Numerous well-deserved hespedim, recollections and tributes have been made to commemorate the remarkable life of Rabbi Moshe Tendler, zt”l—a great talmud chacham, an outstanding scientist and a remarkable human being. I have nothing that I can add to those tributes except to say that they all were all about the years after he became such an outstanding figure. However, by virtue of my quite senior status, I probably have the privilege afforded to few others today: that of remembering Rabbi Tendler and his family before the world recognized his manifold talents.
I was born and raised in New York’s Lower East Side during the depression and World War II years, and had the zechus to daven in the Kamenitzer Shul on Pitt Street (see below), where Rabbi Moshe Tendler’s father, R’ Isaac Tendler, was our rav, and was bar mitzvah under him.
In those days landsleit, like those from my family’s Kamenitz Litovsk, were a close-knit community and davened together, had active shul sisterhoods, formed family circles, and had their own burial associations. My mother spoke at Rabbi Moshe Tendler’s bar mitzvah. Through these activities the families, including Rabbi Isaac and Rebbetzin Bella Tendler, were in constant touch. Rabbi Isaac Tendler in his own right was an outstanding talmud chacham and was a rosh yeshiva at Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva (RJJ).
I was not a close friend of Rabbi Moshe Tendler himself because he was somewhat older than I, but I was closer in age to his younger siblings, where we were in shul together. Rabbi Tendler, who was called “Meishe” as a youngster, never forgot his early years and kept in touch with our family, as well as others. As was described by my son Dan in his letter to The Jewish Link (October 14), Rabbi Tendler was his rebbe whom he learned under, was the mesader kiddushin at his wedding, and once spoke with us from Israel expressing his condolences when he heard that my mother had been niftar.
An interesting vignette about Rabbi Tendler’s human quality occurred under the chuppah at Dan’s wedding. Our 11-month-old grandson was marching slowly and hesitatingly down the aisle while Rabbi Tendler patiently and amusingly waited, and in a side comment, he smiled and said to us, “First grandson, right?” Of course, he was right.
One final bit of touching coincidence is that Rabbi Tendler’s grandson today is a neighbor and friend of my son, and their children play together. That perpetuates our families’ connections, which now spans over five generations.Max Wisotsky