Saturday, January 31, 2015


From Yeshiva University's Israel Alumni comes the sad news of the passing of R' Jacob Rabinowitz, who was one of my rebbeim in YU's Isaac Breuer College. He was the perfect (and required) combination of a great rebbe and a very fine person. I remember attending a commencement some years after I graduated only because he was receiving a well-deserved honorary doctorate and I wanted to congratulate him in person- I glad I was able to.

One story he told us has always stayed with me: In the 1970's, he had been not just a rebbe but a dean, of Undergraduate Jewish Studies. Once, a big donor to YU came to visit and meet Dr. Belkin, the then-president, who was in a meeting and asked R' Rabinowitz to take the donor around for a few minutes until he was free.

As R' Rabinowitz told it, a nice-stop stream of profanities emerged from the man's mouth. R' Rabinowitz was a gentle man and could barely take it, and was happy when was finally able to hand the guy off to R' Belkin. After the donor left, he went to R' Belkin and asked, "How can you deal with a person like that?" R' Belkin replied, "Do you think it's easy to give away a million dollars?"

R' Rabinowitz finished by telling us that he learned a great lesson that day: Always look a little deeper before judging a person. A person who seems to be the most horrible human being may actually be the most noble. Of course, in his own case, no digging was needed. Yihi Zikhro Barukh.