Shneur Center. The host, Rav Mendel Deitsch, told the participants that the new center was made ready to serve the many guests who come throughout the year to Haditch. This includes a mikva, a large kitchen, and a spacious hall for Chassidishe farbrengens. R’ Deitsch also spoke about plans for the future, having purchased a five-acre lot where they will build a beautiful hospitality center with guest rooms, rooms for farbrengens and gatherings, a large mikva, and more.”

R’ Deitsch realized his dream and there is a large center there which hosts thousands of Chassidim and visitors throughout the year.

In the years to come, the place underwent many upheavals, but R’ Mendel did not look at titles and roles. He always worked hard for the people who visit Haditch, and for the construction and development of Heichal Admur HaZakein. Within the framework of his work in Russia, he greatly helped shluchim and Jewish communities with action and advice.

His son-in-law, R’ Friedland, relates:

“The goal is to turn Haditch into a comfortable place for any Jew who goes to the Ukraine to the graves of tzaddikim, as well as to serve as a spiritual attraction for those who are becoming interested in Chabad. When the latter visit Haditch, learn Chassidus, and sing Chabad niggunim, it inspires them to get more involved in the teachings of Chabad. This is aside from the simple reason that Chabad Chassidim need to honor the tziyun of the Alter Rebbe, providing the necessary accessibility and accommodations. My fatherin- law did a lot over the years to ensure places to stay and to bring good food for all those who make the pilgrimage to Haditch. Considering the conditions in Ukraine, it was quite a challenge.”

 HARD TIMES

R’ Mendel went to Ukraine with his wife for 18 Elul 5776, the birthday of the Alter Rebbe. They went to spend this auspicious day in Haditch and for him to serve as the baal tefilla on the Yomim Nora’im. On Motzaei Shabbos Slichos, he inspired the crowd when he led the recitation of Slichos. During Rosh HaShana, he davened with great feeling and sweetness. Nobody dreamed this would be his last Rosh HaShana.

During the Aseres Yemei Teshuva he went to the bar mitzva celebration of the son of Rabbi Thaler, shliach in Berditchev. Then he and his wife went to Zhitomir where he stayed with his cousin, R’ Avrohom Deitsch. At night, he went to the local train station to fill up his phone card. That is where four hooligans pounced on him and beat him mercilessly. They robbed him and ran away, leaving R’ Deitsch unconscious.

Hours passed and he was in critical condition. He was brought to the local hospital and after doing what they could do, he was flown to Eretz Yisroel. The doctors tried to stabilize his condition but his injuries were too severe.

A half year after the attack, he passed away on Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach. He is survived by his wife, Shterna Sarah, and his children: Menucha Friedland, Aubervilliers; R’ Shneur Zalman, Minsk; Chana Appelbaum, Migdal HaEmek; R’ Yisroel, Yerushalayim; R’ Levi Yitzchok, Yerushalayim; Yehudis Fradkin, Rechovot; R’ Yosef Eliyahu, Krayot; as well as Shlomo Yehuda, Shmuel, Yocheved, and Sholom Dovber.

During the Shiva, numerous people went to console the family, from all walks of life, including Admurim, rabbanim and public figures, who were taken by R’ Mendel’s charming personality and who had received so much from him.

POWER OF A NIGGUN

After the funeral, a friend expressed his feelings for R’ Mendel in writing, and about R’ Mendel’s great love for the Chassidic niggun of the brothers from Slavita:

I am returning from the tragic funeral of the Chassid, R’ Menachem Mendel Deitsch, Hy”d. A dear, amazing individual, who passed away after a long coma.

R’ Mendel loved the Slavita niggun, a chilling niggun which was composed by the rabbinic Shapiro brothers (grandchildren of Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz), known as the Chassidic printers of Slavita. It is told that the brothers were arrested due to malicious informing against them which claimed they printed books while avoiding the local censor, and had even murdered those whom they suspected of informing on them. This was a classic libel. Their sentence was to be severely beaten. As they were beaten, the brothers began singing this niggun (some say they composed the niggun while being beaten). Since then, the niggun is called Niggun Slavita. The haunting melody almost seems to recount each blow of the lash and the attendant pain.

About 150 years later, in Tishrei 5777, R’ Mendel Deitsch was at a train station late at night in the city of those holy brothers (the brothers moved to Zhitomir after that terrible story, which was just about the only place that Jews were allowed to print s’farim). He was beaten by Ukrainian thugs and half a year later, died of his injuries.

How uncanny, tragic, and astonishing that this man, who was so attached to this niggun, and thanks to him I learned of this niggun, left this world under circumstances similar to the Shapiro brothers. On the way, he served for all of us as a scary reminder of the lot of the Jew and his immortal character, as opposed to the sinister, anti-Semitic, and murderous character of the finest sons of Western society.

There is a video of R’ Mendel teaching us the Slavita niggun with all the flavor and nuances that only he truly preserved. It was a farbrengen on 24 Teves 5776, a few months prior to the attack that led to his death, at the hall built at the gravesite of the Alter Rebbe, from whom R’ Mendel was descended, and to whose persona and teachings he was deeply attached (and was also one of the leading activists in bringing guests there).

May the inspiration from this niggun and the great spiritual elevation contained within it be an elevation for his holy soul. Please, Reb Menachem Mendel, go stand before the Heavenly Throne and cry out with the eternal Jewish plaint: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their G-d?’ Let it be known among the nations before our eyes the revenge of the spilt blood of Your servants.” “For He Who avenges blood remembers them; He has not forgotten the cry of the humble.” “He will execute justice upon the nations [into] a heap of corpses; He crushed the head on a great land.”

 

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