‘Leading With Love’ – Rabbi Moshe Neuman, Z’l

“Teaching is not just sitting by a desk”. This was the advice Harav Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l, gave a young Rabbi Moshe Neuman when the latter began his teaching career in Detroit, Michigan at the behest of the venerable Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Neuman wanted to know how to reach his first class of boys, who weren’t responding well to conventional educational methods. They were spirited, active children who wouldn’t sit still to learn. “I want you all to learn, and you want to play. We’ll make a compromise,” Rabbi Neuman told them. “I’ll take you out to play basketball, and when we’re done, you’re going to sit and learn with me”. Rabbi Neuman became known as a very effective, but ever warm rebbe.

In 1961, Rabbi Neuman assumed the position of principal of Bais Yaakov of Queens, which under his stewardship grew from a small school with around 20 students to an 800 plus strong bastion of Torah education.

That varmkeit personified his approach to chinuch. “In Bais Yaakov, every girl felt that she was Rabbi Neuman’s favorite,” Sorolle Idels, a community activist and talmidah of Bais Yaakov told Hamodia. “His way of teaching and leading the school was through ahavah, not through yirah. Bringing everyone in, as opposed to making everyone afraid,” she said.

“Rabbi Neuman’s mantra in life was always to treat the individual with equal respect and reverence that one would treat the klal,” Rebbetzin Miriam Krohn, Limudei Kodesh Principal of Shevach High School wrote in memory of Rabbi Neuman. “He was true to this mantra throughout his tenure of more than 50 years at the Bais Yaakov of Queens in Kew Gardens.”  

“He gave us all alternative ways of learning,” Mrs. Idels said. “It wasn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’, especially when you have a school of hundreds of talmidos. And we were all his talmidos. We all became part of the Bais Yaakov family. When I had children, there was never a question about where I wanted to send my girls. ‘You’re part of the Bais Yaakov family, of course you’re going to send your girls here,’ Rabbi Neuman told me.

Mrs. Idels was not alone; she says that most of the students of Bais Yaakov who stayed in Queens continued to send their own children to the school.

He continued to make his students feel important as adults. “I went to Bais Yaakov in the summer of 2011, before Rabbi Neuman retired,” Mrs. Idels said, “and he was walking with Rabbi Gewirtz (who would become principal in the coming year). Rabbi Neuman introduced me to his successor with such glowing expression; he made me feel like I was the most important parent.”

“And he was so visible!” Rebbetzin Krohn continued. “He was at the curb every morning to meet the buses. When girls arrived in school, the first person they saw was Rabbi Neuman. He saw them off in the afternoon, after school– again, on the curb, rain or shine. He knew each of their names, and was familiar with each of their struggles and celebrations.” One mother related at the shivah, “Rabbi Neuman was always there for me when I was going through a difficult patch as a mother. I could not have done it without him.”

Rabbi Neuman told an almanah whose daughters were in Bais Yaakov to go to a clothing store, get new dresses for all of her girls, and say that ‘Rabbi Neuman said you should come.’

He took a personal interest in the classes in Bais Yaakov. Rather than remain in his principal’s office, he went around to classrooms, sat with the girls, came to every siddur and chumash play, and would take an active role in their lives even after they graduated.

In his youth, Rabbi Neuman learned in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, where he received smicha from Harav Yitzchok Hutner. Although his upbringing was grounded in the yeshiva world, he was able to reach out to others who were raised in a different environment, drawing them closer to Torah and the Ribono Shel Olam through his warmth and congenial personality.   

In addition to his role as principal of Bais Yaakov, Rabbi Neuman was the beloved Assistant Director of Camp Torah Vodaas.

He was 91 years old, and was niftar on 2 Iyar.

Rebbetzin Krohn remarked, “It is not an exaggeration to say that Queens would not be what it is today without a school dedicated to the mesorah of Bais Yaakov.“

Yehi Zichro Boruch

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