Readers Write: My friend Rabbi Martin Rozenberg

Readers Write: My friend Rabbi Martin Rozenberg

I’d like to salute the memory of a dear friend, Rabbi Martin Rozenberg, who passed away on Nov. 30 at the age of 95.

As many of you know, he served as senior rabbi at The Community Synagogue in Sands Point for close to 40 years. He was well respected for his scholarship, father-figure personality, and genuine care for his flock and for the Jewish people plus his legendary deep baritone.

We first met back in June of 1991. I was a young of 24 years old, still living in Brooklyn. I would visit Port a few times a week to meet local people, and try to make inroads into the community with plans to move here that September in time for the High Holidays.

Goldie Greenberg (obm) was one of the first local people we met, and she did whatever she could to help. She called me up one day and announced with great excitement that her rabbi, Rabbi Rozenberg, wished to meet me.

I walked into the rabbi's study with a good measure of trepidation. I had no idea what to expect. What would this seasoned rabbi have to say to a young Chabad'nik sniffing around in his territory.

Rozenberg could not have been more friendly and welcoming. “Rabbi Paltiel, I want you to know I'm very happy you're coming to our town. I've been following the work of the Rebbe and Chabad for many years, and have visited 770 numerous times through Rabbi Butman, along with busloads of Community Synagogue Jews who want to experience Simchat Torah at Chabad Lubavitch.

“I'm also a fund-raiser for Yeshivas in Israel, including Chabad Yeshivas. I believe in your work and in your mission. Don't hesitate to call upon me for any assistance. I will do anything I can to help you.” Aha... not exactly what I had expected to hear.

And help he did. In many more ways than one. Including introducing me to some key local people he felt would support our work.

Looking back after 32 years in town, many of my long-time relationships with some really special local people were as a result of Rozenberg’s introductions.

The following summer, in 1992, we honored him at a cocktail party at the home of Ema and Clem Soffer attended by Rabbi Butman, then-Congressman Charles Shumer and then-state Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli.

Rozenberg surprised us yet again when he stood up and said, in the presence of many of his own congregants: “If any of my people want to move over to Chabad to get more Yiddishkeit, kol hakavod (all the power to them).” Wow again! How many congregational rabbis would make such a speech.

Rabbi Rozenberg retired just a few years later and moved to New Jersey. We did stay in touch to some degree (not enough), calling each other before Rosh Hashanah, and seeing each other during his infrequent visits to Port Washington.

In 1998, shortly after moving into our new Shore Road location, I had the opportunity to give him a tour of the building during one of his visits. He could not have been happier and more proud. To quote him: “Rabbi Paltiel, I'm kvelling”!

He was born in Lithuania, and emigrated to the United States at the age of 11 in 1940.

As providence would have it, his family traveled aboard the same vessel as the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (father-in-law of our Rebbe).

During the voyage, his father brought him over to the Rebbe to ask for his blessing for the boy, which he received. Another fascinating “Yiddishkeit” connection was his Jewish name, Meir Simcha, named after the famous sage the Chofetz Chaim.

Rabbi Rozenberg was a true friend of mine and of our Port Washington Chabad. To him, it wasn't about furthering the goals of one congregation or the other, rather it was about fostering more Jewishness in any way he could.

One of my fondest memories of him is when he attended the Bris of our son Mendel (February 1995), and he came early for the morning minyan along with his own quality Tefillin set.

I'm happy to have been able to attend the funeral and offer my condolences to his wonderful children and grandchildren. He leaves behind a true legacy, a large family of actively involved Jews, carrying on the traditions of Torah and Yiddishkeit which were so near and dear to their father.

Farewell, my friend. Heaven surely is rewarding you for your mitzvahs and bold leadership. Rest in peace. You will long be remembered and beloved in our community by all who had the privilege of knowing you.

Rabbi Shalom M Paltiel

Port Washington

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