The Chief Rabbi of Israel and my Cousin

Quite a bit has been happening and I hope to write about the events.  Three weeks ago, I spent a magnificent Shabbos at the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS) and I plan to write about it.  This past Shabbos,  Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau visited Chicago for the weekend.  He had the Shabbos afternoon meal, davened Mincha , and had the third Shabbos meal at Sidney Glenner’s house.  I was privileged to be in the presence of the Chief Rabbi.   Rabbi Lau is a prolific and emotional speaker.  Recently his memoir, Out of the Depths, was published in English.  Rabbi Lau was liberated from Buchenwald at age 8.

At the Shabbos lunch meal Rabbi Lau told two stories.  His first story brought a cousin of mine to life and answered a question, I have had for a number of years.

Around 1980 Rabbi was elected Chief Rabbi of Netanya. Rabbi Lau explained the responsibility of his new job; Kashrus, Eruv, the Synagogues, the hotels, policing 49 butcher shops, and trying to please all factions of the religious spectrum.   He also had to worry about preventing the desecration of Shabbos.  There were 4 movie theaters in Netanya owned by one couple,  He got the wife to agree not to open on Shabbos.  When the wife died, Rabbi Lau was worried that her husband who had little connection to religion would open the movie theatres on Shabbos .  Rabbi Lau got the husband to promise  at his wife’s funeral, that the husband would continue the legacy of his deceased wife and not cause desecration on Shabbos.

There was a social club in Netanya at Ramaz 8 that had planned to open on Friday night for theater performances and other activates.   The social club at Ramaz 8 was owned by the Histadrut.  The Histadrut* is a powerful workers Union in Israel that had and has enormous power in Israel. They were leftist, secular, and anti-religious. They had no problem being open on Shabbos and probably encouraged the desecration of Shabbos.   Rabbi Lau called to his office the head of the Histadrut in Netanya. This person was Nosson Shachar.

Nosson Shachar is a son of Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern, son of the Lukover Rebbe (Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern),  Nosson Shacher is a  brother to Menucha Morgenstern- Lahav, first cousin to my father, and first cousin – once removed to myself.   Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern was the youngest of the 10 children of the Lukover Rebbe and made Aliyah to Israel in the early 1920’s.  I had thought that all of the Lukover Rebbe’s 10 children and their families were martyred in the Holocaust.  About 10 years ago I  found out that the youngest made Aliyah after the Lukover Rebbe passed away in 1920.  I met his daughter Menucha about 5 years ago when I had her and her family over for a Friday night meal, when I was in Israel visiting my daughter in Seminary.

Nosson Shacher comes into Rabbi Lau’s office and sits down.  Rabbi Lau looks at him and says, your last name is Shacher, you must be a descendent of the Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern. Nosson Schacher is surprised and says that he has not heard this for many years as he was secular and in his circles, the Kotzker Rebbe would  rarely be mentioned.  Additionally, the Kotzker’s last name was Morgenstern.  Many individuals when they reached Israel from Europe took Hebrew last names instead of their European last names. Morgenstern in German is morning star, so the last name became Shacher. Rabbi Lau continues and says, when you pass on and in the next world you will  meet your holy grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe.  The Kotzker will ask you, so Nosson, what have you done during your lifetime, what positive thing have you done about Shabbos, did you prevent the desecration of Shabbos.  What will you say? Nosson Shacher is quiet for a moment in thought, and after a short while says, we will move the programs to Saturday night, and promises that there will be no desecration of the Shabbos. Imagine the merit of Nosson Shacher.  He merited the world to come, just with this one act. Perhaps this is the reason why Rabbi Yehoshua  Zelig Morgenstern made Aliyah, so that in 1980, his son Nosson, despite being secular, met with Rabbi Lau to prevent public desecration of Shabbos.  Perhaps this is why Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern and family were spared from the horrors of the Holocaust.

I hope to be able to learn Torah with Menucha, her husband, their kids, and Nosson’s children in Israel one day.

* Wikipedia – “The Histadrut became one of the most powerful institutions in the state of Israel, a mainstay of the Labour Zionist movement and, aside from being a trade union, its state-building role made it the owner of a number of businesses and factories and, for a time, the largest employer in the country.   Membership in 1983 was 1,600,000 (including dependents), accounting for more than one-third of the total population of Israel and about 85 percent of all wage earners.”

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