Monsey Memories: Rav Yisroel Moshe Gnat

Monsey Memories: Rav Yisroel Moshe Gnat

By: Yitzy Fried

On the Monsey Beis Hachaim stands a kever from 1946 with the sad inscription, Rabbi Israel Moses Gnat… AGE YEARS.

Searching for the identity of Rabbi Gnat, we came to discover the story of a Rov in early Monsey who hailed from an illustrious Chassidic dynasty, and whose Rebbetzin had tremendous yichus in her own right.

After immigrating to America in the early 1930’s, he served as a Rov and a shochet in a number of communities—before being taken from this world in a tragic, sudden manner. Here is his story, from the facts that we could glean:

Rav Yisroel Moshe was born in the Polish town of Włoszczowa, near Radomsk. His father was Rav Shmuel, a great ga’on. He was called “Rav Shmuel Harofe” because he was a widely-renowned healer—even called upon by the anti-Semitic government officials.

Rav Shmuel and his family were Amshinover chassidim, and they lived in the town of Chenstechow, which is near Włoszczowa. Through his mother, Sarah, he was a great-grandson of Rebbe Kloynimus Kalman Epstein, known as the holy Me’or Voshomesh.

He married Perla Veltfried, a scion of the Pshedborzer dynasty, who are known by that name. Their ancestor was Rebbe Emanuel of Pshedborz, and indeed, one of teh Gnat children were named Emanuel. Likely due to the aftermath of WWI, they relocated to Paris, where their twins, Adele and Emanuel, were born.

They arrived in America in the early 1930’s, and Rav Yisroel Moshe became a Rov of Congregation of Sheriff Street in Manhattan.

By 1942, he was living on Columbus Avenue in Spring Valley, and he is noted working for Israel Garber’s chicken market at 86 Main Street.

But tragedy soon struck the blissful life of the Gnat’s in Spring Valley of the 1940’s, as we read:

“Rabbi Gnat dies of Heart Attack; Stricken on Street. Spring Valley man dies when Doctor Arrives; was walking home with wife. Rabbi Israel Moses Gnat of 16 Columbus Avenue, Spring Valley, was stricken with a heart attack Tuesday night while walking home with his wife and succumbed to the seizure before medical aid reached him.

“The rabbi was stricken on Main Street near Maple Avenue and a call was placed for a Rockland emergency ambulance.

“Members of the Rockland First Aid crew placed the man in the ambulance and gave him first aid while awaiting a doctor. He was dead when Dr. Julius Pomerantz reached the scene and said that Rabbi Gnat probably died almost instantly.

“The rabbi, former Sochet for Garber’s Market, came to this country from Paris in 1934. The family moved to Spring Valley the next year. Rabbi Gnat was well-known in the community and was active in Civilian Defense duties during the war. His wife and four children, Leon, Emmanuel, Albert, and Adele, survive him.

Services are being held today, with Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (a son of Rav Simcha of the Lower East Side, and a major personality in old Spring Valley) officiating, at the congregation Sons of Israel synagogue, and Rabbi Jacob Cohen in charge of services at he Jewish Community Center.”

Thus, the young 40-year old father and husband, Rabbi and shochet, was laid to rest on the Monsey Beis Hachaim— a sad saga in the history of old Rockland County.

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