Today, I learned from my friend Rabbi Yonah - now in the rush of the final days of planning for the 6th Jewlicious Festival - of the passing of Haskel Besser, whose amazing tale of survival was chronicled in the book The Rabbi of 84th Street: The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser, by Warren Kozak (as well as in the video below). In addition to the numbers of Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews he influenced, Rabbi Besser was an Upper West Side fixture who also co-founded the Daf Yomi initiative.
Rabbi Yonah was very close with Rabbi Besser and considered him a great mentor. A few years ago, Rabbi Yonah gave me a copy of Kozak's book to read. His joy of being able to share a piece of his rebbe with other people was infectious - I read the book with great interest and found it very inspiring.
As a tribute to the late rabbi and in honor and respect for Rabbi Yonah, I am posting this YouTube clip - I urge readers to watch it and learn more about Rabbi Besser and the love of Jewish everything that he brought to New Yorkers and to the world for so many years.
May his memory be for a blessing for everyone, but in particular to Rabbi Yonah (whose Gchat status, "in the office - holding back the tears" says so much). I know that you feel his influence at Jewlicious Festival, at JConnectLA events, and in everything else you do. May Rabbi Besser's messages and teachings continue to inspire you in your work on behalf of Jewish communal life and young Jewish identity, every day.
(The narration is by Tovah Feldshuh, I believe.)