Rabbi Avrohom Kamenetsky, z”l, was born 82 years ago in Tzitevyan, the Lithuanian city which his illustrious father, Harav Yaakov, zt”l, served as Rav.
In 1938, Rebbetzin Ettel Kamenetsky and her children, of whom Avrohom was the youngest, joined Reb Yaakov, who had preceded them, in Toronto, Canada. The Kamenetskys later moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Avraham attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. He then joined Beis Midrash Govoha in Lakewood, becoming a close talmid of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l. After his marriage to, ybl”c, Ruth Newman, he joined the yeshivah’s kollel, and later became a rebbi at Yeshiva Toras Chaim of South Shore, established by his brother Rabbi Binyamin Kamenetsky. Eventually, he entered the field of business.
Reb Avraham and his wife established their home in Crown Heights and later in Flatbush, raising a beautiful family of six wonderful children.
Reb Avraham’s closeness with his father was well known. The youngest sibling, he was the only child still at home when his mother passed away. Reb Yaakov became father and mother to him, raising him with wisdom, tenderness and love.
When Reb Avrohom considered going into business, for parnassah considerations, he sought his father’s approval and guidance. Reb Yaakov advised his son to say Parashas Vayishlach, which talks about Yaakov Avinu’s encounter with Esav Harasha, every Motzoei Shabbos; the chachamim said that parashah before traveling to Rome, and it is a protection for people engaged in the world at large. Reb Yaakov also told him to say the tefillah, “Ribon Kol Olamim.”
Reb Avrohom was a very warm person who made others feel good about themselves. Says a friend, “He knew how to talk to people. So many felt that he was their best friend. After a conversation with him, you felt like a million dollars.
Blessed with a sharp mind and great perception, he used his pikchus to help others understand situations and make decisions. Great Roshei Yeshivah were shoel eitzah from him, valuing his perspective.
He was a generous individual, who constantly gave of himself and his resources. He had a golden heart and a neshamah that overflowed with ahavas Yisrael.
An outstanding mechanech, he raised and educated his children with great chachmah and warmth. A son affirms, “Rather than reprimand us, our father let us know, in a subtle way, what needed correction; he enabled us to figure it out for ourselves.”
A granddaughter says, “My zeide was such a proud and loving grandfather. When he spoke, he always asked me about each of my children individually, how he or she was doing at home and in school.
“After my husband’s grandfather was niftar, Zeide constantly inquired after his almanah’s welfare.”
The Kamenetskys davened at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, near their Flatbush home. Reb Avraham formed a strong connection with Harav Yitzchak Hutner zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah, who referred to him as a “yedid neeman.” And he remained close to, ybl”t, the present Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Aharon Schechter, shlita.
Harav Michoel Wolpin, shlita, Reb Avraham’s night seder chavrusa for more than thirty years at the Kamenitzer kollel on 56th Street in Boro Park, says that the niftar “was very much his father’s son.” He was not only referring to his learning, but to the fact that Reb Avraham was a role model of how one should act bein adam l’chaveiro.
Rabbi Dovid Wolpin, son of Reb Michoel, recalls, “I was privileged to be with Reb Avraham at many simchos. I noticed that he was always on the lookout for guests who seemed to be “on the outside,” who didn’t have anyone to talk to. Excusing himself in the middle of our conversation, he would say, “One minute, please, I would like to go over to that person (whom he didn’t necessarily know) and speak with him.”
For many years, Wednesday was the day Reb Avraham traveled to Monsey to learn with his father; it was a sacred and inviolable commitment that both parties treasured. During the last years of his life, Reb Yaakov lived with his youngest son and daughter-in-law, who revered him and lovingly cared for his needs.
A certain couple was very distraught about a terrible problem they were having with neighbors. They made an appointment to meet with Reb Yaakov, hoping that this Gadol, whom the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, referred to as Chakma D’Yehudai, would provide them with an eitzah tovah. In addition to the powerful advice they received, this couple cherished the warmth and graciousness with which the younger Kamenetskys welcomed them into their home, helping to calm them and putting them at ease.
Reb Yaakov told his son that just as there is a Shulchan Aruch that guides us in the performance of mitzvos, there is a Shulchan Aruch guiding our middos tovos and interactions with others. He explained that in order to learn how to conduct oneself with people, one must learn from the ways of our tzaddikim, as revealed in Chumash, Midrash, and the Aggados of Chazal.
He also told Reb Avraham that, as the Alter of Slabodka commented, it’s impossible to become a true baal mussar without Torah; proficiency in learning, and knowledge of divrei Chazal, are prerequisites to the development of shleimus.
Reb Avraham’s life bears eloquent testimony to the fact that he learned his father’s priceless lessons well. He was an accomplished talmid chacham, an eved Hashem, an ish emes whose resplendent middos brought incomparable warmth and light into the world, wherever he went, for the countless lives he indelibly touched.
Reb Avraham’s sister, Rebbetzin Malka Shurin, was niftar several months ago.
Reb Avraham is survived by his wife, Mrs Ruth Kamenetsky, shetichyeh; his brothers, shlita, Harav Binyamin, Harav Shmuel and Harav Nosson; a sister, Rebbetzin Rivkah Diskind; his children, Ettel, wife of Harav Doniel Neustadt, shlita, Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbanim of Detroit; Penina, wife of Rabbi Moshe Zywica, Executive Raabbinical Coordinator at OU Kashrus; Reb Gershon, married to Chava nee Marks; Reb Yitzchak, married to Chanie nee Davidowitz; Reb Yosef, married to Feige nee Gartenhaus; and Esther, wife of Rabbi Ari Fireman, a rebbi in Yeshiva Shaarei Arazim; grandchildren and great-grandchildren who follow the golden path of their ancestors.
Yehi zichro baruch.