By Hershel Rosenbluh for Anash.org
4 Av is the yahrtzeit of the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Bentzion Halberstam, HYD, who was killed by the Nazis and their Ukranian collaborators in a forest near Lvov/Lemberg on this day in 5701/1941.
As soon as the Frierdiker Rebbe arrived in the United States, he immediately began to get to work trying to rescue the Rebbes of Poland and Galicia who were under siege or in danger of being so. Most notable were the Belzer and Bovober Rebbes. The Bobover Rebbe was the Frierdiker Rebbe’s cousin as well (see here). The Bobover Rebbe had built a large network of yeshivos in Galicia, where hundreds of bochurim were educated and many grew to be rabbonim all over Poland and Galicia. At that time, there was already a small community of Bobover Chassidim in New York.
The Frierdiker Rebbe contacted and asked Mr. Sam Kramer, Esq., who was instrumental in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s rescue, to prepare a report of his activities on behalf of the Frierdiker Rebbe. Kramer prepared a nine-page report, filled with names and other contacts, and the means by which to reach all of those contacts. He then instructed him to send that report to the committee that was working to rescue the Bobover Rebbe and his family, so that they use those contacts to rescue him.
The Frierdiker Rebbe also contacted Asher Rabinowitz, son of the chossid Reb Dovid Meir Rabinowitz, who was a lawyer and very active in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s rescue, to arrange for a meeting with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was known to have much influence over her husband. The idea was to have her husband do what he can to save the Bobover Rebbe. In a letter to the First Lady, the point was made that the Bobover Rebbe was in danger of being sent to Siberia, since he was a great Talmudist and a Rebbe of many chassidim. The meeting with the First Lady was attended by Rabinowitz, the Rashag and Rav Efraim Yolles of Philadelphia.
Ultimately, the rescue efforts came up short. The Nazis invaded Soviet Poland on 27 Sivan, 5701/June 22, 1941, and all borders were sealed off. The Bobover Rebbe was in Lvov and had foreign papers, so he believed that he’d be safe from the Nazi roundups. The Ukranian collaborators were all too happy to help the Nazis get rid of the Jews. He was arrested on Rosh Chodesh Av, forced to march to the police station, and beaten. Three days later he was transported with his young son Moshe Aron, who wouldn’t leave his father to be alone, to a forest near Lvov, where he was shot on the 4th of Av, 5701/1941, together with some 20,000 other Jews, including his son and three sons-in-law. HYD.
His Rebbetzin, Chaya Fradel, daughter of Reb Sholom Lazer Halberstam of Ratzferd, and several children, including his oldest son Rav Shlomo, survived by escaping to Hungary and were able to rebuild the Bobover kehillah into a large and budding community with many branches all over the world.
Yehi Zichro Boruch!