Rabbi Sholom Eidelman, 84, Served Moroccan Jewry for More Than 60 Years – Devoted educator was among the longest-serving Chabad emissaries in the…

Posted By on April 17, 2020

Rabbi Sholom Eidelman, one of the longest-serving Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in the worlda devoted Chassid, teacher and congregational leader who along with his wife, Gittel, rarely left the North African nation of Morocco since being dispatched there in 1958passed away in a hospital in Casablanca on April 10, the second day of Passover, after contracting COVID-19. He was 84 years old.

For more than 60 years, Rabbi Eidelman oversaw a dozen Chabad of Morocco Jewish schools and is mourned by tens of thousands of students he taught throughout the decades. He opened and ran a kollel (advanced study group) where he trained most of the rabbis and shochtim (ritual kosher slaughters) in Morocco. Among his students were Jerusalems Chief Rabbi and former Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Moshe Amar, and Montreal Dayan Rabbi David Raphael Banon.

Born in Soviet Russia and raised in Brunoy, France, young Sholom Eidelman grew up in a home steeped in Chassidic thought and practice.

As a young rabbinical student, he hoped to travel to New York to learn in yeshivahs there and be close to the RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memorybut the Rebbe wrote to him that many young Jews from North Africa were already beginning to emigrate to Brunoy, and he was needed there.

In 1958, he sought the Rebbes blessing to marry Gittel Gurkow, who later recalled in an interview with JEM how the Rebbes response to his request signaled the young couples next chapter. Following the engagement, the young rabbi traveled to New York, where in a private audience with the Rebbe, he and his bride were given their assignment in Casablanca.

The Rebbe had been deeply concerned with the plight of Jewish communities in Muslim countries and the fate of Sephardic Jewry in general in the post-war era. In 1950, the first emissaries sent by the Rebbe to open new Chabad centers around the world were in Morocco, when Rabbi Michoel and Taibel Lipskar were sent to Meknes and Rabbi Shlomo and Pesia Matusof were sent to Casablanca, joined by Rabbi Nisson and Rachel Pinson. In 1960, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Raskin and his wife, Raizel, arrived in Casablanca, and together the Rebbes emissaries established what today are among the longest-running Chabad institutions and centers in the world. Mrs. Raizel Raskin remains a mainstay of Chabad-Lubavitch in Morocco.

At its peak, more than 250,000 Jews lived in Morocco, and for decades following their arrival, many of the schools, synagogues and social-service organizations assembled by Chabad emissaries and staff were among the leading educational and religious institutions for Moroccan Jews.

Over the next 62 years, Rabbi Eidelman and his wife continued to serve the community up until his passing. Even as the numbers of Jews in Morocco would dwindle, 10 years ago they were joined by Rabbi Levi and Chana Banon, who have revived many educational programs and religious services for the youth and younger generations who continue to live in Morocco today.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Raskin, center, at the bar mitzvah of his son, Yitzchak, joined by Rabbi Eidelman and Rabbi Shlomo Matusof.

Six months ago, the day after Yom Kippur, I stopped in Casablanca with my son, Menachem, after conducting a Yom Kippur Service in Malabo, Equatorial New Guinea. The Banons 11-year-old son Mendy took us around Casablanca.

Without any prior notice, we visited Rabbi Eidelmans synagogue, In the complex is the humble apartment where he and his wife have lived for decades.

We entered and went back in time to witness a sight from another time and another world. The Eidelmans lovingly greeted us as if they had been waiting for us for days and welcomed us into their home. Rabbi Eidelman was sitting in front of an open sefer (holy book) surrounded by thousands of well-thumbed sefarim.

It was sweltering outside, and he was sitting with a fan blowing above, wearing woolen tzitzit and black suspenders. He peppered Menachem with questions about what he was learning in yeshivah and his knowledge of the laws of the upcoming holiday of Sukkot.

The Eidelmans regaled us with stories of 60 years of dedicated service to the Jewish people of Morocco, as the rabbi kept telling us that in this Chabad House, you are not far from 770 or the Rebbe.

It is specifically in these remote outposts where every person matterswhere the captain never leaves the ship, as long as other passengers are on board, and they can teach Torah to another person who would not be able to if they had abandoned ship, he said.

Rabbi Eidelman, second from left, at a student's bar mitzvah.

Rabbi Eidelman told my son how he looked up to his great-grandfather, Reb Zavel Edelkopf, when he was a young yeshivah student and lived in Brunoy outside of Paris, and Reb Zavel Edelkopf taught him Tanya.

Even though his children live all over the world, they would visit them from time to time, and during the year, many grandchildren would visit them. Rabbi Eidelman was still teaching for a few hours every day at the kolel in his building with about 20 seniors and middle-aged students regularly attending.

This year for Sukkot, he didnt have any grandchildren visiting, and so they were even more overjoyed with our drop-in visit. Before we left, he showed us a folder of tens of letters and telegrams from the Rebbe that gave them strength, direction and perseverance during the many decades they served.

It was sweltering outside, and Rabbi Eidelman, always the teacher of Torah, was sitting with a fan blowing above, wearing woolen tzitzit and black suspenders. He peppered Menachem Berkowitz, a young visitor from the United States, with questions about what he was learning in yeshivah and his knowledge of the laws of the upcoming holiday of Sukkot.

In one letter, the Rebbe wrote to them in an addendum to the full letter (Free translation):

Praiseworthy is your lot that Divine Providence gave you a beautiful portion. Educating and drawing near the hearts of the Jewish people to their Father in heaven, the reward knows no limits.

In addition to the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, the above are among the deeds that a person eats the fruits of in this physical world and eternally in the world to come. They include teaching Torah and acts of lovingkindness.

This is the main Divine service in our generation before the advent of the coming of Moshiach, this is the way to attach yourself to Gd truthfully thereby transforming darkness into the ultimate light.

The Rebbe concluded by writing a line from Tanya written by the Alter Rebbe in Igeres Hakodesh (End of Chapter 9, quoting from Yeshayahu 52. May we merit to see each other eye to eye, with the return of Gd to Zion. With major blessing and success in all the above.

Rabbi Sholom and Gittel Eidelman were honored by Morrocan Jewry on the 60th anniversary of their arrival in Casablanca.

Rabbi Eidelmans great influence, and his loss, is felt throughout Morocco, as well as across Israel and around the world, wherever his thousands of alumni now reside.

How ironic that a rabbi who never left his flockno matter how difficult and single-handed such leadership could bepassed away alone in a Casablanca hospital due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was buried quickly on the holiday of Pesach without a proper funeral, though with the oversight of a rabbi, and without any of his seven children or dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren or members of his beloved community present.

I will honor his memory by supporting Chabad of Casablanca.

Rabbi Sholom Eidelman is survived by his wife and by their children, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Eidelman (Vienna, Austria), Rabbi Yoel Eidelman (Brunoy, France), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Eidelman (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Rabbi Eliezer Eidelman (Manchester, England), Rabbi Shmuel Eidelman (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Toiba Rivka Belinow (Paris), Chana Gurevitch (Chicago); and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom are emissaries around the world.

He is also survived by his sister, Assya Pevsner, of France. (The family requested not to notify her about the passing.)

He was predeceased by his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Eidelman, of Israel. He was also predeceased by his brother, R Yoel Edelman, of Paris.

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Rabbi Sholom Eidelman, 84, Served Moroccan Jewry for More Than 60 Years - Devoted educator was among the longest-serving Chabad emissaries in the...

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