Haverstraw Yidden Gather to Remember Hometown Rabbi Who Fell Victim to Landslide While Rescuing Congregants

Haverstraw Yidden Gather to Remember Hometown Rabbi Who Fell Victim to Landslide While Rescuing Congregants

by M.C. Millman

Yesterday, the Haverstraw community united for the yahrzeit of the town's first Rav, Rabbi Elimelech Adlin zt’l, on his one hundred and seventeenth yahrzeit and visited his kever to say kaddish and kal malay rachamim.

“We plan on making this an annual event and remembering and adopting this tzadik as our local hero who will not be forgotten,” says Eli Gleiberman, the Haverstraw resident behind yesterday’s moving proceedings.

A year ago, when locals expressed dissatisfaction with the "newcomers" during a harrowing time for the frum Jews in Haverstraw, as reported by Rockland Daily here, the Supervisor of Haverstraw, Howard Phillips, noted the town's rich history with its Jewish residents dates well back to before the Civil War. He pointed out that Jews moving into Haverstraw isn't a new thing, as over 165 years ago, the seeds were planted for a town that today boasts six shuls and over 350 families. 

The twenty-four-year-old Rabbi Elimelech Adlin was the town's Rav, chazzan, and shochet for the first synagogue in Haverstraw. Congregation Sons of Jacob, located on 37 Clove Avenue. which only recently closed its doors, as reported by Rockland Daily here

Rabbi Adlin had been married for less than a year and served the town for only two years before his tragic demise. His body was found buried in the clay prized for its brickmaking properties – along with the body of Chesel (Yechezkel) Nelson, a member of the kehillah the rav had desperately tried to save.

Renowned for its history as the brickmaking capital of the world beginning in the late 1800s and into the next century, Haverstraw still boasts a brick museum as a testament to the glory and pride of a town where over-industrialization tragically stole nineteen lives, nine of whom were members of the Jewish community,  one hundred and seventeen years ago on January 8, 1906.

With bricks being in high demand and Haverstraw boasting a rare clay particularly suited for brickmaking, 40 brickyards and factories were built over mines that tunneled deep underground, pulling out clay and hollowing out the ground beneath the city limits in a hazardous fashion, ultimately leading to disaster.

This night of January 8, 1906, a series of landslides swallowed a third of the village, consuming twenty-one buildings, five streets, and two avenues and leaving a 150-foot-deep clay pit in its wake. 

Rabbi Adlin, and Wolf Provitz, a member of the kehilla were among the first to rush to the disaster site. They saved a kehillah member, Mr. Cohen, before returning to save more lives. Unfortunately, no one else was rescued by the two, and instead, the young rabbi perished in the clay pit along with eight of his kehilla members. 

The Rav and six more of the victims of the tragedy were the first of those buried in the Sons of Jacob cemetery, which Rabbi Adlin had opened only a few weeks prior to the catastrophe.

Yesterday's yahrzeit gathering had representation from every one of Haverstraw's shuls. Rabbi Dovid Bartfeld, Rav of Khal Mevakshei Hashem,  officiated and spoke to those who had come to pay their respects to the town's first Rav.

We had never heard of Rabbi Adlin until a year ago,” Gleiberman shares. “But after reading an article in the Mishpacha magazine about the tragedy, I marked the date on my calendar and committed to doing something for his yahrtzeit. Going forward, we plan on arranging a yartzeit siyum for him every year.”

It isn't just Rabbi Adlin's yahrzeit, though, but the yahrzeit of all of those who died on that day as well.

“If you look at the matzavas,” Gleiberman points out, “you can see that Rabbi Adlin’s yartzeit is written as a week after the tragedy occured. That is because that date is when his body was finally dug out of the rubble. Interestingly, you can spot the kevarim from this tragedy really easily because those kevarim are buried perpendicular to the rest of the graves in the Bais Hachaim for some unknown reason.”

As for the sight of the terrible tragedy?

“It’s all filled with water now and is part of Haverstraw Bay,” says Glieberman. 

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