BDE Rabbi Shmuel Yerachmiel Kaufman Z”L

burning memorial candles

Rabbi Shmuel Yerachmiel Kaufman, z”l, an especially beloved mechanech in the Detroit community whose strong and palpable love for Yiddishkeit, his fellow Jews, and life itself, has left a lifelong impression on generations of talmidim in Yeshiva Bais Yehudah as well as on countless individuals who were privileged to know him, was niftar Wednesday evening, 15 Tammuz. He was 82 years old.

“He had an unparalleled ability to connect with people from all walks of Klal Yisrael. He had a way of speaking to absolutely anybody, and they all loved him,” Rabbi Menachem Greenfield, Menahel of Bais Yehudah, told Hamodia. “Wherever he went, his very personality made a kiddush Hashem.”

Rabbi Kaufman was indeed known to all as a man with an untamable simchas hachaim who served as an especially adored rebbi and mentor to classes of elementary school children for decades. One can hardly believe that his own childhood was one of tremendous physical and emotional challenges.

He was born in 1934 in the East New York section of Brooklyn to Mr. Philip, z”l, and Mrs. Fradel, a”h, Kaufman, a daughter of Reb Yaakov Yosef Herman, z”l. As a toddler, young Shmuel was orphaned of his mother; shortly afterwards, he contracted polio. He spent most of his childhood, from age 2 to 9, living in the hospital, and was left with a limp and continuous problems stemming from weakness in his legs.

Once healthy enough to be released, he attended Torah Vodaas and later the Telshe Yeshivah. In Telshe he became a close talmid of Harav Elya Meir Bloch, zt”l, and many of the other prominent rebbeim, absorbing the yeshivah’s unique derech deep into his heart and mind.

In 1956 he was recruited by Rabbi Joseph Elias to join the staff of Bais Yehudah. With his passion for every aspect of Torah u’mitzvos, genuine love for his students, masterful storytelling abilities and spirited personality, he had a lifelong impact on thousands of talmidim.

In addition to his regular classes in the mosad’s cheder, his influence was spread even further by his central role in the afternoon Talmud Torah that Bais Yehudah operated during the 1960s for Jewish children attending public school. There, the same Rabbi Kaufman who could masterfully explain a blatt Gemara and carry on lively conversations with Roshei Yeshivah, forged meaningful relationships with his afternoon talmidim as well as with their families, playing an integral role in paving the way for the growth of Detroit’s frum community.

His influence was felt far beyond the classroom. Detroiters warmly recalled Rabbi Kaufman as a man who was a never-ending fountain of Torah, chessed and inspiration.

A levayah was planned to take place Thursday evening in Detroit and another in Lakewood on Friday morning, before proceeding on Motzoei Shabbos to Eretz Yisrael for kevurah.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Risha Kaufman; sons, Rabbi Yonah Yitzchok, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Dovid Yaakov Yosef and Rabbi Baruch; daughters, Mrs. Fradel Goldberg and Mrs. Nechama Jonas, as well as by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Yehi zichro baruch.

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