April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

An Appreciation: Matriarch of RYNJ Rosalind Rosenbaum, z”l, Passes

Teaneck–Rosalind Poleyeff Rosenbaum, a modest, kind and determined woman, was born on Simchas Torah, 1914. No one yet knew that she and her future husband Aaron Rosenbaum would be among the seeds and saplings that, for almost a century, would grow into the vibrant, living Jewish community that is now Bergen County. She passed away last week and was buried on Har HaMenuchot in Jerusalem.

Rosalind was the daughter of a Gadol BaTorah, Reb Moshe Aaron Polyeff, z”tl, a rosh yeshiva at YU’s RIETS for 46 years until the day he was nifter. Rosalind was 100 percent his daughter, completely devoted to observant Jewish life and chessed beyond limit. She, more than most in her time, understood the importance of a Jewish education for every Jewish child.

Rosalind’s family came to America in 1920 to escape from the Bolsheviks and settled in New York City. When Rosalind met Aaron and married him, they settled in Weehawken, NJ, on the cliffs above the Hudson River. Aaron and his brother Jack worked with their father, Dovid Rosenbaum, in the Palisade Knitting Mill, right next door to their house on Cooper Place—a factory they later moved to North Bergen.

The seeds for Rosenbaum Yeshiva North Jersey were planted five years after the founding of Yeshiva of Jersey City, the first day school in New Jersey, in 1937, but no one knew that yet. The Rosenbaums didn’t get involved with the pioneering school until their oldest daughter, Honey, came back from public school kindergarten in 1942, and sang a song on Chanukah about Santa coming to town. She was on the bus to Yeshiva of Jersey City as soon as it could be managed. That’s when Dovid Rosenbaum and his sons, Aaron and Jacob, got involved in helping to expand and build the yeshiva.

Soon enough, the school became too big to remain in the Five Corner Talmud Torah building. That’s when Aaron found a public school building for sale on New York Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets in Union City. The school was renamed The Yeshiva of Hudson County, and there it remained for generations, teaching a love of Judaism to children, until the demographics in Teaneck and Bergen County demanded that the yeshiva come to them.

That was the late 1970s, when they rented space for early childhood classes in the basement of the New Milford Jewish Center. From there they moved to the Teaneck Jewish Center, and in the mid-1980s, the school in Union City closed its doors, and thousands of Jewish kids, many of them now living in Bergen County, remembered that very special education they had been given, and sent their children, as I did, to Yeshiva North Jersey. Today the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey is on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge and has more than 1,000 students who are receiving a top-notch Jewish education.

This did not happen in a vacuum. One of the powers that made this happen was Rosalind Rosenbaum’s passion for Jewish education. Aaron was known as a strong man, but she was the force behind him and encouraged him and gave him “eytzahs” to make things better at the school. She considered the students her own children and would come to school for a full month after it started to make sure that every child was properly tagged and put on the correct school bus. She helped run the Rummage Sales and Bazaars, and was the chief complainant against wasting paper, letting the staff have it when they’d toss away paper that had next to nothing written on it.

And when a single snowflake appeared at 6 a.m. she would call the school office because it was too dangerous for the children—sometimes she succeeded, but only if there were more than two millimeters of snow on the ground. She loved to worry, and worried about everyone.

The yeshiva was only one manifestation of her chessed. She was also involved with the Jewish Home and Hospital in Jersey City, where she was a regular volunteer; she was involved with UJA; helped organize the sheitblach in Union City and in North Bergen, was active at Tzemach Dovid, and with her husband Aaron, his brother Jack and Jack’s wife Belle, were leaders in the Hudson County Jewish Community, across denominations. Her children have followed in her footsteps, bringing her much nachas and pride, and enriching our Jewish world.

Dovid Rosenbaum and his sons worked tirelessly with others in the community to build the Union City Mikveh. Rosalind and her sister in law, Belle, served on the Ladies’ Auxillary of Mikveh Israel, and hired my mother, a Holocaust survivor with a set of twins (like Rosalind, we born on Simchas Torah) to be the mivkveh lady—a position my mother, daughter of a Hasidic rebbe, held with pride and honor. The Rosenbaums gave our family a roof over our heads for a long time—along with a much needed dose of normalcy. After living in the same building as the mikveh for a few years, where my brother and I became self-aware, we eventually moved to the second floor of the Rosenbaums’ house in Weehawken. Rosalind was teaching my mom how to be a parent and my brother and I learned our aleph-beis at Yeshiva Hudson County.

The Rosenbaums also helped my father start his own plastics factory in West New York, and were part of the village that raised us. They were the first role models my twin brother and I encountered in our very young lives.

Decades later, when my husband and I had enough of Brooklyn, it was suggested that I talk to “Rebbitzen Senter” about moving to Teaneck. She was talking to Mrs. Sieradski. Neither of us realized who we were speaking to, until two months after we moved to Teaneck. And from that moment, our families bonded once more. Honey helped me raise my children, and when I had a house to get rid of, she was able to acquire it for her parents. Aaron used to call it “the house that Volvie [my father] built.” I lived in that house with my family for more than ten years, and then Aaron and Rosalind moved in and spent the rest of their lives in “my” house. Galgal chozer b’olam, I realized, for as Roz helped my mom with me and my siblings, Honey helped me with mine. My children went to Hudson County, yes, they even started in Union City, and the Rosenbaums continued to have a positive influence on my family and everyone they came in contact with.

The Rosenbaums’ impact on the Jewish community in Bergen County will reverberate for generations to come, and for that, I, and the thousands of others who have been touched by them, directly or indirectly, are eternally grateful.

By Jeanette Friedman

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