Monsey Memories: Reb Leib Apfeldorfer, Dedicated Cook of Beis Medrash Elyon

Monsey Memories: Reb Leib Apfeldorfer, Dedicated Cook of Beis Medrash Elyon

Yitzy Fried

An unforgettable figure in Monsey of yore for the many distinguished talmidim of Beis Medrash Elyon, and those who frequented the yeshiva, was the legendary cook, Reb Leib Apfeldorfer, z”l. He and his wife, Mrs. Serl Apfeldorfer, were the cooks in the yeshiva and provided the bachurim with far more than their meals.

“It is worth attending Beis Medrash Elyon just to get to know the Apfeldorfers. They are a living mussar sefer in middos tovos,” Rav Yaakov Kamentzky, a legendary Monsey resident once told a talmid.

After losing his spouse and children in the war, Reb Leib Apfeldorfer remarried Mrs. Serl, a fellow survivor. They had no children of their own, but together, they decided that the talmidim at the yeshivah would be their offspring.

One old Monsey resident recalls fondly, "When I lived in Monsey some 50-plus years ago there were no restaurants, caterers, or eateries to speak of. If there was a Bar Mitzvah, it was in Bais Medrash Elyon and the Appledorfers made the kiddush and the cholent, etc."

Mr. Appledorfer was a remarkable tzaddik. He once related that he would wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for the bochurim, and find Rav Reuven Grozovsky absorbed in learning. It was not that the Rosh Yeshiva was up early.  It was that he was up all night.  Such was his example of hasmada for the bochurim.

When the beloved Reb Leib Apfeldorfer passed away in the spring of 1976, Rav Gedaliah Schorr was one of those who escorted the niftar to Kennedy Airport to be taken to Eretz Yisrael for burial.

Rav Schorr was shocked to learn that the niftar was to remain on a cargo truck unattended until loaded onto the plane by non-Jews. He asked for permission to stay in the truck but was told that El Al security guards ran flashlights across the truck bed when it reached the plane and were authorized to shoot if they came across anyone without clearance.

For a suitable “consideration,” however, the driver would park the truck so that people with the coffin would not be seen – provided they lie flat on the floor, So the elderly Rosh Yeshivah climbed into the truck with three students and set aside his dignity for the more glorious task of paying a final honor to a man who had served the yeshiva with loyalty and dedication.

The yohrtzeit of Reb Yehuda Leib ben Benzion Halevi is the 28th of Nissan. Mrs. Apfeldorfer’s name is Serl bas Avorhom Abish and her yohrtzeit is the 19th of Cheshvan. Since they did not leave children behind, it would be a great zechus if the public were to learn or give tzedakah in the memory of their neshomoh—a fitting commemoration for all that they did for the talmidim of Beis Medrash Elyon all those many years ago. 

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