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Memories of a Farbrengen With Rabbi Mordechai Altein A”H

Rabbi Mordechai Altein A”H shared some memories at a farbrengen in Boro Park on Shabbos Shmini, 5769, which was later recorded, and now published by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin.

Reshimos Devarim

  1. The Rebbe sat with intense awe before the Freierdiker Rebbe (FR) and didn’t utter a word. The Rashag would ask the FR questions. Rabbi Altein (RA) showed us how the Rebbe sat—it was truly intense with total bittul, humility.
  2. A parent asked to send her son to RA’s yeshiva, Achei Temimim in the Bronx. He said why not send him to the Salanter yeshiva where your husband is a teacher? She said I don’t desire he learn from my husband who on Shabbos goes to the park to smoke a cigar!
  3. There was a known Bible Critic professor at Brooklyn College whose father-in-law was the president of the Mizrachi movement. He ruined thousands of Jewish boys and girls by his apikursos, heresy in critiquing versus in Breishis, etc. Many Torah Vodaas students attended his classes after learning in the morning in yeshiva. They became non-religious.
  4. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was a refined person.
  5. RA was sent by the FR to start the Achei Temimim in Pittsburg in 1941-44. From there he was dispatched to New Haven where Rabbi Berel Levy joined him. From there to Bridgeport where the Chasid Stock was living. From there, in 1945, to the Bronx. He became the rav of the Nusach Ari shul, which was the same shul where the Malach was rav until his passing on Shavous 1938. While in the Bronx RA opened a yeshiva for older students which closed because they were interested in going to college rather than yeshiva. He then started the Achei Temimim elementary school. He went door to door asking non-religious parents to send their children to his school.
  6. During those years in the Bronx there were 750,000 Jews!
  7. Only 1500 attended the three different frum schools.
  8. The FR instructed him to: memorize Torah word for word and separately, memorize the ideas of the Torah subjects he learned.
  9. The FR dispatched RA to Baltimore to speak with the Ner Yisrael students in learning. He wasn’t impressed with their knowledge. He met there the students Mordechai Gifter and Moshe Sherer.
  10. RA brought Rabbi Osdoba to Lubavitch. RO’s father davened in RA’s shul. RO was a 13 year-old boy. RA suggested to his father that he go to Lubavitcher yeshiva in Crown Heights. He agreed and the rest is history.
  11. In Pittsburg, RA stayed in a kind off motel. At one point the Litvishe gedolim also lodged there. He had an opportunity to witness first hand their gaiva not just towards others but to themselves as well!
  12. RA said, during those year they didn’t like Lubavitch.
  13. Initially when the FR came to America he wanted to join forces with the Litvishe but he realized immediately they didn’t desire to work together. Hence, he instructed his staff to open an independent yeshivos and mosdos.
  14. RA related that Rabbi Yolles asked the Rebbe for a haskama on his sefer. He showed the Rebbe that he had the Satmarer Rebbe’s haskama. The Rebbe said, “We ourselves get along; it’s the students of Yeravam ben Navat who make the disagreements.”
  15. One June, one of the YU Roshei Yeshiva came into the Besi Medrash to give his shiur. Normally most students leave after Shavous and the Roshei Yeshiva have vacation. This year there was a group of students who remained after Shavous hence requiring shiuriim. The Rosh Yeshiva noticed very few students ready to hear the lecture. He became upset and said, why are you here; go home so I won’t have to come in for so few students!
  16. The FR told Rabbi Jacobson when he visited him in 1936-37 that his son-in-law our Rebbe is a baki in Bavli, Yeruhalmi, rishonim, achronim, Kabbalah, mussar and chasidus, and in all, memorizing it be heart!
  17. RA said the Rebbe was a chad b’dora!
  18. RA concluded the farbrengen with a brocha that our king reveal himself as Moshiach and lead us together with all other Rebbeim to Eretz Yisrael.
  19. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Medelovitz sent the older Torah Vodaas students to the Malach. They came back totally wild. For example one of them was almost graduating college but because of the Malach’s influence dropped out. Others put on long arba kanfos, with the tzitzis schlepping on the ground.
  20. The Malach’s Chasidim walked from Williamsburg to the Bronx to attend his funeral on Shavous!
  21. He is buried right next to Rabbi Yisrael Jacobson’s father, who was one of his congregants.
  22. Rabbi Jacobson told RA that the Malach was sent away from Lubavitch because he desired to cause a rift between the FR and his father the Rebbe Rashab. More than that, RA said he never heard from his father-in-law.
  23. The only ones that remained strong in their yiddishkeit were the ones that had learned chassidus. The others received no answers to their questions, only ‘learn a blatt gemorah’…those with chassidus had the answers to their questions. He brought an example from the Haggada that questions should be encouraged, and there is an answer for every question.
  24. When the other Rabbanim of the Bronx discouraged him from opening the Achei Temimim yeshiva, he took them to task, “There are only 1500 students in the three Bronx yeshivos, out of a population of 750,000 and you ask why another yeshiva is necessary?”
  25. Mentioned that the Rebbe considered attending Rabbi Kotler’s Levaya but after consideration, did not.
  26. Early reminisces of the East Side and East New York of the 1920s.

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