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8 Kislev 5764 - December 3, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Rabbi Oscar Fasman zt"l
by Betzalel Kahn

American and Canadian Jewry were struck with grief on the passing of one of the elder rabbonim of the US, Rabbi Oscar Fasman zt"l, at the age of 95.

Rabbi Fasman gained renown throughout the US and Canada as an elder statesman among the rabbonim and for the many responsibilities he successfully bore with mesirus nefesh. He served as president of Rabbinical Council of the US and Canada, president of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, president of the Beis Medrash LeTorah in the Chicago suburb of Skokie and a leader of Jewish kehillos for over seven decades.

He was known for upholding the Jewish religion and took an important part in rehabilitating the Torah world in the US.

Rabbi Fasman was born in 5668 (1908) in Chicago to R' Shmuel, a native of Karlin who had earlier fled from the Russian army after being conscripted when war broke out between Russia and Japan. After three months in the army he bribed a soldier standing guard over the camp, fled to the port and sailed for the US. Within one year he managed to bring his wife and two daughters to Chicago, where their son Oscar (Osher) was born.

Since in those years Chicago lacked suitable Torah institutes R' Shmuel, through his wife Basyoh Dinoh's mesirus nefesh, hired a private tutor, a talmid chochom who had studied at Yeshivas Volozhin and had lost his eyesight. For three years young Oscar would go to him every day after school to learn Torah. When he reached the age of 14 his rov told Oscar to continue his studies at a yeshiva. Soon he became one of Yeshivas Beis Medrash LeTorah's first talmidim. There he grew in Torah and in 5689 (1929) was given semichoh by the yeshiva's rabbonim.

He wanted to move to Eretz Yisroel with a friend to study at Yeshivas Knesses Yisroel Slobodka, then in Chevron, but he was unable to go. His friend went and was murdered by Arabs during the riots of 5689 (1929).

That same year Rav Fasman was offered a rabbinical post at a shul without a mechitzoh, a common problem during this period, but he refused to accept the offer. Instead he continued studying at the yeshiva for another year during which he was given $50 per month. When referring to this year he would jokingly say he was the first kollel yungerman in the US outside of New York City. In 5692 (1930) he was appointed rov of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a position he held for the next ten years.

In 5632 (1932) he married Sheina Baila Rubin of Chicago. Her family was known as baalei tzedokoh and machnisei orchim. Many prominent roshei yeshivos stayed in her father's home, including HaRav Y.S. Kahaneman and HaRav Y.M. Gordon and others. She went on to help her husband build Torah and Yiddishkeit for over fifty years.

In the summer of 5694 (1934) Rav Fasman sailed to Europe to visit gedolei hador. He met HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, HaRav Y. Rozin (the Rogotchover Rov), HaRav Chaim of Telz, HaRav Y.A. Shorr, HaRav Z. Bloch and others. In Frankfurt he met with HaRav Yosef Breuer. He also visited the yeshivas of Telz, Mir, Baranovitch and Slobodka as well as Torah institutions in Vilna, Warsaw, Cracow, Prague, Vienna, Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin. From there he sailed to Eretz Yisroel where he visited HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, HaRav A. Dushnitzer, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, HaRav Y. Ben Menachem and others. He also went to see the Eitz Chaim, Chevron and Petach Tikva yeshivas. This voyage provided him a wealth of Torah and hashkofoh that he drew on for the more than seven decades he served in the rabbinate.

In 5700 (1940) he was offered the post of Rabbi of Ottawa, Canada, which had five shuls and some 800 families, all of which accepted him as their rov. Although his congregants in Tulsa pleaded with him to stay he said his ambition was to serve Jews and since in Ottawa he would have an opportunity to serve more Jews he felt obligated to leave Tulsa.

In 5706-07 (1947) he was worried a certain person many rabbonim had reservations about would be appointed president of Beis Medrash LeTorah. After ascertaining that the only way to prevent this would be to submit his own candidacy for the position he resigned from his post in Ottawa and applied for the yeshiva presidency, which he was later awarded. This placed responsibility for all yeshiva matters on him for the next 18 years.

During these fruitful years he brought in outstanding, influential talmidei chachomim, including HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, to join the staff as roshei yeshiva. He also altered the yeshiva's framework to focus on Torah learning. He founded a mesivta with a dormitory for young men ages 14 to 18 and moved the yeshiva from its previous location to Skokie on a magnificent campus. During these years he raised the standards of Torah in the yeshiva and in the kehilloh.

He also aided considerably in rehabilitating the Jewish world in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He brought in refugees from Europe to the US and Canada including some who later became known as gedolei Torah (e.g. HaRav Dovid Kronglas, mashgiach of Yeshivas Ner Israel of Baltimore). He had the opportunity to work with many gedolei Yisroel in the US, including HaRav Aharon Kotler and the Satmar Rebbe.

In 5724 (1964) he left his position at the yeshiva and, together with the Rebbetzin's great efforts, beis knesses Yehuda Moshe was set up just outside Chicago in Lincolnwood. Rabbi Fasman served as rov of the beis knesses for the next 34 years before moving to Los Angeles to live near his sons and daughter. There he would pray every day at the Los Angeles Kollel, providing tremendous inspiration for the avreichim and other members of the kehilloh. Many rabbonim visited him to receive Torah and listen to his advice on rabbinical matters. Some people would bring their children to the beis knesses just to see the light radiating from his face.

In his elderly years he merited robust health and constantly thanked HaKodosh Boruch Hu for all His goodness and for allowing him to see his children, grandchildren, great- grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren all following the path of Torah and living in peace and harmony.

In recent years he republished Shtei Halechem and Or Yekoros on Taharos, written by his great- grandfather HaRav Osher Luria about a hundred years ago in Vilna and Jerusalem. Overjoyed at their publication, he even asked to be buried with copies of these seforim.

In recent months his health became frail and he had to be hospitalized on several occasions. On the 25th of Cheshvan he was brought to the hospital where the doctors determined he had suffered a major heart attack. On the 30th of Cheshvan he returned his soul to his Maker with members of his family at his bedside.

The levaya set out from the Los Angeles Kollel. Eulogizers included his firstborn son HaRav Chaim, the rosh kollel, his son-in-law, HaRav Yehoshua Moshe Sugarman who has served as the moro d'asro of the Shaarei Tzedek kehilloh in Los Angeles for over 30 years, HaRav Kraus, one of the city's leading rabbonim and darshonim and his grandsons R' Shmuel Akiva Drebbin and HaRav Shmuel Fasman.

The levaya left from Shamgar in Jerusalem to the rabbinical section of Har Hamenuchos with many of his talmidim and acquaintances in attendance. Hespeidim were delivered by Rav Berel Wein, who was among his talmidim at Beis Medrash LeTorah; HaRav Goldstein, the rov of Beis Knesses Yehuda Moshe; HaRav Yitzchok Fasman, Rosh Kollel Kiryat Sefer; HaRav Avrohom Falk, one of the roshei yeshivos of Yeshivas Neveh Tzion; his grandson HaRav Nosson Fasman; and his great- grandson HaRav Shlomo Chaim Falk. His son Rav Chaim delivered stirring words of parting.

Rabbi Oscar Fasman, zt"l, is survived by his sons HaRav Chaim, Rosh Kollel Los Angeles and one of the leading builders of Torah in the city; Rav Reuven who, together with his wife, is known as a prominent baalei chesed and Torah supporter in Los Angeles; his daughter Rebbetzin Sugarman, the wife of HaRav Yehoshua Moshe Sugarman; his daughter Rebbetzin Drebbin, who founded and for 30 years ran the Bais Yaakov School in Toronto; and dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren engaged in lives of Torah and mitzvos.


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