BROOKLYN, NY — The Jewish community united in mourning Tuesday, upon the passing of Rabbi David B. Hollander. Rabbi Hollander, who at his death was the leader of the Hebrew Alliance in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, also served as rabbi at the Mount Eden Synagogue in the Bronx and was the former president of the Rabbinical Council of America. The 96-year old was the oldest full-time pulpit rabbi in the world.
Rabbi Hollander, who took his activism out of the synagogue and into the broader Jewish community, found much inspiration from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe instructed and motivated Rabbi Hollander before he visited Moscow in 1956. The relationship they developed then only blossomed in future years, with Rabbi Hollander later teaming up with local Chabad representatives to better their Brooklyn community.
Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1913, Rabbi Hollander immigrated with his family to New York when he was nine years old. During his teenage years, he attended Brooklyn Law School and also studied with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik at Yeshiva University. Soon after commencement, the new graduate realized that he could make a bigger difference as a rabbi than as a law clerk.
The youthful Rabbi Hollander took the helm of the Mount Eden Center in the Bronx. A gifted orator, he found the pulpit to be the perfect forum from which to lead the battle against assimilation and Jewish apologetics. His Shabbat speeches, delivered with a fiery passion, reflected his unwavering commitment to traditional Torah Judaism.
Hollander’s outspoken nature did not always win him friends. Throughout his long career, Hollander would remain a somewhat controversial figure – a position that came with great personal sacrifice. As Rabbi Faivel Rimler, rabbi of the New Brighton Jewish Center and Chabad’s representative to Manhattan Beach noted: “It would pain him when others would distance themselves from him due to his ideology. In the end, however, he always remained true to his beliefs.”
His fight, Rabbi Hollander often noted, was an ideological battle against deception, not one against people. “He saw no classes within Judaism,” Mrs. Fay Hollander related to Lubavitch.com shortly before his funeral. “To my husband there was only one Torah, and every Jew had a place in it.”