On Thursday night a kinus hesped v’zikaron was held for Rabbi Yosef Friedenson, z”l, longtime editor of Dos Yiddishe Vort and executive secretary of Agudath Israel of America. The hazkarah took place at Agudath Israel Zichron Moshe in Boro Park.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, who chaired the event, noted in his introductory remarks that Reb Yosef made “a career of beating the odds.” Although he had suffered a stroke the evening of the Siyum HaShas last August, Rabbi Friedenson persevered in his work and published the milestone 430th issue of Dos Yiddishe Vort afterwards.
Rabbi Zwiebel said Reb Yosef was not merely “a chronicler of history but rather a maker of history.” He was tremendously dedicated to the ideals of Agudath Israel and was one of its architects here in America.
Harav Yaakov Perlow, shlita, the Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudas Yisrael, recalled that after Churban Europa, there was a deep sense of yiush, despondency, over the unprecedented loss that had taken place and fear about the future. Reb Yosef was a Heaven-sent shaliach who, with his gifted pen, provided succor and direction to the survivors as well as to the new generation.
Although others might have been “cooled off” due to the despair of the times, despite his experiences Reb Yosef remained a warm, staunch Yid who used his talents to connect the immediate past to the future. He portrayed the greatness of Torah life in Europe and the Gedolim who inspired that era.
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Golding, son-in-law of Rabbi Friedenson, remembered his shver for his humility, ehrlichkeit and chessed, and his desire to promote peace among Yidden. He and his wife had lost their entire families in Europe and yet his lifelong focus was, in the words of Tachanun, “U’v’chal zos Shimcha lo shachachnu, despite all this we have not forgotten Your Name.” Rabbi Friedenson lived by these words.
Harav Dovid Olewski, Rosh Mesivta of Mesivta Beis Yisrael of Ger, said that Reb Yosef essentially defined Churban Europa and the world that preceded it for the new dor. One way he accomplished this was by bringing our Gedolim and tzaddikim to life in the pages of Dos Yiddishe Vort. He illustrated the nobility of Torah life in the Jewish communities of Europe and thereby performed a tremendous chessed, ensuring that these distinguished chapters of our history would not be forgotten.
Reb Yechiel Benzion Fishoff, chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America, was a very close chaver of Rabbi Friedenson from their cheder days in Europe. He noted that Reb Yosef’s father, Rabbi Eliezer Gershon, was a prominent activist for Agudath Israel in Poland and the editor of the Beth Jacob Journal, curricula of which were utilized by the Bais Yaakov movement in prewar Europe.
Indeed, he said, the elder Rabbi Friedenson “gave his life” for the Agudah movement in Europe, and Reb Yosef carried on with distinction this legacy that was bequeathed to him.
A longer article on this event is planned for the weekly edition of Hamodia.