Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5764 - November 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, zt"l
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Australian Jewry is mourning the death this week of one of its leading rabbis. Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, the president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and former longstanding rabbi at Elwood Hebrew Congregation, died on Shabbos at approximately 6.30 pm from a stroke at the age of 82.

More than 1000 mourners -- including all the prominent Australian rabbis -- attended the funeral at Springvale Cemetery on Sunday led by Rabbi Gutnick's veteran colleague and friend, Yeshivah Centre director Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner.

In his eulogy, Rabbi Groner said Rabbi Gutnick was one of a select few who had the ability to rekindle the "pintele Yid" -- the spark of Jewish consciousness that lies dormant in many Jews.

Rav Gutnick inspired many people and was very often consulted on Australian communal matters. Rabbonim of the country constantly sought his advice on a wide range of issues. He was a powerful, world-class orator and had the ability to capture the moment in a few precise words. He was always happy to speak to any audience in the Jewish community and always graced any school or Kollel function.

The Australian Prime Minister's office issued a message of condolence saying, "Rabbi Gutnick's dedication and personal qualities have earned him the respect of many in the Australian community and particularly within the Australian Jewish community."

Born in Chevron, Rav Gutnick was lucky to escape the Chevron Progrom in Av, 1929, when his family happened to be in Tel Aviv on the Shabbos when Arabs rioted. He later moved to London with his family when his father was pressured to take a rabbinical position there. His father soon passed away, when he was only twelve. His mother then entrusted his education to the Telz Rosh Hayeshiva who was visiting London at the time.

He was taken by the Telz Rosh Hayeshiva from London to Yeshivas Telz in Europe and where he enjoyed what he described as "his own Gan Eden on this world." In Telz, they were very concerned with the proper use of one's time. He said that the concept of wasting time even extended to listening to a Torah discourse on a topic not currently learned in the yeshiva. That's how much the Yeshiva valued time.

Rav Gutnick related the story of how a few yeshiva bochurim arrived on the shores of Australia during the war. They were encouraged financially to move elsewhere, because it was said that the lifestyle of Australians did not suit the lifestyle of yeshiva people. Many indeed left, opting to go to America to learn under HaRav Aharon Kotler. However Rav Gutnick was told by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe to remain in Australia, because if Hashem made him come to that country he should stay.

Rav Gutnick was a Cohen who went in Aharon's footsteps and pursued peace as much as he could. He was a rabbi's rabbi and he will be surely missed. He is survived by his six children and many grandchildren and great-grand children.


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