Below: The casket containing the body of Rabbi Shmuel Birnbaum, is carried from the Mir Yeshiva Rabbinacal School that he directed, Monday, Jan. 7, 2008, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)
NEW YORK—Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum, a Talmudic scholar who led a yeshiva in Brooklyn for more than 50 years after fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland and briefly taking refuge in Shanghai, has died. He was 87.
Berenbaum died Sunday after a long struggle with cancer, said Rabbi Pinchos Hecht, executive director of the 1,200-member Mir Yeshiva. Another branch of the yeshiva is in Jerusalem, with an estimated 4,000 students.
Tens of thousands of mourners turned out for a funeral Monday in Brooklyn, Hecht said, citing police estimates. He said Berenbaum's body would be flown to Israel on Tuesday for burial in Jerusalem.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement praising Berenbaum, noting that he built the Jewish academy "into one of the largest centers for Torah study in the world."
Berenbaum was born in Poland and studied in a yeshiva in the town of Mir before World War II. As the Nazis rolled across Eastern Europe, Berenbaum and other yeshiva students fled across the Soviet Union and resettled in Shanghai, China. From there, they eventually emigrated to the United States.
Steven Bayme, national director of contemporary Jewish life at the American Jewish Congress, said the yeshiva helped preserve "a world that was otherwise lost."
"The rescue of the institution during the Holocaust by going to Shanghai was an act of incredible daring. It took enormous courage and perseverance," Bayme said.
Leadership of the Brooklyn yeshiva will pass
to Berenbaum's nephew, Rabbi Osher Kalmanowitz.
To our Jewish brethren
From the pasuk, - the poor shall not cease from within the land, we learn that poverty will arise in every land, even wealthy America, with all of its tragedies and terrible disasters. Therefore, a group of avreichim were aroused to form the organization Ezras Yisroel, to relieve and support the suffering from their despair, and to sustain them. Particularly now, in the days of Purim, it is the time of matanos l'evyonim, of giving gifts to the poor.
Therefore I ask of our Jewish brethren that they do the - the blessing, that they greet the gabbaei tzedakah with friendliness and generosity, and in this zechus, they will merit that Hashem will do - and He will protect us from every wound and illness. May we merit miracles and wonders and much good, as in the days of Mordechai and Esther.
Rabbi Shmuel Bernbaum
I had the merit to meet and greet Rav Bernbaum Zt'l on a few occasions. His basement on East 7th street is a makom Kodesh. Yeshivaleit and people with disabilities live there rent free. The Rebbetzin emanates and radiates kindness and love. Rav Bernbaum Zt'l made a gadol out of himself when he could have easily given up on life. Fleeing the Nazis was a miraculous act in itself. The fruits of Rav Bernbaum Zt'l labor, dedication, and living the Torah - are plentiful and bountiful and felt today all across the world. Nebach, Rav Bernbaum Zt'l lost a son in Israel. He could have given up then. He didn't. He wouldn't. He couldn't. Living the Torah - Righteously - To its fullest is what Rav Bernbaum Zt'l legacy was and will always be!
Hamokom Yenachem Eschem Besoch Shaar Avaylay Tzion VeYerushalayim!