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No Apologies for Faith

Yisroel Besser

Reb Yosef Friedenson, who passed away just before Purim, experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, but his message to subsequent generations was one of faith and optimism — a message he spread through both his literary work and his many speaking engagements. He was the man who helped change the way we view some of Am Yisrael’s darkest days.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

documentsThe petirah of Reb Yossel in Adar cast a pall on the post-Megillah euphoria of leil Purim, giving Yidden everywhere pause as they contemplated the significance: The man of “zachor,” his entire being a call to remember, taken on Shabbos Zachor.

Intense as the seven days of shivah are, the eighth, according to those who’ve suffered through it, has an intensity all its own as mourners try valiantly to cross the bridge from prescribed bereavement back to regular life.

In the Golding family’s Monsey home the day after Mrs. Rosie Golding has completed the shivah, she and her husband, Reb Yosef Chaim, are understandably exhausted. But, says Mrs. Golding, along with the pain comes a deep sense of awe and humility.

“I always admired and respected my father. I knew he was a special and unique figure. I was so proud of his work for the klal and his many accomplishments. But even I was overwhelmed by how so many people not only recognized his public persona and klal work, but were touched by his warmth and his wit, by his ehrlichkeit and mentschlichkeit. He focused on the positive and it filtered down to the rest of our world.”

Agudath Israel, which hired Reb Yossel soon after his arrival on American shores after the war, was among the first to recognize his special talents — as well as the famous last name. His father, Rabbi Eliezer Gershon Friedenson, was the indefatigable editor of the Bais Yaakov Journal, an influential periodical that was a prime force in championing the movement that would change the face of Orthodox Jewry. It was Reb Leizer Gershon who stood alongside Sarah Schenirer, encouraging, defending, articulating, and ultimately succeeding in establishing a new educational framework for the daughters ofIsrael.

Reb Yossel imbibed the atmosphere in his father’s home, and absorbed the lesson that a well-expressed spokesperson could play an important role in transmitting the mesorah. While Reb Leizer Gershon rose to confront the challenge of his day, his sons were faced with challenges that were even more daunting. Reb Yossel, who married during World War II in the Warsaw Ghetto and who was oppressed and persecuted in a series of concentration camps, was charged with finding words when there were none, with strengthening emunah and faith in a world covered by a blanket of darkness.

After the war, while still interned in the Feldafing displaced persons camp, Reb Yossel found his place. He printed the very first issue of Dos Yiddishe Vort in 1945, intent on keeping Torah ideals alive and reaffirming the mission of his people, even in changing times.


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