The village of New Square bid a farewell to one of the individuals who played a key role in its founding with the petirah of Reb Matis Freisel, the town’s long-time mayor and Rosh Hakehillah. He was niftar this past Shabbos at age 91.
Reb Matis worked tirelessly as an askan for the establishment, continuity and growth of the renowned “shtetl Skvere” and its large kehillah. After having lost his entire family in the horrors of the Holocaust, he not only built a celebrated family, but gave his life to build and support an entire community.
He was born in 1924 in the hallowed Galician town of Sanz to Reb Dovid and Yitta Freisel, Hashem yinkom damam. The family had been Chassidim of Sanz and Shinev for generations.
During the war, the niftar was interned in several concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Tragically, his parents and siblings all perished, leaving him the family’s lone survivor.
Following liberation, while in the Ferenwald DP camp, Reb Matis married Henna Goldklag, daughter of Reb Moshe Goldklag, z”l.
The couple settled in America, where the niftar developed a strong bond with Harav Yaakov Yosef Twersky, zy”a, the Skvere Rebbe, becoming one of the Rebbe’s first and most loyal Chassidim in America. His Rebbe had special affection for him and, realizing the young Chassid’s wisdom, often consulted with him on weighty matters.
In 1961, when the town of New Square was first established, the niftar was among the pioneers in its establishment, in addition to being one of its first residents. Even while running a successful travel agency, he gave incalculable amounts of time and energy to see that his Rebbe’s dream of a “Yiddishe shtetl” on the shores of America would become a reality. As the kehillah became established, he was heavily involved in the founding and support of its many mosdos hachinuch and chessed organizations.
Until the time of his passing, he served as Skvere’s first and only mayor, acting as both an internal leader for the community as well as its representative to the outside world.
Reb Matis dealt with fellow askanim and politicians on the highest levels. At the same time, he remained a “chassidishe Yid” through and through, not compromising on any principle or minhag.
He is survived by his children, all noted marbitzei Torah, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yehi Zichro Baruch