The Jewish Link was generous enough to devote a full page to an article that I wrote on February 15, 2018, entitled “My Family’s Shabbos in Kiryas Joel.” It was a play-by-play of the time we spent with the family of my second cousin, who was an early settler in the community now over 20,000 strong.
As I noted in the article, my father’s family are mostly Shopron and Satmar chasidim. This past Motzei Shabbos, our host and my second cousin, Avraham Yaakov Posen, z”l was niftar from COVID-19. I should note that the Shopronner Rebbe, Harav Tzvi Hirsch Meizlish, was also niftar from the virus this past Sunday night. My cousin was a chasid through and through. The father of 13 in his mid-60s, Avraham Yankel, as he was called, greeted and treated my family that Shabbos no differently from his own or any other. He always had a smile on his face and was eager to make everyone feel at home.
Avraham Yankel was my sole connection to that part of my family. After the passing of my father almost 10 years ago and the passing of Avraham Yankel’s father about three years ago, the torch was passed to the next generation. Those who know me would be surprised at my eager appetite to know everything chasidishe and more specifically, that of my roots and mishpacha.
I have been to Kiryas Joel many many times. Many of us have preconceived notions of how or what chasidim are like. Some of those feelings might be true in some circumstances. Nevertheless, as we know, there are different kinds of people within all communities. Avraham Yankel engaged with me as if he was talking or walking with his own son or brother. He treated my TABC and Yeshivat Noam boys as if they were his children in the Shopron cheder. He spoke with my wife and never ignored what she had to say! I had the zechus to daven with him in the Satmar beis midrash, to eat at his Shabbos table and to have a melave malka with most of his family, easily over 100, on Motzei Shabbos.
I have already lost both my parents. Those losses were somewhat expected and I had the opportunity to prepare myself for both of them over the course of at least one year. This loss, I had no time to prepare for. No expectation that I would never again be able to spend time with someone with whom I had a connection to another world, another world of frum Jews. Avraham Yankel Posen was a special man, who I loved, and who I hope is sitting next to the kesai hakavod in Shamayim, next to his father and mine.
By Jeff Rubin