April 10, 2024
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Kollel Boker to Be Dedicated in Memory of Dr. Yitzchak Belizon z”l

On Sunday, November 15, beginning at 9:30 a.m., the community will join with the Belizon family in a Yom Iyun event at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, to honor the memory of Dr. Yitzchak Belizon z”l, on his first yahrzeit.

The event is sponsored by the Belizon Family, in support of the CBY Kollel Boker program, and will be led by Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky. Yitzchak helped found the Kollel and it is to be renamed the “Kollel Yitzchak Yaakov” in his memory.

Rabbi Sobolofsky credits Yitzchak with the original idea for the Kollel Boker. Indeed, it was Yitzchak who first recruited Rabbi Sobolofsky to come to CBY to give shiurim. Rabbi Sobolofsky recollected how he arrived in Teaneck on a Tuesday night, approximately 11 years ago. He was scheduled to give a shiur at CBY, but at first there seemed to be no attendees. It was then that Yitzchak appeared and said in Hebrew, “Shamati sheyesh po shiur.” He immediately proceeded to gather a few friends and so began a program of learning that eventually evolved into the daily Kollel Boker program.

It was Yitzchak who introduced Rabbi Sobolofsky to Henry Orlinsky. Henry, together with Jackie Feigenbaum, are driving forces behind the Kollel Boker and other learning programs at CBY. Like so many others, Henry reports that Yitzchak inspired him to undertake these good works. Yitzchak had that effect on people. Besides being an expert physician, he had a gifted intellect and in-depth knowledge of Torah. He gave many erudite shiurim at CBY, including Daf Yomi and a parsha shiur every Shabbos. Nevertheless, he insisted on attending the shiurim given by others and listening attentively, just like any other member of the audience. His devotion to learning and performing good deeds was infectious.

The Kollel began as early-morning sessions three days a week. The concept was to study Talmud (the same Masechta as was then being studied at Yeshiva University) on two of the days and Halacha on the third day. Yitzchak personally took charge of preparing the mareh mekomos for the shiurim and enlisted people to join the program. Today the Kollel Boker meets regularly on weekday mornings, 40 minutes before the 7 a.m. minyan at CBY.

This is but one of the significant achievements Yitzchak accomplished during his lifetime. It is said that there are 36 people upon whom the world depends for its survival. They are unknown souls, who live among us and ostensibly lead everyday lives. They are not self-promoters and don’t demand recognition or thanks. These genuinely beautiful souls go about the business of doing good deeds, hidden in plain sight. As I reflect on the life and times of my very good friend Yitzchak, I can’t help but recognize how he fits this pattern.

Yitzchak Yaakov ben Zvi was born in 1944 in Jerusalem. His grandmother owned a grocery near the Ramban Shul that served the Jews in the Old City. Hidden in the basement of the store was an arms cache she maintained for the Haganah. She also had one of the only telephones in the Jewish Quarter, which she placed in the service of the Jewish defenders. There is a street named Rechov Gitel Dinewitz (Eshet Chayil—Protector of Jerusalem) in Machne Yehuda, in honor of her contributions. Yitzchak’s father fought in the War of 1948, defending the fledgling State of Israel. It is reported that as a young child in 1948, playing with marbles, a bullet whizzed by his head. He was saved by Providence, which had big plans in mind for this toddler. As he matured, his father brought him to see gedolim like Rav Auerbach and Rav Aryeh Levine. Rav Levine was later one of Yitzchak’s patients. He entrusted Yitzchak with his letters of introduction to the rabbinate in Israel. Yitzchak took them to the Israel Museum to have them laminated and preserved. They are of such historical significance that they are now a part of the museum’s collection.

As a young boy, Yitzchak was mature beyond his years. He convinced his father to send him to Yeshiva Netiv Meir, instead of one of the neighborhood religious public schools in Beit Hakerem where he lived. Upon graduation, he went on to study in the Hesder Program at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh. He then went on to study medicine.

Providence intervened again to introduce him to his lifelong aishet chayil, Naomi. Rav Goldwicht, z”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Kerem B’Yavneh at the time, was in Switzerland delivering shiurim. Coincidently, Naomi was there at the same time visiting with family. Rav Goldwicht sought to stay on for a while, but there were no available hotel rooms. Naomi gave up her own room to house the Rosh Yeshiva and Rabbanit. It was then the Rabbanit mentioned to Naomi that Yitzchak, an especially fine young man, who studied at Kerem B’Yavneh, might be a suitable match. She arranged for Naomi to meet Yitzchak at a wedding in Israel; they fell in love and married.

It was on Yom Kippur in 1973 that Providence intervened yet again. Yitzchak and Naomi were in Kerem B’Yavneh on that fateful day when an Arab surprise attack ushered in the Yom Kippur war. Yitzchak noticed Israeli jets flying overhead and called his unit. As the head of a medical unit serving Northern Command, he realized the highest calling of saving Jewish lives. Like so many who serve the Jewish people during perilous times, his personal plans were disrupted. He had been accepted to the residency program at a Jerusalem hospital. Because of the war, he could not begin with the rest of his class. Yitzchak then applied and was accepted as a resident in a New York hospital, and the young couple moved to the U.S. It was there that he trained as a nephrologist. He often joked that his job was to be “bochen klayot.” His tombstone records this professional appellation. However, the text goes on to refer to the heart, as well. This is the part that animated Yitzchak himself, who was all heart. It is what made him such a devoted doctor. It was the source of the goodness that suffused his actions and expressed itself in his many good deeds.

Yitzchak is sorely missed, as a husband, father, grandfather, doctor, teacher, friend and pillar of our community. He touched so many lives. As a skilled physician, he helped those in need. But he did more than just administer medical care. There are so many stories that have come to light about how he would travel many miles, after office hours, to visit the sick and comfort them. He did this all without fanfare. As a sensitive soul, he could not abide sitting comfortably at home when there were individuals in need of help.

Rabbi Charlop is to be the keynote speaker at the event. He said that he first met Yitzchak in the year 2000, when he was the dean of RIETS at YU. He suddenly took ill and was rushed to the Montefiore Hospital and Einstein Medical Center. His condition was perilous. He was unable to see, barely able to hear and was not ambulatory. Although they were not personally acquainted previously, Yitzchak visited him almost every day and sometimes more than once a day. He talked to Rav Charlop, even when most of the medical experts were not optimistic about his prognosis. He brought him food, hope and good cheer. He genuinely cared and Rav Charlop credits Yitzchak’s untiring attention and faith with helping him to recover fully. It was during his convalescence that Rav Charlop and Yitzchak began to talk Torah. Yitzchak was conversant with Rav Charlop’s writings and revealed himself as a talmid chacham. They became friends and remained close throughout the ensuing years. With tears in his eyes, Rav Charlop expressed how much he missed his good friend Yitzchak.

The Beit Midrash was an extension of Yitzchak’s home. Young and old sought him out because of his wisdom and accessibility. I remember well how the generation of his oldest son Dr. Avram and my son Dr. Eli would reach out to him when they were drafted to give a Dvar Torah in the Sfard Minyan at CBY. He was the go-to person for so many studying Torah. Sitting next to him in the Sfard Minyan, davening and trading divrei Torah, was a privilege I personally enjoyed for many years. I, like so many, profoundly miss him.

Yitzchak’s legacy is preserved in his wonderful children. His oldest son, Dr. Avram, and his wife Elana and family play a pivotal role in their own community in Boca Raton. They recently endowed the Beit Midrash program at the Boca Raton Synagogue in memory of Yitzchak. His daughter Elana and her husband Rabbi Tavi Koslowe and family are valued members of our own Teaneck community. They are instituting a new program named “Shamati Torah L’Shma” in Yeshivat Noam. His youngest son, Rabbi Eli and his wife Rebecca and family, are treasured members of the Fair Lawn community, where he serves as a rabbi.

Yitzchak’s life provides us with a paradigm of how each of us can make a difference. In a world swirling with overwhelming problems and insurmountable conflicts, our challenge is to do some good one person at a time. Yitzchak provided us with leadership by his personal example. His memory is an inspiration to continue his good works. Whether it is setting aside time for Torah study, visiting and comforting the sick or doing acts of chesed, he was a genuine mensch and a model for all of us to emulate.

Additional information about the event or the Kollel program can be obtained by emailing Dr. Steven Becker ([email protected]) or Danny Saks ([email protected]).

By Leonard Grunstein

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