Over 150 Rabbonim, family and friends joined the Rabbinical Alliance of America - Igud HaRabbonim at "The Bridge" on Flatbush Avenue on Sunday, February 26th (Rosh Chodesh Adar) to observe the first yahrzeit seudah of the longtime Director and Menahel of the Igud, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Tannenbaum, ZT” L. At the Yahrzeit Observance, the Igud commemorated the life and legacy of Rabbi Tannenbaum, ZT” L by launching of a new historical initiative of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, C.A.S.P the COMMUNITY AWARENESS SOCIAL PROJECT.
Having earned the stellar reputation as a genuine Ohev Yisroel and Baal Chesed during his lifetime, Rabbi Tannenbaum's majestic legacy was remembered with impassioned words by a litany of speakers.
Commencing the litany of yahrzeit seudah addresses was RAA/IGUD Presidium Member Rabbi Yaakov Klass, a close friend of Rav Gershon ZT” L. Rabbi Klass recalled a treasure trove of personal memories of Rabbi Tannenbaum and said, "He did so very much for Klal Yisroel in the short time that we had with him." Relating a story of the eulogy that the Gerrer Rebbe delivered at the petirah for Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rabbi Klass said that the Gerrer Rebbe said that Rabbi Shapiro had "length of days" when in actuality he only lived until 52. He explained that the Gerrer Rebbe meant that a person's life is judged on what they do with the time that Hashem gives them in this world. How they spend their minutes, hours and days. Just as Rabbi Meir Shapiro's days were "complete" with shteiging away in Torah and mitzvos, so too was the life of Rabbi Tannenbaum.
"This is the appropriate way to describe Reb Gershon, who was not only a great leader in our generation, but a person who was always there for people in need, declared an emotional Rabbi Klass.
Mark Meyer Appel, a talmid of Reb Gershon said that is was "bittersweet" to live in a world without Reb Gershon, ZT” L. In describing Rabbi Tannenbaum's tenacious work on behalf of so many Jews. He personified everything that we speak about from the pulpits in our synagogues. He did everything right. He never complained, never spoke negatively and reached out to all with the sweetest words. Rabbi Tannenbaum work on behalf of Klal Yisroel will be remembered as a Rav that impacted thousands of lives, said Appel.
Contemplating on the best way to remember Rabbi Tannenbaum's life and perpetuate his memory, Appel said he had spoken with numerous rabbis and Rabbi Tannenbaum's family on the most appropriate way to honor Rav Gershon’s legacy in addition to publishing his work and life story. As a result, the Igud Presidium and Board have announced a new very important initiative to be led by RAA/IGUD Executive Vice-President, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik that would ensure that the work that Rabbi Tannenbaum had dedicated himself to during his lifetime would continue. The formation of C.A.S.P, the Community Awareness Social Project in memory of Rabbi Tannenbaum, ZT” L. The objective of C.A.S.P will be the fulfillment of Rabbi Tannenbaum's vision of our synagogues becoming the center for all communal needs. A place for all Jews to connect for the myriad of spiritual and physical resources and services. The mission of C.A.S.P will be to have our shuls and Mosdos transformed into venues for running programs, while actively sharing ideas with the tzibur that will improve the quality of life in such areas as health management and chesed initiatives. We will be going to Albany and Washington, DC for government advocacy and lobby day.
Delivering both a powerful and heartfelt address was New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who was a longtime friend of Rabbi Tannenbaum. He said that Rabbi Tannenbaum was one of the "warmest, sweetest and most precious people I have ever met in my entire life." Assemblyman Hikind explained that while he does not generally use the word "extraordinary" to describe many people, that word most definitely embodied the spirit and soul of Rabbi Tannenbaum. He said that Rabbi Tannenbaum was possessed of the "basic simplicity of really caring for every Jew" while displaying the most remarkable leadership qualities.
Hikind stated that, "Reb Gershon was a real leader. He did not watch which way the wind blows, but rather he took the bull by the horns and really led his people in a decisive manner. Words are cheap. Reb Gershon didn't talk the talk, he walked the walked," he added. Recalling the many trips, he took to Eretz Yisroel with Rabbi Tannenbaum, Assemblyman Hikind said, "Whether it was lethal rockets raining down in the north of Israel; coming from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the rockets being fired at our communities in the south of Israel by Hamas or the forcible eviction of over 9000 brave Jews from their beautiful communities in Gush Katif, I can tell you that Rabbi Tannenbaum was there. He was there for these Jews who were losing their homes, their communities and were deeply distressed."
His voice reverberating with both passion and angst, Assemblyman Hikind queried the olam, "How many rabbis went to Gush Katif, when their people needed them? How many really cared? We have the moral and halachic responsibility to act, to do, not to just think and analyze.
Recalling his younger days as an intrepid activist for the freedom of Soviet Jewry, while as a member of the iconic Jewish Defense League under the leadership of Rabbi Meir Kahane, zt’l Assemblyman Hikind said, "At the time, cynics of all stripes asked us if what we were doing was really helping; they questioned our persistent efforts. But we know that it is Hashem who orchestrates the outcome of everything we do. If we really want Hashem's intervention, then we have to earn it by putting ourselves on the front line. It is us who must make sacrifices for our people, for the pain of another Jew is our pain, and we can't sleep, we can't eat, we can't function unless we make every effort to relieve our brothers and sisters from the terrible matzav that they are in. And it was Rabbi Tannenbaum who was keenly aware of this and devoted his entire being to his people, no matter what the ramifications may be. This is the hallmark of a true Jewish leader."
He added, "Not only was Rabbi Tannenbaum a super star as a rav, but he was a super star as a human being. I can tell you that up in shamayim, his now doing what he has to be doing for Klall Yisroel."
Introducing Rabbi Shaul Yitzchok Zehnwirth, a coordinator of the Hatzalah of Borough Park, and featured speaker of the evening was Igud HaRabbonim Vice-President, Rabbi Yechiel Malik.
Rabbi Zehnwirth spoke of the true mesiras nefesh that Rabbi Tannenbaum displayed over the course of his life and his special interest in concretely addressing the issue of abuse, youth alcoholism, drug addiction and other tragic social maladies affecting our communities in such staggering proportions.
Subsequent to Rabbi Zehnwirth's exceptionally informative address, Rabbi Tannenbaum's two sons recalled their own personal memories of their father. They so graciously shared with the olam a number of stories that illustrated just how dedicated he was as a father and how his constant presence in their lives influenced them so greatly.
Another featured moment of the evening was the installation of Rabbi Chaim Komendant of NJ, Rabbi Sholom Shuchat of Crown Heights and Rabbi Berish Welz of Borough Park as Dayanim/Judges of its highly acclaimed Ecclesiastical Rabbinical Court. The RAA/IGUD Beis Din is under the leadership of its Av Beis Din, HaRav Herschel Kurzrock; its Rosh Beis Din, HaRav Dov Aaron Brisman and its Senior Dayan and Hon. President, HaRav Shmaryahu Shulman.
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, a Presidium Member of the RAA/IGUD formally installed the new Dayanim. Rabbi Hecht noted that the RAA/IGUD has garnered an excellent reputation within the Torah velt and amongst the Jewish community as being both a rabbinic organization and beis din that is both trustworthy and proficient in adhering to the highest standards of truth and tzidkus.
Presenting a proclamation from Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau that bestowed great honor and highlighted the life of Rabbi Tannenbaum, ZT”L to the Tannenbaum family was RAA/IGUD Presidium Member, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, shlita.
Following birchas hamazon the Igud board thanked Rabbi Mirocznik and Rabbi Klass for an outstanding dinner with a special thanks given to Mark Meyer Appel for hosting the important and historic event.
By Fern Sidman