Rabbi Mordechai Hager, a Viznitz Hasidic leader in New York known as Reb Mottele, passed away at 95. Joseph Berger, writing in The New York Times, characterized him as strong willed, but quietly diplomatic. Though blind for the past decade, he still studied daily by using readers. he was the son of Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, the fourth grand rabbi of Vyzhnytsia (Viznitz). Rabbi Hager told his followers to insulate themselves from the American liberal mores and materialism of the 1960s; led his flock of now 30,000 to the more rural areas of New York’s Rockland Count, where they founded the modern day shtetl of Kaser; and was critical of those seeking excess piety or who sought loopholes in American laws to benefit themselves and the community.
Sala Kirschner passed away at 94. Born in Sosnowiec, Poland, and a survivor of several Nazi forced labor camps, she gained fame from her trove of letter that she accumulated during the Shoah. She hid them for over five decades, but, in 1991, when faced with surgery and fearing that she might not survive, she handed her collection of 350 tattered letters, postcards and photographs in Yiddish, Polish and German, from family and friends, to her daughter, Ann, a professor at City University of New York.
Gideon Lichtman of Florida passed away at the age of 94. The Miami Herald reported that Lichtman was the first fighter pilot in the young Israeli air force to shoot down an enemy fighter in aerial combat. Born in the UNited States, he volunteered for to help the founding of the State of Israel, and on June 8, 1948, Lichtman, in a Messerschmitt with no radio or oxygen, downed an Egyptian Spitfire. He taught for over 30 years in Florida public schools under an assumed name, Mr. Rimon, told by Ezer Weitzman that he was targeted for assassination. Weizman gave him the name, since his temper was known to be as explosize as a grenade. He is featured in “A Wing and a Prayer,” Boaz Dvir’s documentary on the 1948 pilots in Israel.
Naomi Friedman Rabkin passed away at 43. A leaders and builder of various Jewish groups, she led Limmud-Atlanta, the Jewish Food Alliance, Spark: Partnership for Service, Jewish Funds for Justice and Project Otzma, to name just a few. She received an MA in Education from Stanford with a specilization in Jewish value edication. She succumbed to a virulent form of breast cancer.
In happier times:
And David S. Wyman, the author and Holocaust scholar passed away at 89 after a long illness. Wyman, who grew up Methodist in Massachusetts, wrote “The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945.” about how the American government deliberately closed its doors to Jewish refugees. The book was critical of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was heresy among his colleagues at the time of the book’s publication.