On Wednesday, February 6, member rabbis of the Rabbinical Alliance of America – Igud Hoabbonim – gathered to mourn their past president, Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht, zt”l (1922-2013), Rav of Congregation Shaare Zion of Brooklyn. Rabbi Hecht passed away Motzaei Shabbos, January 5, 24th Kislev, on the 200th yahrzeit of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Borukhovich, zt”l (1745-1812), author of the Tanya and founding Lubavitcher Rebbe. More than 100 rabbis convened at Beis Medash Tiferes Yechezkel in Boro Park to give their respects. Rabbi Yonah Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, came from Israel to give honor to the Igud’s late president. Rabbi Hanania Elbaz, Rav of Congregation Achi-Ezer, served as chairman.
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Igud Av Beth Din
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Igud Av Beth Din, stressed that Rabbi Hecht was a “kosher man,” as in an item either being kosher or not kosher, a matter that cannot be negotiated, arbitrated, or compromised. Rabbi Hecht had never compromised, whether in matters of etiquette, synagogue protocol, family themes, financial matters, organizational procedures, study of Torah, or the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Hecht had never compromised on his ahavat Yisroel, whether towards an individual or towards the entire nation. He loved Jews, and he earned their endearing love.
Rabbi Yosef Toiseg, Beleder Rav
Rabbi Yosef Toiseg, Rav of Beis Medrash Tiferes Yechezkel and author of Tiferes Yechezkel, pondered why the grave sites of some rabbis are hallowed and visited by masses, while other equally famous rabbis’ grave sites are all but forgotten. Rabbi Toiseg stressed that if the sage, during is lifetime, had been concerned with earthly matters affecting fellow Jews, then his connection to this world continued after death. However, if the sage was focused on Heavenly matters exclusively, then, after death, he is no longer connected to earthly matters. The aura of deceased rabbis that continue their concern for Jews still alive is felt and their grave sites are visited. Rabbi Toiseg stressed that Rabbi Hecht’s love for Torah, Avoda, Gemilas Chasadim was genuine and deep, and that his radiance will continue to be remembered.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel
Rabbi Yonah Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, knew Rabbi Hecht well. Rabbi Metzger had attended many Igud functions, including the Igud Siyum HaShas Convocation this past September. Describing Rabbi Hecht’s major accomplishments, the Chief Rabbi enumerated the Torah Institutions and Yeshivas that Rabbi Hecht established in the 1940’s that continue to flourish to this very day. Having been appointed as rabbi in the Syrian Jewish community in 1945, Rabbi Hecht fueled and guided its phenomenal growth into today’s Congregation Shaare Zion with a membership of more than three thousand families. The Chief Rabbi especially lauded Rabbi Hecht’s paragon Torah leadership of the Rabbinical Alliance for the past 40 years. Rabbi Metzger noted that Rabbi Hecht’s glorious holy work continues through the efforts and achievements of his sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons who serve as rabbis and sheluchim throughout the world. With his important participation, the Chief Rabbi gave great honor to the full life lived by the late Rabbi Hecht and thanked Binyamin Barber (Ben Barber), noted Boro Park businessman and activist, for the generous sponsorship of the Shloshim and meal.
Rabbi Eliyahu Elbaz, Rav SLC
Rabbi Eliyahu Elbaz, Rav of the Sephardic Lebanese Congregation Kol Eliyahu, remembered his entire family being warmly received and embraced by Rabbi Hecht upon their arrival in America coming from Neknaz, Morocco. Shortly after their entry visa expired, the Elbaz family was notified by the Department of Immigration that they must leave the United States or they will shortly be deported. When Rabbi Elbaz’s father, Chacham Shalom Elbaz, zt”l (d. 1989), sadly shared the bad news with Rabbi Hecht, the good rabbi thundered that Heaven would not allow such a bad thing to happen. Rabbi Hecht immediately contacted Congressman Stephen J. Solarz and sought to prolong the visa. When the congressman responded that the immigration quota from Morocco had been filled, Rabbi Hecht directed the Congressman immediately initiate legislation specifically for the Elbaz family. Rabbi Hecht, having addressed Congress many times, monitored and helped shepherd the legislation until the Elbaz family gained permanent residency. In addition to infusing Torah to every member family of Congregation Shaare Zion, Rabbi Hecht was personally involved with each family’s personal trials, tribulations, and simchas.
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Rav of the Beth Israel Synagogue
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Rav of the Beth Israel Synagogue of Norwalk – Stamford, Connecticut, is a son of the late Rabbi Hecht. He told of his father’s love of Congregation Shaare Zion and the respect that he earned from them. Often, three generations of a member family would address Rabbi Hecht, reminding him that he officiated at milestone events of each generation. They remembered every word that he said and now revere his memory and their personal association with him. The son told of the father’s veneration of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, and his dedication to the Lubavitcher movement. Realizing his attainments, the late Rabbi Hecht told his children that he does not expect them to walk in his shoes, but that he does anticipate that they will walk in his pathways and follow in his footsteps.
With the Igud’s presidency vacant, a presidium consisting of four vice-presidents was appointed to oversee candidacies and election preparations. Appointed to the presidium was: Rabbi Hanania Elbaz, Rav of Congregation Ach-Ezer; Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Rav of the Beth Israel Synagogue and son of the late president; Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Rav of Khal Bnei Matisyahu and Torah Editor of the Jewish Press; and Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Rosh Kollel Ayshel Avraham of Monsey. The election will be held at the Igud’s Siyum HaShas in August. Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Igud Av Beth Din, will supervise the election.