The sad news of the decease of Rabbi Shmuel Yosef Freidenson reached Eretz Yisroel from New York. He was niftar on Shabbos parshas Tetzaveh, 13 Adar. The departed, a Gerrer chossid, age 91 at his death, was one of the most veteran writers of chareidi Jewry, besides having held the office of secretary-general of Agudath Israel for the past sixty years and serving as editor in chief of the Agudah Yiddish newspaper, Dos Yiddishe Vort. His funeral took place on Sunday in Jerusalem, where he was buried on Har Hamenuchos.
Rabbi Freidenson was born in Lodz, in Nisan, 5682 (1922) to his father, R' Eliezer Gershon Freidenson Hy"d, a foremost Gerrer chossid, one of the founders of the Bais Yaakov movement in Poland, and of the network of the Agudath Yisroel Yesodei HaTorah chadorim in Poland. Many gedolei Torah availed themselves of the generous hospitality of his father, a close chossid of the Imrei Emes Gerrer Rebbe, when they visited Lodz.
As a boy he attended the cheder in Lodz, and being blessed with unique capabilities, was subsequently accepted as a student in Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, where he applied himself diligently until the outbreak of World War Two. He fled to Warsaw with his parents and siblings, where they were herded into the Warsaw ghetto for the duration of the war. He married into the Zilberman family from Shidlovtza, Poland. He was caught attempting to flee the ghetto and incarcerated in a hard labor camp and sent to Auschwitz in 5704. He was also imprisoned in the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp until liberated by the American forces.
His wife was also miraculously spared and the family was reunited after the war. They lived in Germany for several years, where they were instrumental in the rehabilitation of war refugees. He arranged many matches and thus established many fine Jewish homes among the broken and crushed survivors.
Rabbi Freidenson emigrated to the U.S. in 5711 and very soon joined the many activities of Agudath Yisroel during the tenure of Rabbi Michael Press, as a carry-over from his parents' home. Before long, R' Shmuel Yosef became one of the outstanding Yiddish writers and thinkers and one of the leading Holocaust historians.
In prewar in Poland, his father was one of heads of Das Yiddishe Vort and the Bais Yaakov literary publication, and R' Shmuel Yosef decided to revive it as an Agudath Israel project, making him, in effect, the chief spokesman of the movement and of chareidi Jewry in America.
It was no easy feat to reestablish this publication. In honor of the recent Agudah convention which took place in Teves, he published a special issue which required tremendous effort on his part, due to his advanced age and unstable state of health.
Over many decades, he wrote thousands of articles about the perpetuity of the Jewish people, so remarkable after the Holocaust; it was a favorite topic for the many speeches he held in yeshivos and day schools. He told stories of great courage and fortitude, of Kiddush Hashem and of miracles during that period in history.
Rabbi Freidenson was a pleasant man, beloved and respected by all. He participated in all the Agudah assemblies and meetings, worked tirelessly alongside the heads of the Agudah and served as Rabbi Moshe Sherer's right hand man for dozens of years. He attended the meetings of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah as well, and his opinion was highly regarded.
His wife passed away in 5767 and was buried on Har Hamenuchos. He remarried, and his distinguished wife served devotedly by his side ever since.
He participated in the Siyum HaShas this past summer together with one hundred thousand Jews, arriving at the stadium extremely overcome with emotion on the impressive occasion, having written already so much about Polish Jewry and their bond with the Daf Hayomi. Not only had he attended all the previous siyumim but had even participated in the Agudah congresses before the War.
Perhaps the excitement was too much for him, because he collapsed in the middle of the event and was rushed off to the hospital, never to fully recover. In spite of his weakness, however, he did manage to put out a special issue of his popular publication, which was very well received by its large readership that spans the entire continent. He returned his soul to his Maker this past Shabbos, and his remains were accompanied to Kennedy airport by many friends, family and admirers.
No eulogies were delivered because of Purim and only brief words of parting were said at the funeral leaving from Shamgar to Har Hamenuchos.