Saturday, February 10, 2007

ברוך דין האמת

Rabbi Yaakov Kret (zt"l) died this past Thrusday. He was 97.

I knew him as my father's rebbi--probably the single greatest reason that my father is frum today. In lieu of a grandfather, he was the closest I knew from age three, always greeting me with a great smile ("Zeyv, how are you?") and indulging my pedantic strings of questions. I loved him.

For the Torah world this loss reverberates as the deafening silence of nothing, the sound after the felling of a great oak. Rabbi Kret was the Sgan Rosh Yeshiva of Nevardik at Bialystok in 1939 (at some ridicules age of 29 or so--he was giving the second heighest shiur at 22) when the Russians were approaching on the eastern front and the Germans from the west. Many of the talmidim fled the towards the Germans, who had been kinder to the Jews in the Great War, but he returned from Lithuania to be with his mother and the ailing Rosh Yeshiva to be captured by the Russians and sent to a forced labor camp. The Russians were the good guys. They did not butcher their captives, they just starved them. When the war ended, Rabbi Kret was placed in charge of a small yeshiva for DPs and eventually moved to NY, receiving a pulpit in the Old Broadway synagogue in Harlem, which he occupied for more than 47 years.

With his passing passes Torah. He was, to my knowledge, the last surviving member of a European Yeshiva hanholo. With his passing passes the last surviving link to Voloshin, Nevardik, Slobodka and Bialystok. May his neshomo serve as an advocate for am yisroel in shomayim.


mother in israel said...

I attended his synagogue for years, and had no idea of his background. I remember him as a warm, welcoming mensch who welcomed students.

Anonymous said...

HE WAS A VERY SWEET MAN AND A WONDERFUL ROSH KEHILLA. i REMEMBER him from my days at Columbia. I always loved his accent. To this day I still translate "al kanfei nesharim," as "On de vings of higles."
Larry (The Maggid of Bergenfield)

Anonymous said...

We in the family knew him as Zeyde, and he was everything to us. We never really realized the effect he had on literally thousands of others, from all walks of life. Besides being a one man kiruv movement, he was also a walking Kiddush Hashem.
Case in point: Rabbi Kret was the mashgiach at the Barnard cafeteria until around 1995. Rabbi Charles Sheer, emeritus director of the campus Hillel returned to the caf about 2 years ago, for a visit. He was approached by 6 hispanic kitchen workers who inquired about the welfare of the "little Rabbi".
Anyway, we are collecting any anecdotes, and reminiscences etc... with the intention of publishing some sort of tribute to this great man. I'd appreciate it if anyone could forward whatever they have to
BTW, Zev, are you Richard's son?

B. Mezei