by Rabbi Arye D. Gordon.
With the advent of Lag b’Omer, the question many were asking, “Is the Pittsburgher Rebbe of Ashdod coming back this year?” The answer was, “Of course he is!”
To the joy and excitement of the Los Angeles community, the Rebbe, who has been a regular visitor to our city, returned again this year for almost two weeks. During that time the Rebbe managed to visit the various Los Angeles communities, offering, guidance, inspiration, hope and advice to all who wanted it.
The Pittsburgher Rebbe arrived in Los Angeles on May 8th, and spent the first Shabbos, Parshas Behar, in the Pico-Robertson area. The weekend program had the Rebbe davening in different shuls in the neighborhood. A Friday night tisch at Anshe Emes on Robertson Avenue was well attended. Sharing a tisch with a Rebbe is an interesting experience, especially if you have never done so.
From Motzai Shabbos May 10th until Monday night May 12th, the Rebbe remained in Pico-Robertson and made himself available for all who wished to see him privately.
The Rebbe spent Shabbos Bechukosai in the Fairfax-Hancock Park community. The Rebbe, whose stay was hosted by Esther and Rafi Katz, davened Friday night kabolas Shabbos at the Kollel Yechiel Yehuda, the “chasidishe Kollel, and held a tisch there later in the evening.
Shabbos morning the Rebbe davened at Beis Medrash Shaarei Torah and Mincha and Shalosh Seudos at Young Israel of Hancock Park.
The Pittsburgher Rebbe, grew up, in of all places, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1924, his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Leifer was the first to carry the name of Pittsburgher Rebbe. The Pittsburgher is a descendant of Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna, whose Chasidic dynasty is represented by many Nadvorna Rebbes, with hyphenated extensions to their title.
This is one of the few Hasidic dynasties named after an American city. The others are Boston, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. After almost half a century in America, the present Rebbe’s father, Rav Avraham Abba Leifer made the move to Israel and settled in Ashdod.
Today, his son, Rav Mordechai Yissachar Ber Leifer, who became Rebbe in 1990, presides over families and educational institutions in Ashdod. The Rebbe also has chassidim living in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, New York and California.
On Motzai Shabbos the Rebbe made Havdalah in the home of his hosts, Rafi and Esther Katz. I was invited to attend and got an opportunity to take a series of pictures during Havdalah. Afterwards, the Rebbe asked me, “Who is going to take your picture?” Tzvi Fleischmann, a son-in-law of the Katz’s, offered to take some pictures of me with the Rebbe. Always behind the camera, I guess I don’t think of getting into some of the pictures.
In perfect English, the Rebbe asked about my family. Thinking this would be of interest, I told the Rebbe that my grandson is a descendant of Rebbe’s on his mother’s side and his father’s side. From his mother, he is a direct descendant of the Tosher Tzaddik, Meshulem Feish Lowy. From his father’s side he is a direct descendant of the Munchatcher Rebbe the famed Minchas Elazar, “But I,” I told the Rebbe, “am a Litvak.” The Rebbe looked at me and smiled. “At least you are not a misnagid.”
As in years past, the Lag B’omer celebration and bonfire was held at the Los Angeles Cheder. On Motzaei Shabbos the courtyard of the Cheder was packed with young children carrying their bows and arrows, along with parents and Rabbeim, joyously singing and dancing to the light of the Lag b’Omer fire.
Everyone was inspired to raise their voices in song as the Rebbe waved his arms on high in a stirring and lebidik fashion. While it was not Meron, for the Los Angeles Jewish Community, it was the next best thing. Next Year in Meron!!