June 18, 2024
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June 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I am certainly not the person most familiar with the late Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski, zt”l, so perhaps I am not best equipped to write a special tribute to him. However, as I watched his funeral just a few minutes ago I was moved to tears.

Dr. Twerski, as we knew him through our involvement with Nefesh, the International Association of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, was a giant of a man. Yet as I watched him being lowered into the ground to his final resting place, I felt as though it emphasized what a tiny man he was in size, though not in stature. Mental health professionals from all over the world filled rooms whenever Nefesh met in order to hear the famous Dr. T speak. His voice was soft in its presentation, but always strong in what he had to say.

I remember well the day that he entered the elevator at the hotel where one of our conferences was taking place. I always felt as though I was in the company of royalty when I was near him. Before we knew it, he began to share with us the great loss he had felt since losing his first wife, Golda, several years before. They were planning to make aliyah and had purchased a home in Efrat with the intention of traveling back and forth to Pittsburgh. Sadly, Hashem had other plans for them, and she was shortly thereafter diagnosed with cancer, to which she succumbed. He talked of his loss, and I couldn’t believe that this very special man was sharing this information with us.

Nefesh served many purposes and, for Dr. Twerski, allowed him to meet his second wife. At one conference, he sat down at a breakfast table and fortunately for both him and Gail Bessler they began to speak. Not many months after that they were married and given the chance to share their life together. Gail, not coming from a Chassidishe velt, told me on one of our walks while they were living in Teaneck that the first time she went to a wedding of one of his family members, she sort of stood at the door waiting for someone to take her in and show her “the ropes.” It didn’t take long for her to be one of “the boys.”

What was most special about their relationship was the way they shared their admiration for each other. I and I am sure so many others present that night remember the Twerskis sitting at a Friday night tish at the Nefesh conference where, amidst the singing, he had his arm around her shoulders and they swayed to the singing together. How impressive, how normal and how lovely. One can educate people without even saying a word.

I learned more about Rav Twerski each time he spoke. Most impressively, I will never forget him declaring in front of a large group of psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, educators and rabbonim that he never understood how husbands and wives did not hesitate to speak loudly and disagree in front of their children, but rarely did you see them showing affection to each other in front of their children.

Having known him and having dinner in their home was an honor for both Mordechai and me.

I used to be amazed when I would see him doing the shopping locally, schlepping packages just like all of us. He was an unassuming man, which is probably what made him that much more special.

As I watched the burial and his wishes honored of not having any hespedim but only to have those present sing his original song, “Hoshea Es Amecha,” as they walked with him to his final resting place, I found myself weeping with many. He actually wrote the niggun for the weddings of his twin brothers, which took place several weeks apart in 1960.

The simplicity of the burial for such an icon was moving. May his neshama have an aliyah. He will never be forgotten.


Nina Glick lives in Bergenfield with her husband, Rabbi Mordechai Glick, after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community. Nina coordinated all Yachad activities in Montreal and was a co/founder of Maison Shalom, a group home for special needs young adults. She can be reached at [email protected].

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