June 10, 2024
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Remembering Rav Shlomo Goldman zt”l, Sanz-Zvhiller Rebbe of Union City

Rav Shlomo Goldman, the Sanz-Zvhiller Rebbe, of Union City, New Jersey, passed away on July 21. His loss leaves a hole in his community, and necessitates a closer look at his role in building up the wonderful and welcoming Klausenberger Chasidic community, located in nearby Hudson County, and the history and the current state of the community as a whole.

Rav Shlomo Goldman, scion of the Zvhiller Chasidic dynasty, grew up in Yerushalayim with many brothers, all of whom went on to become rebbes in various locations. He learned under his father, Rav Mordechai Goldman, the Zvhiller Rebbe, and later under the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, in Kiryat Sanz, where he quickly became his star student.

Rav Goldman had excellent middot and was an accomplished talmid chacham. Because of his stellar scholarship, and his close relationship to the Klausenberger Rebbe, he married Rav Halberstam’s oldest daughter, Miriam Leah, merging the two Chasidic dynasties and earning himself the title of the Sanz-Zvhiller Rebbe. He served as the head of the kollel in Kiryat Sanz until 1971, when his father-in-law appointed him to be the leader of the recently established community in Union City.

After the Holocaust, but before he moved to Israel, Rav Halberstam came to the United States. He established a yeshiva in Williamsburg, along with many Jewish institutions throughout greater New York. Later, he established Kiryat Sanz in Israel, but in 1965, due to friction with what he considered an anti-religious government, he made plans to start another community in the United States. Although he never explained why he chose Union City, some theorized that he sought a location that was not already heavily populated by Jews, so that he could establish an ideal Chasidic community.

Ruby Kaplan, a current Teaneck resident who grew up in Union City, described that, although there had once been a thriving Jewish community there, people began to move away to Bergen and Rockland Counties, and by the time the Chasidim came in the mid 1960s there wasn’t even a minyan left. The Rebbe orchestrated the purchase of several buildings in the area and renovated them to fit his purposes, even as he still split his time between Israel and America. In 1971, Rav Halberstam asked Rav Goldman to leave the kollel in Israel, and made him the rosh yeshiva and the rav of the community in Union City. Rav Goldman would pasken questions, give guidance, raise money and make communal decisions (although he frequently checked with his father-in-law). In 1972, the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe himself moved from Israel to Union City, which made it an important center of Chasidut, since many Chasidim would come to the tischen and to get brachot from the Rebbe. After the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe died in 1994 at age 89, the Sanz-Zvhiller Rav became his successor. David Rosenberg, a community leader and the founder of the Union City-based North Jersey Jewish Business Alliance, explained that when Rav Goldman became the rebbe, he developed a following, would conduct the tischen on all the Yamim Tovim and people would come to him for brachot.

One example of how the Rebbe guided his Chasidim was recounted by Naftuly Weber of Williamsburg, who was a follower of the Rebbe. His daughter was struggling to have children, and his son-in-law went to the Rebbe.The Rebbe gave him a bracha, and also asked him to help with constructing an eruv in the community’s bungalow colony in the Catskills, explaining that just as the eruv allows Jews to carry on Shabbat, “soon your wife will carry as well.” The next year she had a baby, and more children followed.

Under the Sanz-Zvhiller Rebbe, the Union City community and its Torah studies expanded. He would give shiurim every day. Although he never wrote sefarim in his lifetime, the many shiurim that he gave are already being prepared for publication. Rav Goldman opened kollelim and founded a cheder and a girls’ school. He was a ba’al chesed, a tremendous tzaddik and a consummate talmid chacham. The Rebbe never had any children himself, but he could be considered the father to the community and his many followers.

For the past 20 to 25 years the Rebbe struggled with physical difficulties. He had problems with his vocal cords, yet persisted in giving his daily shiurim. Rosenberg described him as someone who was “always happy, with a smile.” The Rebbe passed away on Friday morning, July 21, and his levaya took place that day in the central beit midrash in Union City, where members of his family and community leaders spoke of his dedication to the community and to Torah, and of his love for his Chasidim. After Shabbat the aron was brought to Israel, where a second levaya took place. Rav Goldman was buried on Har HaZeitim.

Because of the dedication of the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe and the Sanz-Zvhiller Rebbe, Union City is now a thriving and welcoming place for Jews. There is a kosher supermarket and a Union City Hatzolah. The website for Mesivta Sanz of Hudson County states, “The thriving Yeshivah… the flourishing Kollel… the constantly growing Cheder and Girls School…The oasis that is Sanz is surrounded by the bustling metropolis of Union City, New Jersey.” The majority of the community are Sanz-Klausenberger Chasidim, but Rosenberg said that people from all over North Jersey come to visit the matzah factory and to participate in the bonfire on Lag B’Omer.

Kaplan described Union City as a community of chesed: “They are always opening their doors, their hearts and their shuls to anyone who wants to join them.” Because they are located right near the Lincoln Tunnel, people commuting to and from the city can join them for minyanim throughout the day. She explained that they also open their doors for Jews to join them on different Yamim Tovim throughout the year.

Since the Rebbe’s passing, Rav Shaul Yehuda Prizant, brother-in-law to the Rebbe, younger son-in-law to the Klausenberger Rebbe, and Dayan in Union City for many years, has taken over as Rav of the community. When great tzadikim and Torah scholars pass away it is a loss not just for their communities, but for the entire Jewish nation. May Rav Shlomo Goldman’s memory be a blessing.

By Sara Schapiro

 Sara Schapiro is a summer intern at the Jewish Link of NJ and is a recent graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for girls and an incoming freshman at Stern College for Women. She resides in Bergenfield.

 

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