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My Rabbi, Reb Avram – by A Grateful Student

Teacher R. Avram Barnetsky OB”M

I’m not sure my Rabbi would approve of this honor. You see, my Rabbi, I’ll just refer to him as Reb Avram, is a very humble man. As a matter of fact, he probably doesn’t think that he has done anything so extraordinary. In fact, all that Reb Avram has done is provide sweet and delicious Torah education to young children for over half a century. Imagine – today there are gray bearded men who were taught by Reb Avram fifty years ago and this very morning, Reb Avram was still teaching, still caring, still reaching out to that ‘pintele Yid’ – that divine spark within each child that sometimes only he can see.

Reb Avram, you see is a different kind of teacher who believes that every child can learn. When I first arrived at the Yeshiva, I needed some remedial tutoring. Reb Avram spent his lunch hours catching me up. When I advanced to higher grades, he would always pass me in the hallways and offer his words of encouragement along with his radiant smile. When I began to teach, he was a primary role model. He offered practical, sage advice along with hand written teaching materials that he had created and perfected over the years. Need a Halachic decision? A blessing for a sick child or expectant mother? Want to hear a practical and meaningful gem of Torah about this week’s Parsha? Reb Avram has always been there – just a phone call or a visit with him lifts the spirit and the soul.

How unfortunate that some people can go through their entire schooling never once being inspired or uplifted by a gifted and generous teacher. I am eternally grateful that I have an ongoing relationship with a true mentor, this Baal Mesorah – a Rebbe in the finest sense of the word. Reb Avram epitomizes the words of Pirkei Avos that teach “Asay L’cha Rav V’histalek Min Hasafek.” Indeed, when you are privileged to encounter a walking Sefer Torah in your life, your doubts dissipate and your priorities reorganize.

Over the years, I have insisted that my own children be taught by Reb Avram so that they too form a precious bond with him. Indeed, hardly a week goes by that one of our family members doesn’t speak to our Rabbi and he treats each of us as though we are his only child. Nothing stops him from giving of himself and from helping so many others; not his advanced age, not aches and pains, nor the icy New York winters. His kinderlach need him today just as they have for over the past fifty years. And so they shall with the blessings of Hashem, for many healthy years to come.

I once asked Reb Avram about his grading system. It seems that he likes to give mostly Alefs – (‘A’s) to his students. It took many years of study and a Masters degree in Education until I thought I understood why Reb Avram graded so high. “It must be that you’re using those ‘A’s as positive reinforcement, to encourage effort in each child,” I said rather proudly as though I had finally understood my Rebbe’s methodology. “Oh no,” answered Reb Avram with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t grade according to achievement, nor do I grade based on effort.” “How then do you determine who deserves an ‘A’?” I asked this kind, gentle and wonderful man, who cares so deeply about every child, and believes that each one can learn and that it is he who must motivate them to succeed. “Oh,” he said, “I just grade according to the child’s potential.”

17 Comments

  • 1. lizman wrote:

    AHH GESHMAK TO HEAR AND READ.

    it brought a tear to my eyes. as i remember him the way he taght me in 5th grade. as he would say i will drill it into you,

    nay the rebbies of today learn from him and use him as role model.

    may the rebbies of today get the chisuck they need and deserve from us parents. for the great they try to do with our children in these difficult times

    and please as you walk by a melamed that teaches in one of our moisdois tell him thanks

    vdal

  • 2. concerned wrote:

    did Rabbi Barnesky a’h have any family left? Did he have any children, please let us know more about him.
    thankyou for this article, he was also my boys’ teachers too.

  • 4. yisroel wrote:

    i have kept in touch with rabbi barnetsky to the end he suffered alot he has children in ny and lakewood and his wife arichas shonim tovim she was great to him a reall tzadekis rabbi barnetsky was a lamid vov tzadik he was extrodinery person some one who this world will miss greatly he was like walking torah as mentioned before who ever learnt by him had big zechus

  • 5. ad mosai wrote:

    harav avrohom menachem mendel barnetsky his neshoma should have aliya there wasent anyone like him the time he devoted for teaching in the yeshiva he lived to teach it gave him so much life to see the kids and to see them grow in learning there is not enough words to say about him i loved him to pieces a roll model i will never for get him and im sure he will be missed by thousands of people we should be zocha to see moshiach techias hamesim no more tzoros

  • 6. proud student wrote:

    if you could say on someone he is a lamed vovnik it was rabbi barnetzky

  • 7. aviad wrote:

    that young boy there on the left is me.
    real shocker to see this pic outa all other pix.

  • 8. Chayim wrote:

    Rabbi Barnetzky truly was an amzing Rebbi. He taught in ULY up until almot 2 years ago whwn his family felt that it wasn’t for him anymore to teach.

    I heard that there weren’t too many people in attnedance at his Levaya. Though I know that some of his former students did go. It would probably be most appropiate if those whow ere his pupils or associate teachsera in ULY make the effort to pay a shiva visit and speak with his family about his greatness, what a wonderful teacher he was or at least call the family to tell them of your expreineces with him.

    I ask that webby do us all a favor and find out the info as a public service so all the rest of us can benefit and do what’s right.

    May we be zoicha to bias goel zedek speedily with tekhiyas haemisim.

  • 9. a student wrote:

    a famous quote/song of Rabbi Barnetzky was oh how good it is to be a yid

    Rabbi Barnetzky was a major factor of the children in ULY of Ocean Parkway in his later years I remember about ten years ago how much I used to enjoy leaving class to learn with Rabbi Barnetzky he is definitly some one who we need more of in these days

    May we be Zoche to see him before Shabbos with the Rebbe Melech Hamoshiach Tekif Umiyad Mamosh Amen

  • 10. ssssssssss wrote:

    a proper way to remember rabbi barnetski whould be to support ULY ocean parkway which unfourtunatly is having a very very hard time with paying its melamdim please send your donation to ULY 841 Ocean Parkway brooklyn, NY 11230 ATT:rabbi Dechter

  • 11. A shchunaeit wrote:

    Rabbi Barnetsky…. WOW he was the most loved man in my yeshivah system days. There are no words to say or to describe what a great melamed he was, todays society of teachers has no idea nor will they ever know how to mechanech our chldren like he did.

    I only wish the teachers in Oholei Torah and ULY crown St. can only learn from him and mechanech our children of today the way he did please melamdim I encourage you to be better teachers and dont just do it as a job to get by do it for the passion of teaching young souls the future of life and understanding dont make the students hate you mke them love you as a teacher and someone to confide in todays society calls for it our children need it be there for them they are our children and we need to teach the right way even if they are a bit modern doesnt make a difference its about being a good person and Hashem fearing chasidishkeit comes with fealing.

  • 12. someone lucky enough to have known him wrote:

    A true Tomim, who was zoches to learn in otwask by the Frideke rebbe and learnt breathed and lived as a emmser mekushar should.
    A emmser mechanuch to hundred and hyndreds of talmidim Kayin yirbu!

  • 13. mendel wrote:

    the adress for nichum avelim is 511 e.2nd st between ave c and courtelya road kennsigton brooklyn ny

  • 14. Where does donation get into the picture wrote:

    No Telemarketing here, Rabbi Barnetzky was the greatest Rebbi that i knew.

    BUT, that dosent mean the ULY O.P. deserves a donation for letting that (once) beautiful building that the Rash’ag put his sweat and blood in, to dilapidate, and is say this as a former student who went through quite a few years over there, and am familiar with what goes on, the only Limud Zchus i can find to give them a donation is A. It’s a Tomchei T’mimim under the leadership of the Rasha’b, and B. it’s worth, because your donating to ‘Hebrew academy of O.P. which educates our lost syrian and russian brothers!

  • 15. a Talmid wrote:

    I’ve heard about Rabbi Barnetzky a few nice things from a talmid of his.
    Rabbi Barnetzy was the only teacher at the time to use handouts. Fifth grad would learn Eilu Metzius, and he’d use written stencils with Teitch in both Yiddish and English, something that was new age stuff back in the 1940’s. He said soon everybody will be using it, and sure enough. Every day he’d write on the stencils the times of Sof Zman Krias Shma.

    He’d daven be’arichus early rather then daven with a minyan that hurried. His students would ask him why he’d daven every word from the Siddur if he knew it by hart, and he’d teach them how reading from the siddur enhances Kavanah, and showed them the value of reading the prayers from inside. He also gave the children small cards with the Brochos and Bentching.

    He was known to be Zahir in kashrus, and at the time there weren’t many sweets available with reliable Hechsheirim, and the children always would refer to him to know which candy was ok. He knew a lot about ingredients and chemicals and what he didn’t know he’d say he has to look it up in a special book. I heard that recently his family found a lot of letters of his correspondence with many of the food manufacturers of the time in his research of ingredients and kashrus.

    Rebbitzen [Chana?] would watch the children as they’d play, in the [yard] of 770. Rabbi Barnetzky would participate in the games in order to encourage some of the boys who didn’t like sports, so they’d be involved.

    There was a child who was a trouble to everyone and no teacher wanted him. Rabbi Barnetzky made a decision to take the boy in. the first day the boy walked right up to him and said "you can’t do nothing to me, because this is a phone number to child-abuse police". For two weeks the boy was a nightmare. Rabbi barnetzky called him after hours, and told the kid that he is unique, and that he has special ability’s, and would like to learn with him. Each day they learned [over the phone] the boy’s behavior gradually improved. Three weeks into their learning the boy had completely changed, and today says that he is Frum, and is a mentch only because of this teacher that he had in childhood.

    Rabbi Barnetzky was way ahead of his time in the 1940’s.

  • 16. a Talmid wrote:

    and one more thing:

    when asked why he wouldent come to an out of town simcha in the family, he said ‘how can i leave the talmidim?’

    till his last years even when he was bedridden without any Koches left he never took a day off, he was motivated to his cause.

  • 17. M. F. wrote:

    What a special person Rabbi Barnetsky was. I did not personally know him, but his warmth and personal care that he had for each individual comes across through these testimonials. He was a humble man- that is probably the first prerequisite that you need to be a successful teacher-children see right through arrogance,and do not respect a melamed who has a big ego. He taught the children to love the Sweet delicious Torah . He didn’t just teach dry dinim, but realized that a child who loves the Torah will try to follow what it says willingly.and will be motivated to learn more and more. He looked for the childs potential,and realized the core essence for a child to be Matzliach is a good self esteem. Even today,as many years have passed, the students can still recall verbatim what their Rebbe has said “I’ll drill it into you ”, and they surely remember that.Can you imagine a student saying “I loved him to pieces” How many of us can say that,?and how many of our children have someone they can say that about? Rabbi Barnetsky seemed to have been a marvelous teireh human being,and interestingly enough it was probably without a COLLEGE DEGREE. What a compassionate, kind, sincere, and genuine man!!! May he have a lichtike Gan Eden.

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