Memory Lane: The Beitcher Rov
The Beitcher Rebbeim—scions of the courts of Sanz, Ropshitz, and Dzikov—came to Boro Park in the 1930’s, when the sum of bearded Yidden in town could be counted on one hand. They established their Beis Medrash, Bnei Aaron (in the name of their patriarch) in at 4424 12th Avenue—in the heart of the Jewish community of Boro Park of that era—where it continues to be led to this day by their successor.
The Crème of Galicia.
We begin with the patriarch of this dynasty; Rav Aaron Horowitz of Beitch, a son of the Imrei No’am, Rebbe Meir of Dzikov who was renowned throughout Galicia. He married one of the younger daughters of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz. His son Rav Avrohom Tzvi was born in the year 1887 in the town of Beitch, Galicia, near Gorlice—an area that was rife with chassidim who followed the Sanzer and Dzikover Rebbes. He learned by many Gedolim in Poland of that time, and by his illustrious grandfather in Sanz. In 1907, we find a greeting in Machzikei Hadas, upon the marriage of Avrohom Tzvi to the daughter the gevir Reb Leib Rokeach of Bukovsk, Poland (a descendant of the Belzer dynasty).
By the time WWI arrived, in 1913, the lot of Poland’s Jews was fast deteriorating. Thus, many Yidden from the area had immigrated to America, and placed pressure upon the young son of the Beitcher Rov to join them in America, which he did just before the war. He settled on East Third Street, on the Lower East Side.
Back home, his elderly father, Rav Aaron, escaped to Kashau, Hungary, just over the Polish-Hungarian border. In 1915, he sends a letter to chassidim in New York descriving how the Russians arrived in Beitch, burned his home, and left him and his family penniless. In 1927, Rav Aaron of Beitch passed away in Kashau.
During his early years in America, we find numerous newspaper clippings documenting Rav Avrohom Tzvi’s travails to various communities in America, from Brownsville and East New York to Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest.
Tending to the Wounds
After years on the East Side, he moved to Boro Park, and established Bnei Aaron-Beitch on New Utrecht Avenue, in the name of his illustrious father. In 1946, they purchased the home at 4424 12th Avenue. The family lived in the rear part of the home, and the shul—which has stood at the same place for more than seventy years—was located in the front, on the 12th Avenue side.
In 1961, Rav Avrohom Tzvi was niftar—the last male grandson of the holy Divrei Chaim to have lived among us. He was succeeded by his son Rav Sholom who shepherded this community for the ensuing three-and-a half decades.
The Shul also served as home to one of the classes of Yeshiva Karlin Stolin, which was then located in a three-floor building on 42nd Street. As it was expanding, it could not serve the growing student body, and made use of area shtieblach (Sfas Emes on 42nd street was another such an example).
The mikva that Rav Shalom had built in the basement is also one of Boro Park’s oldest mikva’os.
There are mispalelim today who’s great-grandparents had davened here (!), and some middle-aged women who still received kugel from the old Rebbetzin as young girls—families that are part of a multi-generational connection to the Beitcher Rebbanim, the third generation of which currently leads the shul.
When the current Rebbe assumed the leadership of the shul after the passing of his father in 1996, they expanded the shul, placing the women’s section upstairs, and enlarging the men’s section.
There are also a number of historical imprints that are part of this seventy-year legacy, including a sefer Torah that has a remarkable story attached to it, a vintage, original aron kodesh, and most of all, a legacy of an unbroken tradition of serving as a warm home for Torah and tefillah, dating back seven decades in Boro Park of yesteryear.