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Thursday
Aug012013

“THE HEART AND MIND OF CHABAD IN WORCESTER”

Rabbi Yehuda Tzvi Fogelman a”h spent 70 years on shlichus, 67 of them in Worcester, Massachusetts. * R’ Fogelman was a combination of greatness in learning, success in hafatza, and hiskashrus. * He was one of the few remaining Chassidim who remembered the Rebbe Rayatz’s arrival in America.

R’ Tzvi Hershel Fogelman, senior shliach, recently passed away at the age of 91. He was a Chassid and mekushar to the Rebbeim, and served as their emissary for close to seventy years in Worcester, Massachusetts. He founded a network of Chabad mosdos and a Chabad community that is comprised of a yeshiva, a school for girls, and six Chabad houses in the area.

R’ Fogelman was recognized as a Torah authority as well, and was asked to serve on the temporary rabbinic council formed during the trying times after 27 Adar that included representatives of Chabad battei din in Eretz Yisroel, Crown Heights, and other places.

He was a gaon in learning as well as a gaon in action, a gaon in Chassidus and a gaon in hiskashrus. All these blended seamlessly in his multifaceted personality. It behooves us to follow in the ways of this Chassid who, from his days as a bachur until his final day, worked with mesirus nefesh to transform his place of shlichus into a flourishing Chassidic enclave.

BECOMING ACQUAINTED WITH THE WORLD OF CHASSIDUS

A few years ago, upon my request, R’ Fogelman sent me a brief letter of reminiscences. He told how he and his friends, young American bachurim who had been “turned on” to Chabad, spent time with elder Chassidim in the United States. These young Americans heard Chassidus and absorbed an authentic Chassidic education from those Chassidim who had learned in Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch under the leadership of the Rebbe Rashab.

This is what R’ Fogelman wrote in his letter:

“From 5699/1939, when we were drawn close to Chassidus, we would visit R’ Eliyahu Simpson’s house now and then. R’ Avrohom Pariz also lived there with his family, and this house was the only Chassidishe house where we farbrenged. The most impressive thing about his [R’ Simpson’s] character was that although he was one of the great Chassidim of the time, nothing about him stood out. His behavior and speech were in a manner of utter simplicity.”

R’ Eliyahu Simpson and R’ Avrohom Pariz made quite a Chassidishe impression on the young Hershel Fogelman. In those days, the financial situation in the host’s house was far from rosy, and R’ Pariz was a steady guest. Nevertheless, these two Chassidim did not allow the financial situation to effect the amount of time they devoted to the youngsters who were just warming up to Chassidus. They sat and learned Chassidus and farbrenged with them. They included R’ Fogelman, R’ Yosef Goldstein, and R’ Eliyahu Chaim Carlebach.

“In 5699 I was learning in Torah Vodaas. My friends were R’ Berel Baumgarten and R’ Avrohom Hecht. On 8 Kislev I heard them talking privately about a farbrengen. I asked them what it was about and whether I could join. They said that if I wanted to come, I should go to the second floor of the beis midrash and speak to R’ Mordechai Altein to get his permission. I did so. R’ Mordechai told me I could go, but I should change my hat to something more respectable.

“I went to the farbrengen which took place in R’ Yisrael Jacobson’s house in Brownsville. Already there were R’ Shmuel Levitin, R’ Eliyahu Simpson, R’ Berel Chaskind, R’ Avrohom Pariz, R’ Yochanan Gordon, R’ Avrohom Ziskind, and other young bachurim who learned in Torah Vodaas and Yeshivas R’ Chaim Berlin. The farbrengen was in honor of 9 Kislev, the birthday and yahrtzait of the Mitteler Rebbe. R’ Levitin was the main speaker and he focused on the Rebbe Rayatz and his mesirus nefesh.

“After that, I attended farbrengens and Tanya classes that took place on Motzaei Shabbos in R’ Jacobson’s house.”

REJOICING OVER THE REBBE’S RESCUE

A few months passed since he had first become acquainted with Chassidus and World War II had begun. The Chassidim that he knew were worried about the Lubavitch communities under Nazi occupation. They were most concerned about the Rebbe Rayatz who lived in Otvotzk. The Rebbe was miraculously rescued and arrived safely in Riga.

R’ Fogelman described the reaction of the Chassidim in New York:

“We were learning with R’ Avrohom Pariz in a shul in Williamsburg. It was 5 Teves 5700. Suddenly, a door banged open and my friend R’ Berel Baumgarten came in and shouted, ‘The Rebbe was freed from Warsaw and is in Riga!’ We all shouted and danced and sang. Only R’ Avrohom sat there motionless and we could see how touched he was by the news.

“Then R’ Berel told us that there would be a farbrengen in R’ Jacobson’s house. Of course, we went there immediately and the simcha that night is hard to describe. Mashke flowed amidst singing and joy and amazing camaraderie. R’ Levitin made whistling sounds with an empty bottle. It was only later on that we heard about the miracles that the Rebbe experienced in getting out of Warsaw, escorted by German soldiers via Berlin until he arrived in Riga.

“I heard that the Chassid, R’ Yehoshua Isaac Baruch of Kovna said to the Rebbe, when he heard that the Rebbe was going to America, ‘Rebbe, you are going so far and there is an ocean that separates us!’ The Rebbe replied, ‘The ocean doesn’t separate us; it connects us.’”

A few months later, the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in New York and took up residence in a hotel. During this period, R’ Hershel and his friends would attend farbrengens that took place at the hotel as he recounted, “Nearly every Shabbos there was a farbrengen and we all went from Williamsburg, Brownsville, Boro Park and Bensonhurst.”

THE FIRST YECHIDUS

Upon the Rebbe’s arrival in the United States, he founded Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim. Hershel wanted to leave his yeshiva and switch to the new Chabad yeshiva but he was accepted only after he had yechidus with the Rebbe, as he related in detail:

“Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in the US was founded immediately following Purim 5700, a week after the Rebbe’s arrival in the US. I had yechidus on 20 Iyar and I said I wanted to learn in Tomchei T’mimim, because until then I had been learning in Torah Vodaas. However, [in this yechidus] it did not work out.

“After Shavuos, the mashpia, R’ Jacobson told us that the Rebbe wants to meet with each of us who was learning Chassidus with R’ Avrohom Pariz. When I entered for yechidus, the Rebbe said to me, ‘You said that you want to learn in Tomchei T’mimim,’ and he said, ‘Nu?’ I said I would register for Tomchei T’mimim. There were six of us who learned Chassidus with R’ Pariz and we all had yechidus that night. To three of us he spoke about Tomchei T’mimim and to the other three he did not mention it. I was one of those he mentioned it to. Boruch Hashem, we began learning in the yeshiva that was located in the Oneg Shabbos shul in East Flatbush where we learned until 19 Kislev 5701. Only then did we go to 770, after the Rebbe said he wanted to hear the sound of Torah.”

R’ Fogelman remembered the day the Rebbe and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka arrived in the United States, after being saved from the conflagration in Europe:

“The Rebbe, Nasi Doreinu, arrived in the US on 28 Sivan 5701. The first farbrengen with him was in the beis midrash upstairs in 770. There were about two minyanim of Anash and talmidim. The Rebbe walked in with a Siddur in his hand and went to his place. He made a powerful impression on everyone present. He spoke at length about ‘four who need to thank’ and what they are in spiritual terms. In between inyanim they sang niggunim and there was a bit of an argument about the niggun of R’ Michel of Zlotchov. The Rebbe sang it a little differently than how it was sung previously.

“In the middle of the farbrengen, he said that they say about American bachurim that they are knowledgeable in Likkutei Dibburim and he began to test us and we knew it, more or less. The farbrengen began at nine in the evening and ended at three in the morning.”

Those weren’t the only times R’ Hershel had yechidus with the Rebbe Rayatz. He sometimes had to wait months, but each time he had yechidus, it was a special day for him. He said that when the secretary R’ Simpson gave the okay for him to go into yechidus, it was apparent that he was pleased that he could allow a bachur to go in.

R’ HERSHEL WITH THE REBBEIM

In his reminiscences, R’ Hershel told about what the Rebbe Rayatz said on Pesach 5705, shortly before the fall of Hitler, may his name be erased. He wrote in his diary:

“Pesach. We [the T’mimim] went for the second seder as we did all the years after we finished making our own at home. Although we arrived at one in the morning, they were still in the middle. We waited at the entrance to the dining room. Next to the table sat the Chassidim and the Rebbe, Nasi Doreinu, sat to the left of the Rebbe Rayatz. It looked, literally, like a royal table. I stood behind R’ Yisrael Jacobson and they were reciting Hallel HaGadol.

“Suddenly, we heard the Rebbe Rayatz raise his voice and say loudly, ‘L’makkeh Melachim g’dolim; ki l’olam chasdo.’ R’ Jacobson said to me, ‘There will be news soon.’ Indeed, within the month, Hitler [April 30] died and Roosevelt died [April 12].”

BUILDING TORAH IN AMERICA

As a young man, he began working in the field of chinuch. In the summer of 5702/1942, “Chadrei Torah T’mimim Lubavitch” was founded. This was an after public school learning program. R’ Fogelman, a yeshiva bachur at the time, opened a branch in Williamsburg with thirteen students. He learned with them for a year and then went to Worcester to expand the yeshiva there.

The yeshiva in Worcester had been started shortly before he arrived and when he came, he continued to expand it as he related:

“In 5702, my dear friend R’ Moshe Yitzchok Hecht and I joined together in shlichus. I was learning at the time in Tomchei T’mimim and during the summer I helped him found Achei T’mimim in Worcester. R’ Moshe Yitzchok came at the end of the summer on shlichus from the Rebbe Rayatz to run the yeshiva. This was two days before Rosh HaShana. The hanhala [of the yeshiva] asked me to stay until after the Yomim Tovim to help out and then to return to my learning.

“Throughout that Tishrei, we worked together day and night. On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5703 we received a letter from the Rebbe Rayatz full of encouragement, guidance and deep content, which greatly inspired us.”

Shortly thereafter, he returned to his studies in Tomchei T’mimim in New York, but at the end of that year, in Av 5703, he was sent to found Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Buffalo.

The founding meeting took place on 23 Av. After a few months, the number of students grew and the yeshiva procured a new building. As the yeshiva expanded, the rabbanim and members of the yeshiva’s committee asked the Rebbe Rayatz to send an assistant for R’ Fogelman.

While in Buffalo, R’ Fogelman received a number of letters from the Rebbe Rayatz with words of blessing and encouragement as well as specific instructions for his work. In one letter, the Rebbe wrote that he was happy to hear about the Mesibos Shabbos and told him to do all he could about chinuch, strengthening Judaism, and public shiurim. With all that, the Rebbe wrote him explicitly that his main job is the yeshiva.

In Av 5706, R’ Fogelman received instructions to leave Buffalo, despite the success there, and to go and run the yeshiva in Worcester. Although he had already done so much in Buffalo, he left it all to go and live in Worcester where he had worked several years earlier. He remained there for the next sixty-seven years as the Rebbe’s shliach, until his passing in Tammuz.

In 5707, about a year after beginning his shlichus in Worcester, he married Rochele Magnes. The wedding took place in New York and the Rebbe MH”M participated at the reception and was the officiating rabbi. During the reception, the Rebbe sat next to the chassan who began saying the maamer. After he finished the first os, the people present interrupted him by singing as was customary in those days. The Rebbe motioned in surprise as to why they were stopping him.

The Rebbe was given the honor of all seven brachos at the chuppa. When the chassan and kalla left the yichud room, the Rebbe gave the chassan a gift – a $9 check.

RAMASH’S RUACH HA’KODESH

Life on shlichus wasn’t always simple, and sometimes problems cropped up that impeded the development of his work. R’ Fogelman told of an interesting miracle that took place shortly after the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz. At that early point, it was already clear to him to whom to direct difficult questions.

At that time, he lived far from the shul. Some of the members of the community had suggested to him that he move to a shul-owned vacant apartment near the shul. R’ Fogelman asked the Rebbe who said that was fine, but then opposition arose on the part of some members of the community since R’ Fogelman was a “Lubavitcher.” A special meeting was convened in which a majority voted that the Chabad rabbi should in fact get the apartment.

The meeting took place on Motzaei Shabbos, and on Sunday, R’ Fogelman called to inform the Rebbe that he had been approved for the apartment. The Rebbe told him to go to the apartment immediately and begin living there before the opposition took steps to prevent him from living there.

The phone call ended, and one of his friends told him that indeed someone was planning on entering the apartment before him. R’ Fogelman hurried, as the Rebbe had advised him, and moved in. “It was open ruach ha’kodesh,” said R’ Fogelman about the Rebbe, even before the Rebbe had officially accepted the nesius.

FAR, IN THE PLACE OF SHLICHUS

Even when R’ Fogelman was offered other rabbinic positions, he refused to accept them and wouldn’t even ask the Rebbe about it, because he felt certain that the Rebbe would not take him away from a shlichus that the Rebbe Rayatz gave him.

In this location, far from any Chassidic center, he spread Judaism but missed having a Chassidishe atmosphere. He derived much encouragement from R’ Simpson’s visits. R’ Simpson was a shadar (fundraiser) and occasionally visited his city:

“He came once a year in order to raise Maamad. On these visits he would farbreng with the balabatim and he did so without a commotion. He spoke from the heart and when you do that, the words enter the heart.” R’ Fogelman summed up those visits, “The great impression he made on these visits reverberated for a long time afterward.”

In 5718, R’ Fogelman began building a building for Achei T’mimim in Worcester. He brought some members of his community to the Rebbe and had yechidus together with them. They presented the plans for the new building. The Rebbe glanced at the plans and immediately realized that the large hall would also be a beis midrash and a shul. He asked, “Where is the dining room?” The Rebbe pointed out other important things and all present were amazed to see how the Rebbe instantly understood the blueprints and made pertinent comments concerning the construction.

A dinner was planned to raise money for the building, but before the event the meteorologists predicted a downpour which would result in poor attendance. R’ Fogelman called the Rebbe’s office and asked the secretary to inform the Rebbe of this development. Shortly before the dinner, he received a telegram with the Rebbe’s signature which said, “Think positively and it will be good.” After an answer like that, obviously it didn’t rain and the dinner was a success.

Construction took two years and was completed in 5720. The building consisted of a large hall and five rooms. R’ Fogelman traveled to the Rebbe and as always, he gave a bottle of mashke at the farbrengen. He said it was for the building, and he described the hall, rooms, kitchen and offices. The Rebbe said, “I don’t consider that an expansion.”

The bottle was given to the Rebbe who poured l’chaim and gave a bracha of “l’chaim v’hatzlacha.”

R’ Fogelman returned to Worcester and added another wing to the building with five additional rooms. The new project was a big success.

***

R’ Fogelman passed away on 2 Tammuz after a long illness and is survived by his wife and children: Bassie Levin (Worcester, Mass.); Rabbi Menachem Mendel Fogelman (Worcester, Mass.); Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Fogelman (Natick, Mass.); Rabbi Shmuel Binyomin (Mushi) Fogelman (Los Angeles, Calif.): Sheva Liberow (Worcester, Mass.); Rabbi Mordechai (Mutty) Fogelman (Crown Heights, N.Y.); and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His oldest son, Rabbi Chaim Yosef Fogelman of New York, passed away 12 years ago.

NO MORE ILLNESS

R’ Fogelman related:

This happened after 3 Tammuz. Mr. T. called my house and said that his mother was in a hospital in our city. The doctors found whatever they found and after additional tests they decided there was nothing they could do.

I wasn’t home and my wife, who heard this, took a volume of Igros Kodesh and put a pidyon nefesh among the pages. When she opened it, it was a page with a letter that was written to a family with a critically ill family member. The Rebbe wrote them to say T’hillim 103 and 104. My wife took a T’hillim and said those chapters and cried.

Mr. T. called back to report that he had taken his mother to another hospital in Boston where they did more tests and found nothing wrong!

Boruch Hashem, the woman is doing fine and comes to shul every Shabbos.

BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN

R’ Fogelman made a number of trips to the Soviet Union in order to encourage his brethren languishing there. In his memoirs he tells about the visits he made in 5729 and 5742. In 5742, he went to Russia and was able to bring back an important manuscript. The Rebbe referred to this publicly as R’ Fogelman related:

“When I was in Russia I found hanachos written by R’ Hillel of Paritch on maamarim of the Tzemach Tzedek from the year 5599 etc. They were in the shul in Leningrad in the office of the rabbi. There was also a short maamer that the Tzemach Tzedek said when they brought a Torah scroll to the shul of his uncle, R’ Chaim Avrohom, the son of the Alter Rebbe.

“When I returned to New York, I gave it to R’ Groner for him to give to the Rebbe. That was a Friday, and on Shabbos, Parshas D’varim, toward the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe motioned to me that I should say l’chaim on a full cup. Then he spoke about the manuscript in terms of pidyon shvuyim (releasing captives) and said that since the next day they would be completing one of the Sifrei Torah of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim, he suggested that they print this maamer to distribute to the participants. And they did.”

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