Rabbi Dr. Nathan David Rabinowich in Prague, 1979

Nosson Dovid Rabinowich

. Rabinowich has a special love for some of the cities in Czeckslovakia that used to brim with Jewish life. Heading the list, of course, are Prague and Bratislava (formerly “Pressburg”, the home of the “Sofer” dynasty beginning with the holy Chasam Sofer (R. Moshe Schreiber who became chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva there in 1807 after similar stints in Dreznits and Mattesdorf).

Bratislava is still most popular due to its old cemetery in which the Chasam Sofer is buried right next to his right-hand-man and the head of the Pressburg Beis Din, Rav Daniel Prostitz, a true gaon and leader. Strangely enough there is no trace of the tombstones of the Chasam Sofer’s first two wives, Sarah and Cheryll.

In his first visit there, Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich, with the help of a true saint in her time, Frau Engel, had to go down a dark and dangerous trapdoor in the middle of a major highway in order to attain access to a pathway leading to the Old Cemetery. Nowadays, thanks to Rabbi Rami Cohen and the Karfunkel brothers of Boro Park, among other wonderful donors, there is state of the art access to the cemetery which itself has been completely renovated.

May the Chasam Sofer, who’s yartzheit was on Tishrei 25, intervene with the Heavenly Court on behalf of all of Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Rabinowich recently recalled his week long friendship with Rav Majier the KGB appointed Chief Rabbi of Prague. For the entire week, Rav Majier expressed only warmth and friendship toward Rabbi Rabinowich and just about did not leave the Rabbi’s side. On many occasions, he bad-mouthed the communist controlled city managers and officers. Rabbi Rabinowich began to feel Rav Majier’s pain and frustration in trying to spread Yiddishkeit in an atmosphere of atheism and more importantly, flagrant anti-religious sentiment.

Dr. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich relates, “I will never forget the frustrated and depressed looks on his face when Rav Majier explained to me how his efforts to spread kashrut and Torah learning are consistently obstructed. One morning he took me to the attic of the most beautiful synagogue in Prague. I am unfortunately uncertain as to the name of that synagogue: it was no in the old Jewish district. In that attic I saw thousands of pairs of tefillin that were collected by the Nazis from all over Bohemia! The Prague rabbi could not explain to me why the Nazis collected all of those phylacteries.

There were many antique machzorim and bibles and her permitted me to take as many as I wanted. I could not thank him enough for his kindness. I felt that by smuggling them out of Czeckeslovakia I would have personally dealt communism a massive blow.

To cut to the chase, at the border in Nickelsburg (the buriel site of the holy Reb Shmelke Horowitz, one of the prize pupils of the Maggid of Mezeritch and of the famous gaon, Rebbe Mordechai Benet, the chief rabbi of Moravia, among other great saints) the communists insisted that I open my trunk, something they had never requested in my previous three visits to communist Prague.

They, of course, confiscated all of the books and tefillin!

I am certain that my “dear friend” Rav Majier was the ‘”informer”. I subsequently found out, that he was a full-time salaried KGB agent.

Am Yisroel Chai!

 

Rabbi Dr. Rabinowich’s Visit to Debrecen, Hungary, 1984

 

Debrecen Hungary Synagogue

Rabbi Dr. Rabinowich often tells his students about his visits to “communist” Hungary and Czechoslovakia. He loves to discuss his visit to Debrecen, Hungary in 1984. It as 11 a.m., on a May morning as he entered the main synagogue of the city, weraring his usual Rabbinic attire. Sitting at the back table, all in their late 80’s, quickly placed their hands under the table with their playing cards safely out of sight, or so they thought. Dr. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich had seen their sneaky move and was very amused but said nothing. He then approached the eldest of the group, probably the dealer, and asked him all about Jewish life in Debrecen.

Rabbi Rabinowich was brought to tears when he heard from the leader/dealer, that there is a minyan every boker and erev (morning and evening). Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich took out an excellent bottle of vodka from his suitcase in the car and proceeded to have a beautiful l’chaim with his new found friends.

When he took leave from them, he told them in all sincerity, that Hashem is so delighted with them when they come to play cards in the shul the entire morning.

Hashem wants his ‘home’ to be occupied as much as possible.

Rabbi Rabinowich plans on arranging Jewish Heritage Tours to visit all of these wonderful history-laden cities in North Hungary and focus on the synagogues, some that may still be standing. The main synagogue in Debrecen is still standing in 2015! Hashem has not abandoned us.

 Recommended Read: –  Rabbi Dr. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich in Prague