|Birth: ||1860, Lithuania|
|Death: ||Mar. 5, 1926, Israel|
Rabbi Abramowitz served Congregation Beth Hammedrosh Haggodol, St. Louis, Missouri as senior rabbi for 9 years (1907-1914); Shaare Zedek 6 years (1914-1920) and he is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. The full list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.
Rabbi Abramowitz wrote several books
EDUCATIONAL and RABBINIC CHRONOLOGY:
At the age of 12 years old Abramowitz moved to Palestine with his parents
Chrystie Street Synagogue, New York City
Returned to Palestine
Beth Hammedrosh Haggodol, St. Louis
First president of the St. Louis Mizrachi organization
Considered the chief rabbi of the Ukrainian Jewish community in the city of St. Louis
Shaare Zedek, St. Louis
Returned to Israel
Passed away in Palestine March 5, 1926. Buried in Jerusalem
"TORAH IS THE ANSWER"
Biography of Rabbi Bernard Abramowitz
Written by daughter Mrs. Joseph Kaye
Date: ca 1975
Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio AMERICAN JEWISH ARCHIVES.ORG
Reproduced with Permission by Kaye's son Jonas Kaye.
Berele as he was called by his parents, or Dov Ber as he was known to his peers in later life, was the prototype of the grandfather many of us had. He was the product of his time, of his place, and yet much more of his culture. He was born in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He spent his childhood in a shtetel in Lithuania, then a province of Russia. He spent his adolescence and young manhood in Jerusalem, then Palestine under Turkish rule. The prime of his life and his most fulfilling years were spent in the United States. He passed away nearly half a century ago. There are few people left who remember him. Yet he left an indelible impression on those who do.
Why did he leave this indelible impression? Surely many fine Rabbis--he was a Rabbi--lived, died and were forgotten, except perhaps by those who where closest to them. Why single him out? Why do I wish to tell of his qualities of mind and heart, about what he called poverty? He lived a restricted life, restricted by circumstances, restricted by language, restricted geographically. There were no jets. We are free to wander the whole wide world. He believed in God and Judaism. We, in the twentieth century, put our faith and knowledge in our own rationalizations. Yet he and others like him seemed more fulfilled than we can ever hope to be. Certainly not in worldly and monetary values, but as human beings and as Jews which this rabbi would have said is synonymous. We cannot but wonder what made him function as he did. Where did he acquire this courage, where did he learn his patience, who taught him his faith and who gave him his hope?
His father, Reb. Avram, a tall scholarly man, quiet and restrained in speech and manner, earned a frugal living by slaughtering fowl and cattle for the the small community. It was a dignified living, according to time honored middle class. Avram was a Talmudist who lived and worked in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Talmud. He was a scholchet.
Mnucha, Berele's mother was was a small woman with chiseled features, fair complexion and blond hair. It was seldom that husband or child were privileged to glimpse Mnucha's hair or its color. She kept it well-concealed behind scarf, or on more festive occasions, behind a wig. No ringlet was ever allowed to escape. Most maidens' hair had been cut off, or even shaved off before the wedding day. for some unknown reason, Mnucha had kept hers.
Mnucha was entitled to the epitaph, woman of valor. She cleaned and cooked, milled and churned, as every respectable Jewish woman did at that time. She baked her own bread, sewed her own clothes and whenever possible her husband's and child's. It was the privilege of the scholchet to receive the cheaper cuts of meat and Mnucha knew how to prepare economical and palatable dishes for her small household.
Mnucha and Avram, as well as the other Jews in their millieu, accepted as a matter of course, and without complaint, the pale of settlement, the discrimination and the poverty. This was and had to be the life of the Jew until the Good Lord saw fit to redeem them and to bring the Messiah. They never forgot their heritage, the Torah, and the commandments and regarded them as ample reward for their trials and tribulations. they accepted it all as a matter of course. This was their life and preordained by the Lord of the universe and thus had to be lived.
But each family, each individual has his own particular fate in life. Mnucha and Avram shared with all mortals this reality. Mnucha had borne eight children, of whom three were living. For Mnucha, the pretty immaculate and pious woman had been even more unfortunate than the other women in the shtetel. Berele knew that there were five small graves in the cemetery and that they belonged to their family. They were the graves of his four small brothers and his only sister. Who were they, Mnucha and Avram, to ask questions, to rebel. It was God's will.
From a very early age Berele was an active, curious child inclined to handle and examine all the sundry. He would play around the village square on quiet days and loiter in booths of cobbler, tailor, carpenter, and smith. Now he loved to see the leather made into shoes, wood transformed into tables and chairs, materials cut and sewn into suits and coats, and even more fascinating, metals forged into utensils. How he wished he had the wherewithal to do likewise.
At times the small boy would escape the vigilant eyes of his mother and he would wander to the edge of the village where there were trees and a river. Still too young for much activity, he would avidly absorb all he saw and heard. And there was so much to see and hear!. The fields and the river, the market place and the craftsmen, the vendors, the sky and the earth, the rain and the snow. What a big colorful, fascinating world. Later there would be the other small boys and the games they would play.
But soon Berele was aware of the division of time, so important an element in Jewish life. How precious were Sabbaths and holidays, fasts and festivals. There were the mundane, and yet not so mundane things connected with it. The white snowy clothes on Sabbaths and holidays, not that a Jewish table was ever without a tablecloth, for the table was also an altar and the consumption of food, and the blessings before and after, also a commandment. The special foods than one would not and could not eat on work days, the wine, the home baked challah covered with a white embroidered cloth, the pleasant aromas, the benign faces, the shining candle sticks and the purity of the candles' flames. There were the special prayers, the cantorial services, not that there was a professional cantor, but it all added to the sanctity of the day. the fast days especially Yom Kippur left an indelible memory. The white robes of the men, the light dresses of the women, the solemnity, the prayers.
It is not incumbent on a Jewish boy to fast until thirteen years of age. Berele began to fast at a much earlier age although admonished by his parents not to do so, because of his tender age. How good to do what the grown ups do! To equal the elders in strength and endurance!. On those days the very atmosphere was charged for him with something rare and solemn. A sixth sense of which only an observant Jew was aware of. Something guiet and rare and holy.
Berele, who was their youngest child and born to them when Mnucha was no longer young, also went through a whole gamut of childhood diseases and was spared after much praying and weeping by the fifth times bereft Mnucha and much anxiety by the silent Avram. During one of these serious illnesses, the additional name of Chiam -- Life -- was added to his given name. Perhaps that whatever evil spirits had access to harm their small son, would fail to find him. A reversion to superstition which was alien to Judaism, but to which humans were prone to in times of stress.
But the time was rapidly approaching when Berele must put away childhood ways. He must learn to bear the yoke of the Torah and of his Jewish heritage. The time is not far when he will attend the Hebrew school, The Chader, from morning until evening. When he will accompany his father to the synagogue services twice daily. And, not too far away when he will study Chumash, Tanach and Gemara. Yes, the precious childhood years will be over all too soon.
On winter mornings before dawn, the father's voice, quiet and restrained, would awaken him with the words, "Berele, it is time to go to Shule." The boy would unwrap himself from the warmth of the feather bed where he lay snugly asleep, for Lithuanian winters were very cold and the interiors of the wooden frame houses certainly not overheated. He would dress with eyes half closed, still savoring the pleasantness of sleep and warmth. He would wash his hands at the hand basin, lifting the heavy porcelain pitcher and pouring the cold water on his hands, while he intoned the Hebrew blessing, "Blessed are Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has made us holy through your commandments, and who has commanded us to wash our hands."
The father was already seated at the large oblong table, his graying head bent over the religious book in front of him, his right hand hovering over a steaming glass of tea. This was his daily stint, a page of gamora in the morning. His voice rose in the familiar chant, half spoken, half sing-song, half Aramaic, half Yiddish, his ample brow furrowed with concentrated thought. This, and the evening session which he taught to a group of men while awaiting the time for the last prayer, maariv (evening prayer) were the highlights of his day. The other hours were devoted to the daily task of making a living for his family. This cup of tea was all the nourishment he would take until he returned in the forenoon from the synagogue.
Mnucha and their small son Berele had their share of satisfaction as they listened to the husband's and father's chant. All this, while she prepared the food for her husband and son which the former would eat when he returned from the house of study. Herring, cooked groats, home baked bread, the butter served on a large tablespoon, and the coffee mixed with chicory would comprise the meal to come. Mnucha would listen in wrapt attention to her husband's words and reflect on the ideas implicit in them. These were the most inspired moments of her day.
These were moments of deep satisfaction to her. She felt herself moved to a higher plane of spiritual fulfillment. It was her present, past, and she hoped, the future all in one. She had heard this same chant in her parents' home as her father studied his page of gemora. Now she was hearing it in her own home. Some day her little Berele would intone it. For this was not only a spiritual and intellectual satisfaction (sufficient unto itself) but it was also a mitzvah which could only be translated as a commandment and a good deed in one. Studying was even more important than prayer if there could be such a thing. Both were vastly important.
Berele would also listen, half asleep and half awake to his father's chant. The gemora, the father's wrapt countenance, the voice, so clear and pleasant to his ears, would throw an aura of otherness, of some thing quiet and peaceful, almost holy over the three small rooms. How he wished that he could already also study, read, and chant the gemora. The old yellow pages, the small printed words seemed almost to have a life of their own. He saw them so clearly, was aware of them so perfectly. Some day he, also, would be grown up, some day he would study like his father, like his father's contemporaries. He would study Torah and be a Talmud Chacham (a wise scholar).
A tiny, heavily clad figure, he would trudge beside his father on snow covered ground in the late dawn or dark winter evenings. Or, he would run ahead on warmer summer days with childish delight, touching a blade of grass here or a shrub there, kicking a pebble or a stone. How good to feel himself part of this great wide world, hardly aware of his own small boy identity, lost in and entranced by his surroundings. How exhilarating to be a small child, a spirit true and light, free to roam the whole wide world, even it that world happens to be a small village square. To see, to feel, to experience and through it all conscious of a mother's tender care, of a father's loving strength. How brief and short carefree childhood is. How much briefer and shorter to the Jewish child in the palm of settlement.
Soon Berele was subjected to the discipline of the Jewish way of life. It was not that the parents were strict. God was strict. Berele, like the other chader boys, was confined from early morning until late evening to a small bare room, hot in the summer and cold in winter. There, Berele and his school mates, boys his hown age, found themselves under the stern tutelage of a harsh, wrathful teacher. The teacher, or melamed, as he was called, was often a harassed and irate individual, poorly paid--since everyone was poor--undernourished, with an over-worked too often pregnant wife and a numerous progeny.
Teachers of small boys were mostly disappointed and frustrated men who had aspired to a higher calling than being teachers of small children. Because of lack of opportunity or capability, they had to settle for less, but were far from content. The pupils, possessed of the energy and restlessness of small boys, forced into long hours of inactivity, were for from easy charges. The learning by rote, the memorizing of words prior to understanding the meaning of the words, could not be conducive to quiet and discipline. There were times when the strap, displayed so prominently on the wall, played no small part in achieving order. Many a boy was the scapegoat of the teacher's frustrations.
At chader, Berele, together with his schoolmates, intoned and memorized the Pentateuch. A few years later he would similarly learn laws of the Halache (Jews) and split hairs on passages of the Talmud. But, from where we are, it would take much time before these words learned by rote would take on meaning, gereminate and grow into the wisdom to enrich mind and heart. From the beginning, life was difficult for Berele. But then, it was difficult for every Jew in that era. Perhaps it was better so since the later years were not to be easier. The teacher's harshness was not to be Berele's problem, no matter what it portended for the other pupils. He learned quickly when he paid attention, which was not always the case.
The vivid imagination, the manifold and diverse objects which intrigued the young Berele, the desire to know what made things tick preoccupied him. Meanwhile the dingy room, the long table with the wooden benches, the ill-humored melamed, the noise, the monotonous repetition of words and sentences vaguely understood, was not conducive to learning. Besides, the woods and fields beckoned. But there was something about the small boy with the ample forehead and the searching eyes that made the frustrated teacher look elsewhere for a scape-goat.
When Berele grew older, the frolicsome ways of her youngest son worried and aggravated Mucha greatly. In later years, the Rabbi--as he was to become--was fond of relating an episode that seemingly had a strong impact on him when it occurred. The mother had become aware that Berele was more interested in playing than in learning, that he did not pay attention to his studies. God forbid that he should be an Am Haaretz (ordinary, ignorant). After admonishing him severely and aggravating herself even more, she went into their bedroom and closed the door behind her. The boy became anxious, love and guilt would not let him rest. He opened the door and went into the room. Both parents were seemingly asleep. Filled with anxiety, he attempted to awaken his mother, but to no avail. Genuinely frightened now, he began to cry and call his mother, sobbing violently. The clamor awoke his father who was sleeping in the other bed. He also could not arouse her! She was in a dead faint. It was with difficulty that Reb Avram brought his wife back to consciousness. The knowledge that her young son was not taking his studies seriously was too much for this mother in Israel. The boy's anxiety had probably saved her life.
This story is not yet completely transcribed as of 03/12/2013
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The rabbi featured on this Find A Grave page is one of many included in a "Virtual Cemetery" of rabbis who've passed but who served on St. Louis pulpits during their rabbinate. The complete "Virtual Cemetery" list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS. Questions about this "Virtual Cemetery" project may be directed to:
Miriam Charlap Abramowitz (1861 - 1948)
Rebecca Lea Abramowitz Kaye (1896 - 1991)*
Mount of Olives Cemetery
Yerushalayim (Jerusalem District), Israel
Created by: Brent Stevens
Record added: Oct 05, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 98316383