This week, an elderly member of the Baltimore Jewish community, Yitzchak ben Gad, Isaac (Itche) Kaufman a”h, passed away. He was a Holocaust survivor who came to build a new life — and helped Jewish life to flourish here in America. He was very close with my wife’s grandparents, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Tzvi E. Hertzberg zt”l, who welcomed many survivors into their home. He built up a successful business, always conducting his affairs honestly both ben Adam L’Makom (between man and G-d) and ben Adam L’Chavero (between man and man).Hitler deprived him of the best years of a Jewish education, but could not crush his Jewish soul. Even in recent years, having celebrated his 80th birthday two years ago, he came early to pray and stayed afterwards to attend a Sunday morning class that it is my privilege to give in Rabbi Hertzberg’s shul, Beth Abraham. We were looking forward to his return to the class following his recovery from a recent accident, and instead will all miss him dearly.
He was a man who valued Judaism, Jewish education, and family, all in a quiet and unassuming manner. Perhaps his last charitable donation was to Project Genesis — we met the morning of the day he fell and was hospitalized — and he insisted on giving cash, so that there would be no record and no one would know. He also gave valuable advice and guidance along with his own support. And he is now in a world where such gifts are not only known, but held in the highest regard.
This is only one of the many ways in which “Reb Itche” can serve as a model for all of us, and may his memory be a blessing for all of us.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis / Torah.org