Monsey Memories: Rav Yosef Meir Hakohen Kantor, zt”l
By: Yitzy Fried
Nearly two years have gone by since the passing of Rav Yosef Chaim Kantor, a legend in the Monsey community and Rov of the “Agudah Minyan,” whose lofty spiritual journey began among that elite group of Beis Medrash Elyon talmidim brought there by Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l—concluding with his half century of love dedicated to teaching Torah and musssar, shaping generations and moulding souls.
He was born in Newark around 1935, when Newark had thriving souls and Jewish institutions. He learned in the Lubavitcher Yeshiva, headed by Reb Sholom Ber Gordon. From there he went on to learn in Mesivta Torah Vodaath in Williamsburg, where he became known as a tremendous masmid, later joining the group in Monsey. Rav Yaakov kamenetzky described him as “ah kleiner Chofetz Chaim,” on account of his exceptional character and middos.
He married tbl”ch, Rebbetzin Chana, the daughter of Reb Yosef Hess of Williamsburg—his partner in his incredible work all of his life, caring for all matters of the home so he could devote himself completely to Torah and harbotzas Torah.
Rav Yosef Meir was the longtime Rov of the Agudah Shul in Monsey—but he was a leader and role model to all of Monsey.
For decades, he delivered an amud Yomi shiur—long before this concept was popular. “It covered gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, Rishonim and acharonim—everything was covered,” recalled one ardent participant for twenty years. In addition, he would regularly deliver mussar shmuessen at a number of Monsey yeshivos.
But, beyond what he said… it was his entire essence that exuded mussar.
Every memory of Rav Kantor, zt”l, involves anecdotes of brilliance in Middos and avodah. The mispalelim recall countless stories of his exceptional humility, hasmodoh, kindness and thoughtfulness, and his meticulousness in every minute detail of every mitzvah—qualities that defined the life of this consummate eved Hashem who left an indelible impression on his beloved Monsey community over half a century.