London – London’s Jewish community has been plunged into mourning following the shocking drowning this morning of R’ Chaim Breisch, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mesivta of London, who had been spending time at the home of his brother in law R’ Shmili Berger in Ramsgate, approximately eighty miles east of London.
According to BBC reports, Kent police were called to West Cliff Road in Broadstairs at approximately 11:40 this morning following reports of two men struggling in the water of Louisa Bay. Both R’ Breisch and his chavrusa who had accompanied him to the water were removed from the water and taken to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. 30 year old R’ Yitzchak Beigel was not seriously injured and is reportedly in stable condition. News sources in the United Kingdom reported extremely large waves and rough water in the area today.
R’ Breisch, who was 65 years old at the time of his petira, was born in Switzerland and was the son of R’ Shimon Breisch Shlita and the grandson of R’ Yaakov Breisch z’l, author of the well known Chelkas Yaakov. He was the nephew of the current Rov of Zurich, R’ Shaul Breisch and brother in law to the current Brisker Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Soleveichik.
A Satmar chosid, R’ Breisch was the maggid shiur in the Satmar yeshiva for eighteen years, before eventually taking on the position of Yeshivas Mesivta in London, a yeshiva that was so well known it attracted many talmidim from overseas, particularly Brooklyn. While R’ Breisch was well known for the tremendous clarity of his shiurim and his ability to explain even the deepest subjects in Gemara, his ability to connect with the bochurim in his yeshiva was equally legendary.
Asked to describe one quality that best personified R’ Breisch, one former talmid immediately zeroed on R’ Breisch’s inherent goodness.
“He had a lev tov, a good heart,” Yida Leib Rappaport told VIN News. “He would bring food from his own home for talmidim and he would talk to the bochurim about anything, even things that were beyond the subject of limud, just to hear whatever they had to say. He had a gevaldige lev tov and it was very obvious in his attitude towards his talmidim.”
Although R’ Breisch came from a wealthy family and married the daughter of the well known Rabbi Gedalya Ostreicher z’l, also a man of means, he lived simply and a former neighbor recalled that he never had his own driver, instead preferring to walk.
“He was very tzniusdik, and it was his greatest pleasure to help another Yid,” recalled Nuchem Perlberger. “Usually you can categorize someone as a talmid chochom, smart or funny, but R’ Breish was someone who literally had all of those qualities. He was also full of humor and you could discuss anything with him. Give him a piece of politics and he would learn it and analyze it, almost like a piece of Gemara until he understood it completely.”
The suddenness of R’ Breisch’s petira has left the community of Stamford Hill struggling to deal with an indescribable loss.
“To go in such a sudden way, it is almost as if he was kidnapped from us,” said Perlberger. “Hashem chose the best from us and it has left us totally shaken. He was one of those faces you always saw in the Beis Medrash, because he was always there – davening, learning, saying Tehillim – it was as if he was part of the furniture of the Beis Medrash.”
The chevra kadisha is still waiting for the body to be released by the medical examiner, but they are hopeful that the levaya will take place tomorrow.