Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Great-Grandfathers' Rav

I've written before that my paternal grandparents' town in Poland, Makow Masovietski, was famous for their maggid in the late 1700s, R. David Makover, arch-misnaged and author of Zemer Aritzim and Shever Poshim (link). I have since discovered another famous rabbi who served the town while my great-grandfathers were alive -- R. Yehuda Leib Graubart (1862-1937), author of five volumes of responsa Chavalim Ba-Ne'imim.

The following is from the preface to the second edition of his responsa (bold added):

It is, indeed, a signal privilege to introduce to the Torah community the five volumes of Chavalim Ba-Ne'Imim by my late Father, the eminent scholar and halakhist, Rabbi Judah Leb Graubart, of blessed memory, containing responsa based on the four parts of the Shulhan Arukh, which in their day left an indelible impression on the rabbinic world. The first volume appeared in 1901, when the young author served in the capacity of rabbi in the city of Makow, in the province of Lomza, in Poland. In the main the work dealt with sugyot of the Talmud in an encyclopedic arrangement. And it is no mere coincidence that the Sephardic savant, Rabbi Hayyim Hezekiah Medini, author of the classic Sede Hemed, itself an encyclopedic work, gave his haskamah to that book. But already then it contained a number of responsa.
R. Gedalia Dov Schwartz writes (sha'arei Gedulah, p. 131 n. 35):
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Graubart (born 1862 - died 1937), known as the Stachuver Rav, was a respected scholar who wrote five volumes of responsa called חבלים בנעימים. The first volume, printed in 1901, when Rabbi Graubart was Rav in Makow, Poland, is graced with the approbation of Rabbi Chaim Chizkiah Medina, the Sdei Chemed. Rabbi Graubart was the Rav of the Torah Emes shul in Toronto preceding Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky. He was also a leading figure in the Mizrachi movement and had once traveled throughout Poland with the Chofetz Chaim to promote Jewish education. Rabbi Graubart's scholarship and fearlessness in standing up for principles in communal issues had won him the respect, even awe, of his community.
Walter Ehrlich, Zion in the Valley: The Jewish Community of St. Louis, pp. 203, 205:
One of the Va'ad Hoeir's first actions was to engage a Chief Rabbi for the Orthodox community. He was Rabbi Leon Graubart (variably spelled Grobart). A native of Poland, Rabbi Graubart had led an active rabbinic and scholarly life before coming to America. One of his publications detailed his fascinating adventures during the Russian Revolution, in the course of which he served a variety of Jewish causes first on one side and then on the other. After the Treaty of Versailles created a new Poland, he served as president of the Rabbinic Assembly and of the Jewish National Council of Poland. In the early 1920s he emigrated to Toronto, and from there he came to St. Louis to become head of the Va'ad Hoeir as the first official Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish community of St. Louis...

In 1930 Rabbi Grobart left St. Louis and the Va'ad Hoeir engaged Rabbi Chaim Fishel Epstein as Chief Rabbi.

UPDATE: Here is Rabbi Graubart's bio in Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook, pp. 81-82: link

And here is the write-up of Rabbi Graubart in the Memorial Book for the town (link), pp. 44-46:

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