Within the walls of the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, Rabbi Dovid Kaminetsky’s presence was one that inspired both respect and dedication from his students. With his sudden passing last spring, students and teachers have looked to each other for ways to carry out what he stood for. His legacy was one in which the overall growth of a student matters more than the actual grades, where middot and derech eretz are prioritized in an environment in which Torah learning and a Torah lifestyle flourish.
Knowing they could not replace Rabbi K., or even replicate his caring and warm rapport with his students, the administration, his colleagues and parent volunteers worked together to memorialize who Rabbi Kaminetsky was as a person and as mechanech.
As the first yahrzeit approaches, RYNJ plans to dedicate the Rabbi Dovid Kaminetsky, z”tl, Middle School Boys Concourse. It is a fitting area to carry on his name, because just as this area is the main artery for the middle school boys, Rabbi Kaminetsky was what many referred to as “the heart and soul of the yeshiva.” Throughout the course of a day students use this area numerous times, going to lunch, in and out of classrooms, going to play ball in the gym or even just passing through on their way to the beit midrash. As a further tribute, a permanent photo collage of Rabbi Kaminetsky with his talmidim will hang in the concourse.
RYNJ parents Yaacov Mayer (RYNJ 1999) and Shira Greenberg have spearheaded the efforts to organize the dedication. Having attended Rabbi Kaminetsky’s youth minyan in Teaneck’s Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, Mayer recounted the way Rabbi Kaminetsky made everyone feel like the most important person through his warmth and sincere interest in their development.
Greenberg, as RYNJ’s simcha calendar coordinator, worked side by side with Rabbi Kaminetsky planning and executing multiple overlapping smachot and was constantly in awe of how he spoke to parents and made them feel prioritized. “In recent years where the grades were large and there would sometimes be multiple bar mitzvah events in a single Shabbos, he would meet with the parents to plan together and they all left his office feeling happy,” she explained. “He was so yashar, and his sincerity came through in everything he did because of his ability to understand each individual. It was clear to everyone that he wanted the best for them.”
His genuine joy was evident in the way he made a point of attending as many of the smachot as possible, even walking to multiple shuls in one Shabbat, all across the Teaneck area, just to hear the bar mitzvah boys lein. “This was beyond a job for him,” said Greenberg. “He was there because he wanted to be there, and it was from the heart.”
“There was a very unique aura of warmth and care that surrounded Rabbi Kaminetsky, zt”l, as he walked the hallways,” said Rabbi Avi Bernstein, middle school boys principal. “It is so befitting that the concourse area will now carry his name so that his wholesome, indelible imprint that overflowed with love and compassion for everyone continues to impact the lives of each person who passes through.”
Now with the upcoming dedication, Mayer and Greenberg hope the Rabbi Kaminetsky Concourse will continue to remind students of Rabbi Kaminetsky’s special character. “It’s showing what a giant of a person we had around our school and how much he did for our students, teachers, rebbeim and families,” said Mayer.
“The photos of Rabbi Kaminetsky displayed in the concourse will remind students that Rabbi K. always saw the best in them and wanted the best for them. They in turn, will strive to be their best for him and make him proud,” said Greenberg.
Another part of the upcoming commemoration will be one of limud Torah. Middle school students at RYNJ have been studying Mishnayot and will be making a siyum to mark Rabbi Kaminetsky’s approaching yahrzeit. “This is such a meaningful way to remember Rabbi Kaminetsky,” said Mayer. “Obviously he wanted his talmidim to enjoy the learning, but more than the learning, he wanted to promote camaraderie, and learning b’achdut where everyone can participate and feel good about what they study.”
During these weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, RYNJ’s weekly email also included a learning initiative titled, “Following in the Way of Our Beloved Rabbi K.” “This has students studying a designated mishna in Pirkei Avot with themes, discussion and practical applications, along with a pertinent story about Rabbi Kaminetsky as retold by his children,” said Head of School Rabbi Daniel Price. “We hope that these weekly lessons not only help strengthen the middos throughout the school, but perpetuate the legacy that Rabbi Kaminetsky built throughout children.”
“The lasting relationships that Rabbi K. forged with his students spanned generations and [were] a source of exceptional pride to him,” said RYNJ President Adam Mermelstein. “When a former student would return to RYNJ as a parent or as a teacher, or meet Rabbi Kaminetsky at a simcha, his glowing face would reflect the adage that defined him to the core, ‘For his students are likened to his sons.’”
As part of the concourse renaming, dedication opportunities have been named for many of the middot valued by Rabbi Kaminetsky such as simcha, chesed, ahavat Yisrael and emet. There has already been broad communal participation in the concourse dedication, which is a testament to how beloved Rabbi Kaminetsky was and how much he is missed. It is a befitting kavod to a giant of a man who left a lasting impact on thousands of his students.
To participate in the dedication, visit www.rynj.org.
By Jenny Gans