Memory Lane: The Liska Rebbe
In the year 1947, Boro Park was comprised mainly of the “old-timers,” those who had settled here away from the bustling and congested old neighborhoods, and their second generation. But it was by then beginning to see a tiny trickle of Holocaust survivors who had emerged from the ashes having lost so much.
Into this milieu settled Rav Yoizef Friedlander, zt”l, a scion of the venerated Liska dynasty—established by its patriarch, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Friedman, zt”l, author of Ach Pri Tevuah—which was renowned throughout Hungary. He was one of the first Admorim to come to Boro Park in the postwar years, and with his Torah, avodah, and boundless ahavas Yisroel, he transformed the landscape of this nascent community.
28 Shevat marks fifty years since the Rebbe’s passing, and on this occasion we glimpse into his remarkable life.
The birthplace of the Chassidic movement was in Ukraine…in Medzibuz, Mezerich, and other hamlets—with its influence only spreading out to Hungary in later years. It was brought there by the Yismach Moshe. One of his talmidim who helped to further transmit its teachings and philosophy to the Yidden of Hungary was the Liska Rebbe, Rav Tzvi Hersh M’liska, zt”l, author of Ach Pri Tevuah, and Hayoshor v’Hatov. More than the yeshuos that he effected for people, he was known for his superhuman tzeddaka and chessed. He was close to the tzaddikim of his time, and they held him in great esteem.
Rav Hershele’s son-in-law and successor was the Tal Chaim; Harav Chaim Friedlander, zt”l—widely known as a Ga’on of epic proportions— who assumed the position of his father in law after his passing. His son, the third Liska Rebbe, Rav Tzvi Hirsh Friedlander, zt”l, Hy”d, was named for his maternal grandfather, and he authored more than thirty seforim.
Rav Yoizef was born to his father Rav Tzvi Hirsh in Liska, in 1917. He learned with his father in his youth. He later received hora’ah from some of the foremost ge’onim in Hungary —all of who lauded his Torah scholarship and his brilliance.
Rebuilding in Boro Park
There is a vort that the Liska Rebbe would often repeat in the name of the Belzer Rov. It can be seen as his guiding philosophy as he sought to rebuild a lost world. Yosef Hatzadik named his children Menashe because “Hashem has made me forget my hardship and my parental home.” And the second he named Ephraim, meaning, “Hashem has made me fertile in the land of my affliction.” The Belzer Rov would explain that sometimes it is necessary to forget—in certain sense—even a great and glorious world in order to build further.
The Liska Rebbe had lost most of his family in Auschwitz, as did his Rebbetzin. The pain was certainly unbearable, but the Rebbe bore it inside; outwardly he was only concerned with healing his brethren, and with renewal. At the same time, his coming to Boro Park and establishing the Liska Beis Medrash was all about commemorating the Liska tradition of yore.
And so, after a short while in Crown Heights, the Liska Rebbe and Rebbetzin relocated to Boro Park, purchasing the property on 50th Street a short while later, and this is where the Shul is located to this day, under the leadership of his son and successor.
Those were not simple times…Boro Park in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Many broken Yidden who had lost so much, and been so thoroughly shattered, roamed the streets here, and a story is related by the current Liska Rebbe, Rav Tzvi Hersh Friedlander, that illustrates this, as well as the Liska Rebbe’s boundless love for his fellow Yid:
For 25 years, the shul was a center of Torah and chessed, with many coming to hear the Liska Rebbe’s Torah, and to bask in his glow. Sadly, he was niftar at the untimely age of 52, on 28 Shevat, 1971. His place was assumed by his son, the present Rebbe, shlit”a, who upholds the legacy established by his illustrious father in Boro Park of yesteryear.