Harav Yisroel Chaim Freedman was born in Manchester, England, 85 years ago. His parents were Harav Levi and Rebbetzin Chaya Rochel Freedman. When he was a very young child, the family moved to Birmingham, where his father served as Rav and shochet.
As a bachur, Yisroel Chaim became a talmid of the Gateshead Yeshivah. During that time, he was zocheh to hear shmuessen from Harav Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l, at the Gateshead Kollel. At age 20 he traveled to the United States, where he joined the Mirrer Yeshivah in Brooklyn. Harav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, was Mashgiach at the yeshivah then, before he moved to Eretz Yisrael, and Reb Yisroel Chaim was greatly inspired by his personal example and teachings.
Reb Yisroel Chaim formed lifelong friendships with fellow talmidim at the Mir, including Harav Yisroel Eliyahu Weintraub, zt”l, with whom he shared a room, and his chavrusa, Harav Shlomo Brevda, zt”l.
After his marriage to Rivka Fruchter, tbl”c, Reb Yisroel Chaim continued learning in the kollel of Mir. He later became a rebbi in Yeshivah of Brooklyn, and then in Yeshivah Chasan Sofer, where he ultimately served as esteemed and beloved menahel.
The Freedmans began their married life in East New York, Brooklyn, later moving to Boro Park. They raised a wonderful family of sons and daughters, bnei Torah and yirei Shamayim.
The gadlus of the niftar was so great and multifaceted that, in the words of a family member, “it is hard to pinpoint any one area that was bolet.” He was an adam hashalem whose Torah, avodas Hashem and gemilus chassadim are indescribable.
For 60 years, Reb Yisroel Chaim devoted untold hours to personally collecting funds for poor families, in both America and Eretz Yisrael. During summers in the country, first at Pragers’ bungalow colony and then at Censors’ in Monroe, he devoted every Sunday to traveling throughout the mountains on behalf of the aniyim who depended on his help.
And that help was always extended with tremendous discretion and respect. Reb Yisroel Chaim spent countless evenings every week at weddings, tirelessly raising funds. Even during the last years of his life, when he suffered from blindness and physical weakness, he continued this avodah. People, recognizing his greatness and extraordinary ehrlichkeit, ran to contribute, rather than waiting for him to approach them. Many considered it a special zechus to place their tzedakah funds in his trustworthy hands.
Reb Yisroel Chaim’s levayah began in Boro Park, outside Yeshivas Chasan Sofer. Maspidim included Harav Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, shlita, the Mattersdorfer Rav, and two sons of the niftar, Reb Yaakov and Reb Kalman. The levayah proceeded to Lakewood, where hespedim were delivered in front of Bais Medrash Govoha by Harav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Harav Dovid Schustal, shlita, and the niftar’s son Reb Nachum.
Out of respect for the niftar’s wishes that no one praise him at his levayah, the number of maspidim was kept to a minimum, and those who spoke avoided proclaiming the shevachim of the niftar, focusing instead on divrei chizuk. The Mattersdorfer Rav, for example, shared words of chizuk regarding tefillah, based on the Chasam Sofer; this was particularly appropriate, since Reb Yisroel Chaim had been a longtime shaliach tzibbur whose pure voice and heartfelt, intense tefillos had a great impact on the mispallelim.
Among the many Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshivah, shlita, who attended the levayah were Harav Yosef Rosenblum, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah Shaarei Yosher; Harav Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe; Harav Yaakov Posen, Dayan of K’hal Adas Yeshurun and chavrusa of the niftar from their Gateshead years; Harav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Yeshivah, Mesivtha Tiferes Jerusalem of Staten Island; Harav Eliyahu Dov Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah Zichron Moshe, South Fallsburg; Harav Chaim Epstein, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah Zichron Meilech; Harav Mattisyahu Salomon, Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha, and Harav Yisrael Neuman, Rosh Yeshivah, Bais Medrash Govoha.
The Freedman family is anxious to continue the great work of their father, who assisted numerous nitzrachim over the past decades, many of whom depend on those funds for basic sustenance. Those who would like to contribute to the fund established for this purpose, l’iluy nishmaso, may send checks made out to Gomlei Chesed to:
670 Dahill Road
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Yehi zichro baruch.