The petirah of Rabbi Reuven Bauman, z”l, 35, was a tragedy that captured the attention and hearts of Klal Yisrael. Thousands followed the events in the news, many davened on his behalf, and dozens of people from organizations and communities around the country put aside their daily lives to take part in the search effort to locate his body.
The six days between his disappearance into waves of a Virginia beach and when he was finally brought to kever Yisrael brought Jews of disparate stripes together, bound by a heartbreaking cause.
Yet, behind the emotional news story of an elementary-school rebbi whose last earthly act was to save a child in his charge is the story of a phenomenal man, who in his short life touched many other lives. With gentle middos, an infectious ahavas Hatorah, and a genuine sense of respect and caring for his fellow Jew, he connected to young and old, sharing his knowledge and love of Torah in and out of the classroom.
Not content to hone his abilities in one of Klal Yisrael’s large and comfortable bastions of Torah life, Rabbi Bauman and his young family planted themselves in the small but rich communities of Savannah, Georgia, and then Norfolk, Virginia, in an effort to be marbitz Torah to the Jews of those southern cities.
In the three years since joining the Toras Chaim school in Norfolk, Rabbi Bauman had taught and inspired many students in his seventh- and eighth-grade classes.
“Rabbi Bauman had an ability to connect with a talmid, and with a look had a way of telling each one that he cared,” Rabbi Mordechai Loiterman, Toras Chaim’s principal, told Hamodia. “He had a kindness and gentleness, and a calm sense of order, a positive attitude towards everything. He took being a rebbi very seriously and was very professional and prepared a great deal.
“Rabbi Bauman was a real talmid chacham and a tremendous baal middos who had an air of leadership that made you feel that you were speaking with someone far older than 35. He will be sorely missed by all of us.”
Reuven Tzvi Bauman grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Chinuch was something that came partially by way of inheritance, as his father, Rabbi Menachem (Mark) Bauman has served for many years as a rebbi in the Rosenbaum Yeshivah of North Jersey. He also previously served as the General Studies Principal of Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (YRSRH) in Washington Heights. Both he and Reuven’s mother, Mrs. Esther Bauman, grew up in the “Breuer’s” kehillah, and the family has remained connected to it, albeit from across the Hudson River. In their younger years, Reuven and his siblings all attended YRSRH’s schools.
As a young man, Reuven spent several years at Yeshivas Bais Moshe in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he sharpened his skills and yedios Hatorah before spending a period of time studying in Eretz Yisrael.
He married Tzivia, the daughter of Rabbi Yoel and Suri Stern. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Rabbi Bauman joined the city’s community kollel. In 2010, they moved again, this time to Savannah, where Rabbi Bauman became a member of that city’s kollel. While in Savannah, Rabbi Bauman learned together with, and developed close bonds with, many of the small community’s members. One shiur he delivered presented a methodical study of the central commentators on Chumash on the weekly parshah. The care he put into preparation the shiur is still evident in the careful marks left in his Mikros Gedolos Chumash.
In 2016, the Baumans moved to Norfolk, where Rabbi Bauman took the reins of Toras Chaim’s oldest class. With his sincere caring and skillful teaching methods, he quickly became a most beloved mechanech at the small school.
With a thorough understanding of sugyos hashas and a knack for clarity, he was successful in preparing several of his students for top yeshivos, seemingly worlds away from Norfolk.
“He was able to prepare them to know the Gemaras and Rishonim and Achronim in a way that they had the confidence it took to take farhers at Scranton and Philadelphia – and many of them are there now,” said Rabbi Loiterman. “I remember observing his classroom one time when he was giving over a piece of Beis Halevi. He had a way of getting them excited about learning and created a desire for it.”
Rabbi Bauman’s ability to bring the lessons of gedolei Yisrael down to a younger generation is not only left behind in his students, but in Yanky’s Amazing Discovery. The children’s book he authored tells the tale of a boy who is inspired to overcome his struggles in yeshivah by stories about Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l.
During the three years he spent in Norfolk, Rabbi Bauman’s influence radiated beyond the classroom, as he gave regular shiurim in the community’s main shul, B’nai Israel, and maintained regular chavrusashafts with several members of the community.
“He was very generous with himself and with his time; whatever he had he gave,” said Dr. Michael Weissman, a psychologist who learned Mesilas Yesharim with Rabbi Bauman each Shabbos. “It was so clear that Torah meant everything to him, and it was impossible to be with him and not feel the aura of his love of Torah. He had a way of connecting to people and giving over his insights. At the same time, he greatly respected another person’s expertise and was very modest about his own. If he ever didn’t have an answer to a question I asked him, he would look it up and tell me what he found the next week.
“Klal Yisrael lost a gem.”
At the levayah Monday morning in B’nai Israel, Rabbi Mark Bauman opened his hesped with words of hakaras hatov to the many who volunteered in the search effort and many more who davened and offered support to the family during their time of hardship.
“This past week what we’ve seen and heard and experienced, the struggles you have gone through seem no less than what we have gone through,” he said. “I honestly feel that my family was not going through this alone … I would like to express our appreciation to all the volunteers, we will always remember what you’ve done.”
The senior Rabbi Bauman went on to relate a message that Dayan Ahron Dovid Dunner related to his family on behalf of Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita.
“Last Rosh Hashanah it was decided that Reuven’s time was up, there was no discussion about that, but Hashem gave Reuven the zechus not just to move on … but to make his last act a tremendous mitzvah,” he said, quoting the message.
Rabbi Sender Haber, who leads B’nai Israel, extolled Rabbi Bauman z”l’s virtues as a mechanech and mourned the tragic loss to the community. He also emphasized the great dedication that Rabbi Bauman showed to his own family.
“Reuven was not a pushy person, and I knew that if he was persistent about something that he said he needed, it was something that he felt was necessary for his wife or his children – that was something that he taught us,” he said.
Other maspidim in Norfolk included his father his father-in-law, Rabbi Stern, and a brother-in-law.
From Norfolk, the levayah continued to New Jersey, where Rabbi Bauman was laid to rest in the Khal Adas Jeshurun section of King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton – at the front of the cheilek, near the roshei hakehillah.
Rabbi Bauman is survived by his parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Mark Bauman, wife, Mrs. Tzivia Bauman, children, Shira, Yaakov, Zev, Yehudah and Tzirel, and by his 11 brothers and sisters.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.