R’ Ephraim Moscowitz, a pillar of the Jewish community in Chicago, Illinois, since the 1940s, and the patriarch of a large Chabad family, passed away on Sunday night, 6 Adar.
By Anash.org reporter
R’ Ephraim Moscowitz, a pillar of the Jewish community in Chicago, Illinois, since the 1940s, and the patriarch of a large Chabad family, passed away on Sunday night, 6 Adar, 5783.
He was 93 years old.
Ephraim was born in Chicago, into a family that was already involved in Lubavitch in the 1940s. His parents were members of Anshei Lubavitch shul.
In 1942, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht was sent to Chicago by the Frierdiker Rebbe on the occasion of the shul’s 50th anniversary, and he began to lay the groundwork for a fresh approach to stem the tide of a dying Orthodoxy.
“At that time, traditional Jewish life in Chicago was on the decline as the immigrants in the early part of the 20th century, found it difficult to keep Shabbos. There was no viable Torah education other than Talmud Torah for children after Public School. Bar Mitzvah was a termination of Jewish connection and observance. Kashrus was in a state of questionable reliability. Parents reluctantly embraced the American dream as their children rejected the old traditional ways. Those who did maintain strict standards of Shabbos, Kashrus, and Taharas Hamishpocha were a distinct minority and seemed to be fighting a losing battle,” R’ Efraim recalled decades later.
“Rabbi Hecht’s arrival stirred much interest. With a full beard, wearing a long frock coat, and speaking perfect Yiddish, people were surprised to learn that he was American born. With his charisma and regal appearance, he attracted a following of young adults into his Torah classes. With this nucleus, he instituted such innovative programs as hospital visitation for the purpose of blowing shofar for patients and lulav and esrog mivtzoyim. He initiated Maos Chitim packages for the poor of his west side
neighborhood. Bringing joy and pride into Yiddishkeit attracted many young people,” he recalled.
In 1943, Rabbi Hecht arranged for Ephraim to learn in the nascent Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and he studied there for four years.
He then went on to serve in the US Army, serving in the army of occupation in Germany, before returning to Chicago to attend college. During his college years, when he studied education, Efraim met his future wife, Tzivia, who was also studying education.
After their marriage, they both became teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. Efraim’s assignment was to serve as a teacher in a high-crime neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, and he was apprehensive.
“I didn’t know whether I should take it or not. I was apprehensive because it was the year after half of Chicago was burned down in the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. There was a lot of anger in the air, and a lot of anti-white anger. And here I would be replacing a black principal in a predominantly black school, at a time when only 8 out of 400 principals in the Chicago school system were African-American,” he recalled in an interview with JEM.
So before accepting the job, he went to New York to consult with the Rebbe.
“What happened in that audience with the Rebbe only intensified the awe and admiration I already had for him. It was a very special audience,” he said.
In the interview, he recalled the surprising advice the Rebbe gave him, and how it ended up helping him more than he could have imagined. “…then I realized that the Rebbe knew a lot more about Chicago than most Chicagoans. It all came together,” he said.
He is survived by his children, Rabbi Moshe Moscowitz – Chicago, IL; Elly Moscowitz – New York; and Rabbi Mendel Moscowitz – Chicago, IL; grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his wife Tzivia last year, and his son Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz – head shliach of Illinois (whose yahrtzeit was this past Thursday).
The levaya will take place on Monday, at 1:00 PM at Chicago Jewish Funerals in Skokie, and kevura will be at the Waldheim Cemetery.
Shiva info will be updated when available.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.