Oldest Chabad Rabbi Passes Away At 100


    NEW YORK – (CHABAD.org) – Rabbi Mordechai Dov Altein, a long-serving Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi who was instrumental in the establishment of yeshivahs and other Jewish educational institutions in post-war America, passed away on Sunday. He was 100 years old.

    Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1919, Altein would later recall that life in New York during that time was not an easy one, especially for an observant Jew. His father was a peddler, buying and selling various odds and ends. As his father was self-employed, he was able to keep Shabbat, which was virtually impossible for almost anyone who worked for a business, or in a factory or a shop.

    In the 1920s, Altein attended Yeshivah Chaim Berlin, one of the only yeshivahs in New York, with an enrollment 700 to 800 students; in the 1930s, he attended high school at Yeshivah Torah Vodaath in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. While a high school student, he met Rabbi Yisrael Jacobson, who was sent by the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, in the 1920s to strengthen Judaism in America. Altein and some high school friends began studying with Jacobson, taking classes in the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s seminal work of Chabad Chassidic philosophy, and various other Chassidic texts.

    “It opened our eyes and was like a breath of fresh air for us,” Altein once told an interviewer. “One can’t imagine how difficult it was to remain a religious Jew at the time. Everyone was trying to assimilate so as to gain entry into American culture. Very few sent their children to yeshivot—perhaps one out of every hundred children went to learn in a Jewish school. It was very hard to fight the tide, to have the courage to stand out and be different. Most of my friends from school ended up attending secular high schools and universities. Thank G‑d, though, what we learned gave us the courage to keep fighting, and remain religious. Without Chassidut, we wouldn’t have made it.”

    Jacobson encouraged the teens to correspond with the Sixth Rebbe, who suggested that the young men travel to Poland to learn in the main Chabad Yeshivah in Otwock.

    “Keep in mind that this was the summer of 1939, the eve of Second World War,” said Altein. “But the Rebbe told us to come, so we went. When we first arrived, I was allowed to pray in the Rebbe’s minyan that Shabbat. The regular yeshivah students had their own prayer services in the yeshivah, so joining the Rebbe was a very special honor.”

    After returning to America, Altein married Rochel Jacobson, the daughter of his teacher. The Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory, attended the couple’s engagement celebration, and the Rebbe was the mesader kidushin, officiating at their wedding. It was a marriage that would last for 76 years.

    Following the wedding, the Sixth Rebbe sent Rabbi Altein to establish yeshivahs in Pittsburgh; New Haven, Conn.; and the Bronx. He also served for many years as a member of the Vaad Raboinei Lubavitch and other leading rabbinical organizations.

    Rabbi Altein is survived by his wife, Rebbetzin Rochel, and their children: Malka Cohen (Manchester, England), Sara Pinson (Nice, France), Chanie Gurarie (Montreal, Canada), Sima Zalmanov (Tzfat, Israel), Rabbi Avrohom Altein (Winnipeg, Canada) and Rabbi Leibel Altein (Brooklyn, N.Y.); in addition to many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son, Yossi OBM. He is also survived by his sister, Miriam Popack, of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

    The levaya will take place Monday, leaving Shomerei Hadas at 1:30 p.m. and passing by 770 Eastern Parkway at 2:30 pm. Shiva will be at 1378 Union Street. Visiting hours are 10 a.m to 1:30 p.m; and 3:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Condolences can be sent to [email protected]

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      • whats significance does chabad’s vsion of spreading Judaism have to a proclaimed non jew as yourself?

        Ther mere fact that you call him “great” clealry indicates that you are a bad liar.

        • You are so angry, Archy!

          The Ramchal in Mesillas Yesharim says that a person who cannot control his anger loses his Torah and becomes like “predatory animal” and goes on the attack, as it is in the way of a predatory animal to do. You do that all the time, Archy, and here it blinds you so that you make a comment that flies in the face of what Chabad and Yiddishkeit is all about.

          Read The Lamplighter, Archy.


          • I think you are the angry one Paulin aka Yoni since I busted you in your lies. All I said was it seesm very odd that a goy from Saudi Arabia would be machshiv this tzadkik when it really doesn’t better his life or the world in any direct manner. Of course as a frum jew Rabbi Altein did tons. And spreading yiddishkiet improves the world enormously . But why would a goy care?

            You people yell and say I am just a fox news conspiracist when I point out lies. Now please do tell me how sensible is it to say that a goy from saudi arabia, comments on VIN and cares about a tazadik who spread yiddishkiet calling him a great generation?

            Is paulin a scam and a lair or no?

            A yes or no will suffice.

            (Probably hard for you to answer since I kind of busted you on one of your lies)

            • Nope. I am not a liar thank you for asking. I am an American who has lived in Saudi Arabia since 1997 and soon, I am happy to say will retire back home.

      • “…the Sixth Rebbe sent Rabbi Altein to establish yeshivahs in Pittsburgh; New Haven, Conn.; and the Bronx.”

        That’s what he did during the war: work to ensure Jewish continuity after it.

    1. As a student at bronx Lubavitcher I can say he was a warm educated compassionate person who was involved with many families becoming religious
      His passing is a loss but his memory is seared in my mind BD”E

    2. I believe the Hecht’s from Chabad (Rabbi JJ Hecht ZT”L and his brothers) were from the other talmidim who learned in YTV by Rabbi Jacobson and then traveled from the USA to tomchai temim in Europe pre war.

    3. Nope. I am not a liar thank you for asking. I am an American who has lived in Saudi Arabia since 1997 and soon, I am happy to say I will soon retire back home.

      • By a count of hands how many people believe Paulin’s BS?

        Isn’t it odd that he’d comment about an internal leader who spread torah? Like why is that great in the eyes of a goy? Why would a goy care? And to comment on VIN?

        Am I the only crazy one or is Paulin’s MO as ludicrous as Alex Jones?

        Yoni do you care to comment?

    4. Darchei Shalom means to be meracheim on non-Jews also, especially when they reside (contribute online) among you.

      Also, sonoy rovetz tachas maso’oy, azov taazov imo, when a hater is struggling under his burden, assist in it with him, certainly an inspiration for how to tend to haters, and a guide to not be an added burden, if only so as not to facilitate more hate…

      Ozov taazov imo and darchei Shalom

    5. Dear Uneducated Archy, God instructed you and all Jews to share with the non-Jewish world you have the ability to influence the 7 Laws of Noach. The RaMbaM states this and no rishon disagrees. Unless you consider yourself greater than all the rishonim, you owe our American friend living in Saudi Arabia and all non-Jews an apology for your ignorance as to why it matters to them that a Jewish leader who spread Judaism, which includes spreading the 7 Laws, Sheva Mitzvois, is niftar.
      Here are the RaMbaM’s words, “Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come. This is as long as he accepts and performs them because (he truly believes that) it was the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Who commanded them in the Torah, and that it was through Moses our Teacher we were informed that the Sons of Noah had already been commanded to observe them. But if he observes them because he convinced himself, then he is not considered a Resident Convert and is not of the Righteous of the Nations of the World, but merely one of their wise.”
      Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of ‘the pious among the gentiles’ and will merit a share in the world to come.

      This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah’s descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.

      However, if he fulfills them out of intellectual conviction, he is not a resident alien, nor of ‘the pious among the gentiles,’ nor of their wise men.”
      Shoftim, Laws of Kings and their wars 8:11
      כל המקבל שבע מצות ונזהר לעשותן הרי זה מחסידי אומות העולם ויש לו חלק לעולם הבא והוא שיקבל אותן ויעשה אותן מפני שצוה בהן הקב”ה בתורה והודיענו על ידי משה רבינו שבני נח מקודם נצטוו בהן אבל אם עשאן מפני הכרע הדעת אין זה גר תושב ואינו מחסידי אומות העולם ולא מחכמיהם:


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