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“The Ribnitzer Rebbe” Explores the Life of the Legendary Tzaddik

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Romi Cohn serves as witness to the life of the Ribnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Zanvil Abramovitz, the tsaddik (righteous one) of Ribnitz. Born in the 1890s in the city of Botochan, in the northern region of Moldavia, Romania, the Rebbe’s story begins with memories of the Nazi’s occupation and the persecution of the Jews of Romania. Photo Credit: The Chesed Fund

Edited by: JV Staff

On Sunday, September 22, 2019 the Friends of Romi Cohn held a celebration for the publishing of his new book, The Ribnitzer Rebbe. The celebration took place at the home of Rabbi Romi Cohn, located in the Eltingville section of Staten Island, New York.

Romi Cohn serves as witness to the life of the Ribnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Zanvil Abramovitz, the tsaddik (righteous one) of Ribnitz. Born in the 1890s in the city of Botochan, in the northern region of Moldavia, Romania, the Rebbe’s story begins with memories of the Nazi’s occupation and the persecution of the Jews of Romania. This is the story of exile to the ghetto, to Transisteria and eventually to Ribnitz, which had been annexed to the Soviet Union. During the next thirty years, the Rebbe became famous for his ceaseless courage and holiness in the face of the Communist regime that forbade any religious practice or teaching. His fiery service of Hashem (the Lord), served as a beacon of hope for the remaining Jews and non-Jew alike.

Eventually, in the year 5734 (1974), the Rebbe moved to the United States where he would continue to lead by his magnificent example of the power of holiness in everyday life. As Romi Cohn states, “In the process of preparing this book, I realized, paradoxically that the more I write, the more I appreciate how little I can convey of the Rebbe’s greatness, which was broader than any land and deeper than any ocean. Rabbi Cohn emphasizes that “The years I spent with the Rebbe were filled with unique, life changing experiences for which I am grateful, but the greatest of all benefits was the Rebbe’s willingness to be my personal mentor.” Rabbi Cohn shares what he considers to be an important insight: “I have spent much time contemplating the Rebbe’s hidden meaning. And I realized that each time, the Rebbe was teaching the importance of cultivating perseverance, patience, humility, and love of one’s fellow man. These were the virtues that made him The Rebbe, and these were the virtues he wanted to pass on to the next generation.”

Avraham Romi Cohn is a well-known businessman, philanthropist and mohel. Eighteen years ago, Romi published his book, The Youngest Partisan, an autobiography of his time during the Holocaust. He was a precocious, active 10-year-old yeshivah student when the Nazis and their puppet regime took over his native Czechoslovakia. The Nazis did not have to round up Slovak Jews, -the Slovaks did it for them. Young Romi was not captured. For the next five years, Romi was a hunted fugitive and a valiant fighter with the Partisans.

When Romi thinks about the evil that happened to the world and to Romi’s own family with the loss of his mother, two sisters and two brothers in a concentration camp he questions: “Why did I survive? Perhaps it is to tell this story (The Youngest Partisan), bringing the horrors and triumphs of so dire a period to the conscience of a world that is falsely seduced into believing that the Holocaust did not even take place, that the victims of the Holocaust are the liars.

We must never let anyone forget nor can we stand by idly when the Holocaust-deniers promulgate their false doctrine. We must resist when society tries to revise history, whether in the form of monstrous lies or seemingly trivial inaccuracies, whether in the guise of public policy or personal ignorance. We must pray, increase our devotion to Hashem (the Lord) and beg Him to prevent this from occurring again. We must cling to and wholeheartedly serve G-d and not to wage war against Him. More than simply “remember the Holocaust,” we must remember the lessons of the Holocaust!”

Details about the event:

The group of friends, the people who have come to know and love Romi Cohn included the following:

The Celebration began with the presentation of the Flag by a group of Jewish War Veterans accompanied by the Danny Sprague Celtic Bagpipers. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Cantor Zevi Muller then led the assembled celebrants in the singing of the National Anthem. In honor of the Holocaust survivors Cantor Zevi Muller, accompanied by the Abraham Berko Music Band, sang Ani Ma’Am (I Believe) and the Zog Nit Keynmol (Hymn of the Partisans, a song considered one of the chief anthems of the Holocaust survivors).

Mendy Mirocznik, President of the Staten Island Council of Jewish Organizations, served as Master of Ceremony, introduced Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield, Senior Rabbi of Young Israel of Staten Island who gave the Blessing to begin the Program.

Dr Lori Weintrob, Professor and Director of the Holocaust Center at Wagner College gave an introduction of the book “The Ribnitzer Rebbe”. She recounted three specific scenes from the life of the Ribnitzer Rebbe that demonstrated the Rebbe’s understanding that “The world must know that G-d is in charge” and that this understanding should shape every aspect of a person’s life.

Dr Leonard Ciaccio, Professor at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, spoke of the Celebration of a Righteous Man. Romi Cohn’s role as a witness to the process which allows evil to attack the human condition and about the power of goodness and holiness to safeguard our welfare as demonstrated in his two books: “The Youngest Partisan” and “The Ribnitzer Rebbe”.

Assemblyman Charles Fall pointed out that hate for one group becomes hate for all and therefore communities must come together to resist hate and create a peaceful and productive world.

Deputy Commissioner for Legislative Affairs, NYC Office of OATH, Hon. John Castelli represented Mayor DeBlasio. He congratulated Romi Cohn for his new book which serves as a powerful tool at our disposal. He thanked Romi Cohn for recounting his experiences so we can learn from his example.

Chief Kevin Woods, Staten Island Borough Commander, FDNY after greeting Romi Cohn on the publication of “The Ribnitzer Rebbe”, Chief Woods drew parallels between the horrors of the attack on the World Trade Center and the witness of the horrors of the Holocaust provided by Romi Cohn. He pointed out the importance of the phrase “We must never forget” when communities are attacked by mindless evil.

Charles DeStephano, Esq., Vice President of the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association pointed out the necessity for maintaining the rule of law so that we will not put our lives at risk. He congratulated Rabbi Cohn for his new book, “The Ribnitzer Rebbe” which continues his lifelong mission to bring us together so we can live in peace.

Angela Olson, from the JCC, brought greetings from New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. She pointed out that the Ribnitzer Rebbe provided an inspiration for all people to persevere with sincere faith and hope.

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Rabbi Dovid Katz, Menahel / Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, gave an inspiring acknowledgment of Romi Cohn’s contribution to our understanding of righteous living and especially the importance of Romi Cohn’s work in providing a role model for others and our children.

James Kelly from the Richmond County Foundation thanked Romi Cohn for his life work, stressing the importance of the Ribnitzer Rebbe as a witness to the power of true holiness.

A Proclamation from the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island was presented to Avraham Romi Hakohen Cohn by Mendy Mirocznik, President of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island and Commander Charles Greinsky Jewish War Veteran of Post 80, Staten Island and Vice President of COJO for Romi’s service during the Holocaust and recognized as a valuable member of the Jewish Community. The Proclamation recognized the Ribnitzer Rebbe’s great contribution to mankind at large.

Rabbi Kaufman of the Israel Bookshop Publications Company presented Romi Cohn with a framed painting of the Ribnitzer Rebbe.

Romi Cohn addressed the group. With a moving recollection of his motivation to honor the Ribnitzer Rebbe, Romi reminded his assembled friends of how much he learned about goodness and faith and the need to live every moment in the service of the Lord. He stressed that the writing of this book was extremely difficult and that he often worried that he might not do an acceptable job in conveying the profound holiness of the Rebbe. It took many years to complete his mission to honor his teacher the Ribnitzer Rebbe. He concluded his remarks by thanking all those who had helped him in reaching this life defining goal and wished all of us the blessings of the Rebbe.

The celebration concluded with the friends of Romi Cohn joining together in the singing of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” with the Pipers and Drummer from the New York City Police Department: Stephen Crochett, Charles Zaleski, Robert Conwell and Thomas Rossiter.

After the closing, a luncheon was provided for the attendees by Premiere Catering of Woodmere, New York. During the luncheon the guests had the opportunity to speak with Romi Cohn as he greeted each individually.

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