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Rabbi Gedaliah Dov Schwartz, zt”l הרב גדלי’ דוב בן אברהם  זצ”ל

HaRav Hershel Schachter visits the CRC.

Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt”l

(Courtesy of the CRC) Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, zt”l, Rosh Beth Din (Chief Presiding Judge) and Chief Rabbi of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, passed away last Thursday, December 10, 2020. Over 1,200 people watched the funeral services online and, consistent with COVID restrictions, approximately 100 people attended in person at the parking lot of Congregation Adas Yeshurun.

Rabbi Schwartz was an internationally recognized leader of the Orthodox Jewish community, and hundreds of rabbis relied upon his sage guidance and authority. With an incredibly broad knowledge of Jewish text, traditions and history, Rabbi Schwartz’s brilliance and interests extended as well to world history and wide areas of Western academic knowledge. His leadership in Chicago extended beyond the Orthodox community, and he was beloved by rabbis and laity alike. With absolute commitment to Jewish law, he devoted himself to the community and to the personal concerns of the many individuals who turned to him over the years. He guided the work of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, with over 150 member-rabbis worldwide, a globally respected kosher supervision department, and a leading beth din that guides the local community, serving with the highest levels of professionalism and sophistication.

Rabbi Schwartz was born on January 24, 1925, to Avrohom and Pearl Schwartz in Newark, New Jersey. He studied with a private teacher at home when he was very young, at a time when there were no local Jewish day schools. When Rabbi Schwartz was eight years old, he attended Talmud Torah at the Custer Avenue Shul. At about 11 years old, Rabbi Schwartz attended a different Talmud Torah, headed by Rav Yaakov BenZion HaKohen Mendelson, who was the original Rav HaKollel of Newark.

Rabbi Schwartz was a graduate of Yeshiva College where he double majored in classical languages and English, and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, where he received his rabbinic ordination. Following this ordination, he received a fellowship in the Institute of Advanced Rabbinic Research of Yeshiva University. Later he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Rabbi Schwartz was honored with the Harav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, Joseph B. Soloveitchik Aluf Torah Award, RIETS highest honor, at Yeshiva University’s Chag Hasemicha convocation on March 23, 2014. He also served as the Av Beth Din of the Beth Din of America in New York.

Before coming to Chicago in 1987, Rabbi Schwartz was the rabbi of the Young Israel of Boro Park for 18 years, having earlier held pulpits in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He was a past president of the Mizrachi of Rhode Island and the RCA Philadelphia region.

Known for his great scholarship and gentle manner, Rabbi Schwartz’s opinion was frequently sought by both Jewish and secular sources on issues such as conversion to Judaism, halachic prenuptial agreements, the New York Get Law, brain death and stem cell research. He was appointed as the head of a three-judge panel that examined cases of agunahs from the September 11 attacks, using DNA testing of post-mortem remains to verify the death of their husbands and allow them to remarry.

He was the author of several works in Jewish scholarship including “Divrei Regesh,” “Migdanos Eliezer,” “Shaarei Gedulah,” “Ahavas HaGer,” as well as editor of “HaDarom,” the Torah journal of the Rabbinical Council of America.

He was married to Rosalie (“Risya”) Poupko (d. 2009), with whom he had two sons, Avrohom Yeshaye and Chaim Yehoshua Heschel, and a daughter Rivka Leah. Rabbi Schwartz is also survived by his current rebbetzin, Chana Sarah, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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