The Jewish community lost a beloved Rebbe on Motzoei Shabbos with the passing of Harav Meshilem Feish Halevi Rottenberg, the Kosonier Rebbe, zt”l. An extraordinarily caring leader, the Rebbe was moser nefesh for Yiddishkeit since he was young. He was born on 29 Kislev 5692/December 8, 1931 in the Bronx. His parents were the Kosonier Rebbe, Harav Pinchos Shulem Halevi, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Sarah Chanah (Ehrlich), a”h. His family lived in the Bronx until 1960 when his father moved to Boro Park.
Rav Meshilem and his brother, Harav Yisroel, zt”l — later Kosonier Rebbe of 14th Ave. — would travel on the subway from the Bronx to Torah Vodaath in Williamsburg. They were constantly beset by tormentors who would await them, taunt them, and even try to rip out their peyos. Sometimes his persecutors managed to pull out the hair with its root, causing bleeding. The two brothers would hold onto their peyos and continue on to their destination. Never once did they contemplate hiding or cutting their peyos; on the contrary, they would proudly display them.
Reb Meshilem learned in Woodmere, N.J., under Rav Moshe Neuschloss, zt”l, after his bar mitzvah, and continued in Nitra Yeshivah until his chasunah. He established a very close relationship with the Sadovna Rav, Harav Yerachmiel Yisroel Sekula, zt”l, with whom he not only learned b’chavrusa, but was always shoel eitzah.
He married Rechel, the daughter of Rav Yechiel Mechel Moskowitz, zt”l, the son of the Shatzer Rebbe from London. They lived in Crown Heights until they moved to Boro Park, where his father, Rav Pinchos Shulem, had established a shul on 49th Street and 18th Avenue; the couple lived with him to be able to take care of his needs. After the petirah of his father, Harav Meshilam succeeded him as Kosonier Rebbe. The beis medrash on 18th Avenue became a center of Torah and Chassidus.
Their home was a magnet for chessed. Rav Meshilem spoke flawless English and understood American culture. With his experience, empathy and wisdom, he was a guide and comfort to many who came to him, no matter how complex their problems.
He helped many couples with their shalom bayis and found jobs for people in need. He would not turn anyone away. A respected posek, he also served as a member of a beis din that oversaw geirus.
Rebbetzin Rechel passed away 12 years ago, in 5762/2002.
The Kosonier Rebbe is survived by, ybl”c, his children, Harav Yehosef Bentzion Halevi Rottenberg; Harav Chaim Yechiel Mechel Halevi; Harav Naftula Tzvi Halevi; Harav Yaakov Eluzer Halevi; Harav Moshe Shmiel Halevi; Harav Pinchos Shulem Halevi; Harav Meir Yida Halevi; and daughter Rebbetzin Sarah Chana Rottenberg, who is married to her first cousin Harav Pinchas Shulem Rottenberg.
Yehi zichro baruch.