kosher bookworm

In tribute to Rabbi Dr. Pesach Schindler, zt”l


This week marks the sheloshim anniversary of the untimely passing last month, right after Tisha B’ Av, of the world famous Holocaust historian and theologian, Rabbi Dr. Pesach Schindler, zt”l, of blessed memory.

Among the many essays and books that he authored was a work of translation and commentary entitled, “Restoration of Zion as a Response During the Holocaust: Em Habanim Semeicha” (Ktav, 1999) by Rabbi Yissakhar Shlomo Teichthal, hy”d, who himself was to be martyred during the Shoah.

This classic volume was given a major place in Holocaust literature due to the sacredness of the author, and the scholarship of its translator and commentator, Rabbi Schindler, who brought this holy work to America in English translation.

In honor of Rabbi Schindler’s life’s devotion to Jewish history, I will devote the remainder of this tribute to one of the Five Towns’ towering scholars and theologians, Rabbi Dr. Walter Wurzburger, zt”l, who graced the Shaaray Tefilla synagogue of Lawrence, where Rabbi Schindler was a congregant and close friend of the rabbi.

What follows is the introduction to that historic volume by Rabbi Wurzburger, written in 1999:

“Pesach Schindler, the author of a pioneering study of ‘Hasidic Responses to the Holocaust,’ has made another significant contribution to the understanding of this tragic era with his most readable translation of Rabbi Teichthal’s classic, ‘Happy Mother of Children.’

“Especially valuable is the Editor’s Introduction to the work; it enables even readers unfamiliar with the historic background to appreciate the momentous nature of Rabbi Teichthal’s ‘conversion’ from radical anti-Zionism to passionate advocacy of Religious Zionism. Dr. Schindler succeeds in pointing out how, in the wake of the new realities created by the Holocaust, Rabbi Teichthal felt constrained to recant his previous position, which had reflected the prevailing ethos of Hungarian Orthodoxy. At the risk of Jeopardizing his reputation among his co-religionists, he pleaded with them to abandon their rejectionist ideology and join even non-Orthodox Jews in the sacred task of settling Eretz Yisrael and return to Mother Zion.

“Rabbi Teichthal’s tract suffers from having been hastily composed under most trying conditions during his brief stay in Budapest as a refugee from Slovakia. That is why even individuals who can read the Hebrew original will derive much benefit from Dr. Schindler’s excellent notes and commentary. With the tools of scholarship at his disposal, he is able to illumine what would otherwise have remained obscure to those who cannot match his extensive knowledge of Talmudic and Hasidic literature.

“By making Rabbi Teichthal’s fascinating tract accessible to a larger circle, Dr. Schindler will also help lay to rest the canard that tradition-oriented Jews are so overwhelmed by the past that they cannot respond to newly emergent situations. Rabbi Teichthal provided convincing evidence that truly great minds and spirits are capable of transcending deeply ingrained ways of thinking and, while employing traditional categories of thought, can successfully respond to the challenge of momentous upheavals.”

My throughts on Rav Pesach take me back to the many times over the past 30 years, during my visits to Israel, when I would get together with him to talk, learn, and laugh together. This set up a bond between two generations, two world experiences and world views that made for some of the finest quality times that two teachers could ever experience.

No future trips to Israel will ever be the same. I miss him already, dearly. May his memory be a blessing to all Klal Yisrael.