Memory Lane: Rav Sender Shmuel Teitelbaum, Kolbusover Rav
A Scion of Sighet goes West
Rav Sender was born to his father, Rav Aryeh Leibush, who was a son in law of Rav Chaim Yonah Halpern, the Rav of Rzeszow, Galicia. His brother-in-law was the famed “Rebbe Elozor (Weisblum) Reisher”- a ben achar ben of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizensk.
In 1920, the family arrived in America—including the young Sender, who had already been engaged at a young age—and the Rav established Yeshiva Ahavas Torah in the Bronx (The Kossoner Rebbe, also of a notable Bronx family, and student in the yeshiva related that all the alumni remained shomrei Shabbos, a testament to the inspiration that he imparted to them).
He entered RIETS, where he learned together with Rav Moshe Bik, and for the full year that Rav Shimon Shkop delivered Shiurim there, Rav Sender drank from his Torah. Once, before Pesach, Rav Shimon asked him to stay after shiur. He asked the young lad, “Where does your father get his matzos.” He told him that they have flour, and the family bakes themselves. Rav Shimon asked him that he would much prefer to eat these matzos, and whether he could receive some of them discreetly, which of course, he did.
A Grandfather’s tears
His wedding took place in Poland in the late 1920’s, and Rav Aryeh Leibish insisted that the couple return to America soon thereafter—something that caused the mechutan great consternation. Tragically, this daughter—the Rebbetzin of the Kolbusover Rav—was the only one in her family spared the hands of the Nazis, ym”sh.
In the Bronx, Rav Sender was close to great men, such as Rav Yitzchok Grozalsky, the Kossoner Rebbe, and others. But for all the many Shuls in the Pelham Parkway area of the Bronx, there was not one mikvah taharah in the vicinity. At the behest of his cousin, Rav Yoel of Satmar, he opened a mikvah which was welcomed by the area residents.
The young avreich stood at the right hand of his father, Rav Aryeh Leibish, until his passing in 1941, and then assumed his Rabbanus in the Bronx. But when the neighborhood deteriorated in the 1970’s, he made the move to Boro Park—where he would live for the last decade of his life.
Here he joined the Beis Medrash of the Stuchiner Rebbe, Rav Yehuda Horowitz—a scion of the Ropshitz dynasty, which stands to this day on 50th Street between 12th and 13th Avenues. They were cousins… and the Kolbusower Rav had been coming from the Bronx for Lag Ba’Omer for many years prior to this.
The Kolbusower roots in Boro Park have only expanded in the forty years since the arrival of Rav Sender. His three children have remained and grown their families here: His son was Rav Leibish Dovid Teitelabaum, one daughter married Rav Chaim Hersh Halberstam, a grandson of the Kedushas Tzion of Bobov, and another daughter is married to Rabbi Aaron Twerski, a son of the Hornesteipeler Rebbe of Milwaukee.
Prior to leaving the Bronx for Boro Park, he sold his Shul on Pelham Parkway to Rav Ephraim Oshry, Rav of the Beis Hamedrash Hagadol, who sought to bring his yeshiva there. This did not materialize, but his son, Rav Yosef Dov Oshry—today a Rav in Flatbush—opened his Shul there. When he sold it, it was on the condition that the mikvah remain open.
Astoundingly, a nucleus of families—mostly frum doctors from the nearby hospitals—continue to use this mikvah to this day, a testament to Kolbusower Rav’s mesirus nefesh, standing against the current of America, gracing—for the last decade of his life—Boro Park of yesteryear.