It is with great sadness that we report the death of the Novominsker Rebbe, Hagaon Rav Yaakov Perlow zt”l. He was 89.
The rebbe served as rosh Agudas Yisroel of America, a position he held since 1998. He was also a member and the nose of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of America.
The rebbe was born in Brooklyn, New York, a son of Rav Nochum Mordechai Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, and Rebbetzin Beila Rochma, née Morgenstern. The rebbe was named after his great-grandfather, Rav Yaakov Perlow, the first Novominsker Rebbe. His maternal zaide was Rav Yitzchok Zelig Morgenstern, the Sokolover Rebbe, a direct descendant of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and one of the main founders of Agudas Yisroel in Poland.
The rebbe’s father, Rav Nochum Mordechai, was niftar in 1976.
In his formative years, the rebbe learned at Yeshiva Toras Chaim in East New York and then at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, where he studied under the rosh yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt”l.
The rebbe married his wife, Rebbetzin Yehudis a”h, who was a daughter of Rav Avrohom Eichenstein zt”l, Ziditchover Rebbe of Chicago, and Rebbetzin Bobche Eichenstein a”h, a daughter of Rav Pinchos Shalom Rottenberg zt”l of Kosson. Rebbetzin Yehudis grew up in the fifties when opportunities for American Jews were opening up. Offered a full scholarship to the University of Chicago upon graduation from the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, she turned it down to join her peers at the local city college because yeshiva kids at the time commonly abandoned their Yiddishkeit at the elite school. She knew who she was: the first American-born child of her Chassidic rabbinic family that arrived in Chicago in 1922. She was the generation that caused her great-grandfather, the Strizover Rav, to cry when his children took their leave for America. “I’m not worried about you and your children,” he explained. “I am worried about your future grandchildren.”
The rebbe‘s in-laws, Rav and Rebbetzin Eichenstein, ran multi-generational shul/home complexes in various Chicago neighborhoods in an American variation of a Chassidish hoif (court). Greenhorns shared their troubles with the rov and were honored with conducting zemiros at the table Friday night even though they went to work Shabbos morning. Students got help with their term papers from the young and brilliant Hungarian-born rebbetzin and left with a package of homemade goodies. The couple functioned as a team, doing private hatzalah work during the war years. Meshulachim spent weeks in residence and always found a repeat customer for seforim in the rov. The Bnei Akiva kids would gather to play ball behind the shul and hang out in the house.
This was the illustrious family that the rebbe married into.
The rebbe, even in the early years of his marriage, was already recognized as an outstanding talmid chochom, masmid and lamdan.
The rebbe began his career of harbotzas Torah and Torah leadership as a rebbi at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois. From there, he was appointed rosh yeshiva at Breuer’s Yeshiva, Yeshivas Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, in Washington Heights and he established a Novominsker Bais Medrash.
In 1981, the rebbe left Breuer’s to establish and devote himself to his own yeshiva, Yeshivas Novominsk Kol Yehuda, in Boro Park, also opening up a Novominsker Shul.
In December 1998, the rebbe was named as rosh Agudas Yisroel seven months after the petirah of Rabbi Moshe Sherer zt”l. In this role, the rebbe served as a fearless leader for American Torah Jewry, guiding the Agudah and the olam haTorah with sagacity, strength and courage.
The rebbe was a powerful orator, whose drashos and speeches over the decades articulated the daas Torah of the time.
The rebbe was a brilliant individual, whose knowledge was utilized for the betterment of Klal Yisroel on numerous occasions. The rebbe courageously fought off intrusions into the Orthodox community, calling out false ideologies in drashos and in writings. His most recent public drasha was delivered at the 13th Siyum Hashas of Daf Yomi at MetLife Stadium to 100,000 people.
The rebbe‘s depth of lomdus and the breadth of his bekius are seen in his monumental seforim, titled Adas Yaakov, on Shas. The seforim are masterpieces of clarity and amkus, a reflection of the rebbe‘s wide-ranging yedios haTorah and koach hachiddush.
With the passing of the rebbe, Klal Yisroel has lost one of its guiding lights, a determined and influential manhig, mashpia and leader who will be sorely missed.
Yehi zichro boruch.