Monsey Memories: Rabbi Avraham Lehrman

Monsey Memories: Rabbi Avraham Lehrman

Yitz Fried

The conservative Congregations Sons of Israel in Nyack was founded in 1891 as the orthodox Congregation of Nyack, B’nai Israel. In a book written about the history of the congregation, we find the following:

“Around this time, Gert Goldstein’s parents brought a family to America that was fleeing the pogroms in Poland. The father of that family, Abraham Lehrman, was an ordained rabbi and became the first salaried spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Nyack..

The great biographer of Rabbanim in America—Rabbi Benzion Eisenstadt, author of Doros Ha’achronim and anshei Hasheim —writes glowingly about “his friend, a chacham and wonderful darshan who hails from the greatest dynasties” the Vilna Ga’on, as well as numerous Polish Chassidishe Gedolim—Rabbi Avraham Lehrman.

Rabbi Lehrman’s father and his grandfather were each named Eliyahu, after their famous and illustrious ancestor, the Gra of Vilna—and they hailed from Russia, where the Lehrman family were Ge’onim, Rabbanim, and mechabrei seforim for generations. On his mother’s side, however, he was descended from the Chozeh of Lublin, and the sheloh hakadosh. Thus, the life and tenure of Rav Lehrman would reflect a fusion of these two worlds; as he was known for his brilliance in Torah, as well as deeply moving and inspiring oratory.

At some point, they moved over to Poland, to a town called Mishlenitz (in the Krakow vicinity). At the young age of 22, Avraham Lehrman received semichah from the Rav Yechiel Meir Halevi, the Ostrovtzer Rebbe, who was known to have fasted for forty years—and was one of the leading lights of Chassidus in Congress Poland.

The period prior to WWI was a tumultuous and difficult one for Jews of Eastern Europe. In addition to the havoc and displacement, and hunger, there were also regular pogroms against the Jews. A benefactor in America sponsored the young Lehrman family. His first stop was at Knesses Yisroel in Harlem, which announced in Der Morgen Zhournal in 1915 that following the sweetest derashos that he had given last Shabbos—which had drawn crowds—the young Rabbi Lehrman was hired instantly. It notes that he has already begun teaching classes for older boys of Bar Mitzvah age, and the Talmud Torah hopes to grow under his leadership.

In 1917, Rabbi Lehrman became the first salaried Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Israel in Nyack, where he remained for a decade.

In the 1920’s, Brownsville was a burgeoning Jewish metropolis—with shtieblach and shuls in abundance. In 1927, Rabbi Avraham Gelerenter, who was the Rav of Talmud Torah Tiferes Yisroel, also known as the “Pennsylvania Avenue Shul”, passed away.

Rabbi Lehrman was hired to replace him and thus began the glorious and final chapter in his tenure. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, between Pitkin and Belmont Avenues in Brownsville, Tiferes Israel was one of the most prominent shuls in Brownsville*. Rav Lehrman, who was a mesmerizing orator in English as well, would deliver two derashos on Shabbos, one in English and one in Yiddish. He would draw great crowds.

Unfortunately, this period, which lasted two decades, was cut short, as the Rav suffered from kidney failure. He was niftar on 2 Av, 1945, and interred in Mt. Judah Cemetery.


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