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Rabbi Kotlarsky z"l

הרב קוטלרסקי
הרב קוטלרסקי | צילום: Marko Dashev Portrait Photography Marko Dashev

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Whoever knows about Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who passed away today at the age of 74, knows what an enormous loss this is to the entire Jewish world. But most of those influenced by Rabbi Kotlarsky have no idea who he was. Yet every person who benefitted from a Chabad house over the past decades - and we are talking about millions of Jews - is indebted to Rabbi Kotlarsky.

Rabbi Kotlarsky was a father figure to Chabad Shlichim (emissaries) all over the world. His residence was in Brooklyn but he lived mostly in airplanes. He personally knew every emissary and many of their children. Nothing was too small in his eyes not to merit his attention and, when it came to his dreams, nothing was too big. His inspiring vision and passionate speeches raised millions of dollars for Jewish education and for assistance for the needy.

When I spoke at the gathering of Chabad women in New York, I was privileged to receive wise counsel from him and to witness his largeness of heart and brilliance of mind up close. There are many bulldozers who are unstoppable in reaching their goals and many sensitive mensches. There are precious few - and Rabbi Kotlarsky was one of them - who are both.

There are many stories and worthy quotes from which flowery eulogies about him could be written but he would have objected to them. Instead, he would claim to be nothing more than a simple chasid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

At the large annual gatherings of Chabad , everyone waited for the “roll call” when Rabbi Kotlarsky would announce all the places in which emissaries, new and old, who served their local Jewish population. Each year it seemed there was another country, another flag, on another continent. His efforts, in fact, encompassed the entire Jewish world. At the end of the list of every place on earth where a Chabad house could be found, he would declare: “A round of applause for the whole world!” And the entire crowd would break into dance.

He suffered from health problems for many years but he kept on going and doing. After all, “we must bring the Moshiach.” Recently, his health worsened. Last Shabbat I met in Jerusalem a Chabad woman emissary from an American college campus. She said she went to the Kotel and prayed for him. She told me she imagined how, at this very moment, at the height of the war, redemption would come and the famous “roll call” would be declaimed here since all the Diaspora communities would be gathered together in Jerusalem...

Condolences to his wife and partner Rivka whose home was always open wide to guests, to Rabbi Mendy, his son and successor, to his daughter Chani Volubick my beloved friend, to his large family, and to all the Chabad emissaries.

And condolences also to the vast number of Jews - from Ukrainian Jewish refugees, to Jewish students from London, to Bar Mitzvah boys from Sderot and from Australia - who have no idea that a Jew who cared very much about every one of them passed away.


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