It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Reb Yosef Halpern, z”l, of Boro Park and, in more recent years, Lakewood, who was niftar on 28 Tishrei after a protracted illness.
Reb Yossi was renowned as a tremendous baal tzedakah and supporter of Torah institutions. Harav Eliyahu Meir Sorotzkin, Rosh Yeshivas Springfield, whose yeshivah was perhaps Reb Yossi’s primary project, mentioned in his hesped that the niftar would often come to the yeshivah personally to oversee projects that he was funding.
Mentioning the well-known story in the Gemara in which Rav Chiya planted food himself to feed to his students, he offered a novel explanation that when one feels that something is his own, he does not delegate it to others. For Reb Yossi, supporting Torah was not a mere act of philanthropy, but part of who he was.
He was born into a family with a tradition of building Yiddishkeit. Reb Yossi’s father, Reb Nochum Yoel, and grandfather Reb Yaakov were both integral to the building of Bnei Brak, whose legendary Zichron Meir shul Reb Yaakov named for Harav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, with whom he had been very close. They also helped lead the founding of Keren Hashviis and many other endeavors to establish the foundations of the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael. Additionally, the family merited a very close relationship with the Chazon Ish, zt”l.
Reb Yossi cherished his proud heritage and was particularly scrupulous in upholding every detail of the mesorah that he had received.
Harav Shlomo Mandel, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivah of Brooklyn and a mechutan of the niftar, commented that “there are people who learn Torah and people who support Torah, but few do both on the level that he did.” Even while running his successful business affairs, Reb Yossi dedicated hours to his daily sedarim.
In the last few years, Reb Yossi suffered from a debilitating illness. Despite being unable to move most of his body — even to turn a page of a sefer — he spend a large portion of his day learning with chavrusos in Lakewood’s Beis Medrash Kol Aryeh, speaking through a microphone device that made his terribly weakened voice audible.
Reb Yossi’s true lev tov was not limited to his generous financial giving. He had a genuine love for people, greeting them with a warm smile and words of encouragement, according sincere honor to each individual.
Yehi zichro baruch.