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The Gentle Warrior Of European Jewry: Rav Aba Dunner ztz”l

Binyamin Rose

Known simply as “Aba” to those he worked with, including members of the Conference of European Rabbis, where he recently served as executive director, he was loved and respected as a good “Aba” for his unflagging support. But when a fundamental principle of Yiddishkeit was at stake he could also be a fighter, as those who knew Aba Dunner well can attest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The founders of Kollel Tiferes Yechezkel in Berlin were devastated. In what was certain to be a major new step in the restoration of Torah Judaism in Berlin, the kollel was on the verge of opening. Then funding promised by one of the original donors failed to materialize at the last moment.

Rabbi Josh Spinner, one of the kollel’s founders, was in New York when he received the bad news, and he started calling several people for advice. The last call he placed was to Aba Dunner, but it might as well have been his first.

“I explained the situation to him and he said to call me back in five minutes,” says Rabbi Spinner. Five minutes later, Rabbi Spinner called back. “Okay, you got the funding,” said Rabbi Dunner.

“I was walking to shul in Central Park and I started crying,” said Rabbi Spinner, who still vividly recalls that early spring morning when this incident occurred. “You call someone for an eitzah and five minutes later he has a solution for you.”

Rav Aba Dunner’s swift intervention in shepherding the affairs of European Jewry will be sorely missed. He passed away last Sunday night in his home in London at the age of seventy-four, after succumbing to a lengthy illness. Born in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad) in 1938, Rav Aba was the eldest son of Dayan HaRav Yosef Zvi HaLevi Dunner ztz”l, formerly the rosh beis din of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations of the United Kingdom.

Rav Aba served the Torah world in many capacities, including as a founder of the Jewish Tribune in London and as a leading askan with the Agudas Israel of the UK. He also served as a councilor in Barnet, London Borough, from the Golders Green ward from 1998 to 2006.

Most recently, he was a major force in Torah Jewry as executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, a federation of Jewish religious leaders in more than forty European countries that includes all of the continent’s chief rabbis and senior rabbinical judges. The CER also holds consultancy status as an international NGO at the Council of Europe and at European Union institutions.

Rav Aba was at the forefront of the fight against a host of European governments that are attempting to pass anti-shechitah laws (and in some cases succeeding). He was also a bulwark against the rising influence of the Reform movement that is trying to erode advances made by Orthodox Judaism, and fought uncompromisingly against any efforts to dilute conversion laws.


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