Monsey Memories: Rabbi Avraham Moshe Gendel
By: Yitzy Fried
As we head into our shul, and the season of teshuva intensifies, we profile a man who inspired many souls toward teshuva in Monsey of yore.
Rav Gendel arrived in America from Poland in 1947 following the Holocaust. He was a brilliant young man of 19, and went to learn in Torah Vodaas, and later in Beis Medrash Elyon. He would remain a resident of Monsey. Soon he became the Rabbi of Young Israel in Spring Valley, NY. He was tragically niftar at a young age, but not before leaving an indelible impression on countless people. One of them was Bruce, the proprietor of a funeral parlor in Rockland County. And this is the story he told:
“I first met Rabbi Gendel in 1968 when I was looking into opening a Jewish funeral home in Rockland County, New York. At the time, Rabbi Gendel was also teaching at the Mesivta Beth Shraga in Monsey, New York. He was strongly encouraging me as there was a need for a Jewish funeral director in the area as the existing Jewish funeral home was poorly run and not favored by many of the local families and Rabbi’s.
“However, at the time I was too young to start my own funeral home, so I worked for other funeral homes for another five years before venturing on my own in 1973. Rabbi Gendel was one of my strongest supporters. While I was not personally orthodox, he respected me and respected my own personal conviction to traditional burial standards. Whenever a member of his congregation died, he immediately told them to call me.
“Young Israel had a very diverse membership and not all of the members were orthodox, many were members simply because they loved Rabbi Gendel. There were times when a family did not want a traditional burial, but Rabbi Gendel and I would work with the family to provide a funeral that was traditional, but was also gave the family what they wanted. He did everything he could to try to find a way to help the family, but would not compromise his own traditional standards.
“If a family did not want a traditional orthodox simple pine casket, he would allow them to use something different as long as it was free of metal, made in a shomer shabbos facility. He always found time for everyone and was a very spiritual person. He was not a big man physically. He was somewhat short and had a slender build.
“While he was small in stature, he stood taller that the biggest of G-d’s creations. Without saying a word, Rabbi Gendel brought out something in me that made me feel guilty for not being as religious as I should be. He never said a word about it, but it was just the type of man he was.”
As we continue our teshuvah journey, we look to the example of one rov from Monsey of yesteryear.