Agudath Israel of America will pay tribute to three renowned
Torah activists at its upcoming 79th Annual Dinner, to be
held May 20 at the New York Hilton Hotel.
The organization's Rabbi Aharon Kotler Memorial Award will
be presented to Elly Kleinman, president and CEO of the
Americare Companies, a group of companies that are major
providers of home health and rehabilitation services
throughout 14 counties in New York State. A national officer
and member of the Vaad Hanhala of Agudath Israel of America,
Mr. Kleinman has participated in Agudath Israel missions to
Washington and served as a delegate on the Am Echad mission
to Eretz Yisroel. He is also actively involved in numerous
Torah and chesed institutions here and in Eretz
Yisroel, including Sinai Academy, Torah Academy of Brooklyn,
Yeshivas Hatalmud-Adelphia, Yeshivas Or Dovid-Yerushalayim,
Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Yoseph-Yerushalayim, Bikur Cholim of
Boro Park, and Hatzolah of Flatbush. Mr. Kleinman is an
active member of Bais Hamedrash Bais Yitzchok-Tenke in
Flatbush. He and his wife, Brochie, have three children and
The Reb Elimelech Tress Memorial Award will be presented to
Yossi Rakower, a well-known real estate professional and
community activist. Born in a DP camp in Germany, Mr.
Rakower came to America as a young child. He attended
Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vadaath, where he eventually
received smicha. In addition to his involvement in
various chesed institutions and Torah causes, Mr.
Rakower serves on the board of directors of Shuvu and is
involved in a number of American yeshivas for Russian
immigrants including Merkaz Kiriv. He has also helped
sponsor the publication of various Russian- translation
seforim. Mr. Rakower is an active member of K'hal
Bnei Shlomo Zalman-Vyelopoler in Flatbush. He and his wife,
Chanie have four children and two grandchildren.
Agudath Israel's Moreinu Yaakov Rosenheim Award will be
presented to Mendel Zilberberg, a prominent New York
attorney specializing in civil litigation with a
concentration on insurance coverage, real estate and
business matters. Mr. Zilberberg, who is dedicated to a wide
range of social issues affecting individuals and the
community as a whole, is a founder and member of the board
of Invei Hagefen -- the shidduch agency sponsored by
N'shei Agudath Israel together with Agudath Israel of
America -- and maintains an active involvement in various
Gerrer mosdos, including Yeshiva Yagdil Torah and
Yeshiva Gedolah. Mr. Zilberberg also serves on the board of
Project Y.E.S. -- Agudah's program for at-risk teens -- and
is a member of the executive committee of AARTS. Mr.
Zilberberg davens at Bnei Avrohom -- Kopishnitz in
Borough park, where he resides with his wife, Zissy, and his
Avodas Hakodesh Award for Community Service will be
presented to Aharon Akselrud, Rabbi Yaakov Hoenig, Dr.
Maurice (Moshe) Katz, Joseph Lomner, Abe Newman and Israel
Werdyger. Mordechai Biser, ESQ. will be presented with
Agudath Israel's Wolf Friedman Young Leadership Award.
A retired Board of Education speech therapist now in
private practice, Mr. Akselrud is also a much sought-after
professional photographer. He is a member of two well-known
Flatbush kehillos -- K'hal Sasreigin and Toras
Chaim, where he serves as a gabbai. Also a resident
of Flatbush, Rabbi Hoenig serves as the Senior Chaplain in
the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of
Prisons. A volunteer for the Flatbush Chevra Kadisha and a
maggid shiur, Rabbi Hoenig is a member of the
Agudath Israel of Madison and Kerem Shlomo.
A successful businessman for over 40 years, Dr. Katz now
dedicates his time and effort to the task of educating young
people about the Holocaust. To that end, he teaches a fully
accredited college Holocaust Studies course to seniors at
the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway and lectures to audiences of all
ages in a wide variety of venues. Dr. Katz has been the
president of the Torah Academy for Girls in Far Rockaway
for more than 30 years.
Mr. Lomner is a retired chemist who now spends his days
volunteering at the Agudath Israel of America Archives,
where he serves as associate archivist. A long-time resident
of Washington Heights, Mr. Lomner is a member of both the
Washington Heights Agudah and K'hal Adath Jeshurun.
A teacher in the public school system, Mr. Newman was the
gabbai rishon of the Agudath Israel of Staten Island
for over 16 years. Mr. Newman is well-known in his community
for his active involvement in shul matters as well as
his commitment to youth activities.
Mr. Werdyger is a travel professional specializing in travel
services for corporate America. In addition to devoting much
of his time to the local Bikur Cholim and Ezer Nesuin -- an
organization that assists needy newlywed couples -- Mr.
Werdyger is actively involved in Igud Mosdos Gur in America
and Ichud Mosdos Gur in Eretz Yisroel. Mr. Werdyger is a
member of the Gerrer shteibel in Borough Park.
As Agudath Israel of America's associate general counsel,
Rabbi Biser works on legal and political issues that affect
the Orthodox community. An alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim
Berlin, Rabbi Biser learns and davens at Kollel Bnei
Torah during the week.
Says Agudath Israel's director of special projects, Rabbi
Yonah Feinstein, "Each awardee is a unique `Reb Yisroel' who
by virtue of his kochos and nefesh, his
personal capabilities and his extraordinary dedication has
made a real difference in Klal Yisroel."
The Rabbi Moshe Sherer Memorial Award will be presented to
Rabbi Chaskel O. Besser at the upcoming Agudath Israel
dinner, to be held several days after the third yahrtzeit
of the legendary Agudah leader. One of Rabbi Sherer's
most trusted confidants, Rabbi Besser worked closely with
the organization's late president for more than 50 years,
devoting his spiritual and physical energies to the cause of
Rabbi Besser was born in Poland, where he attended the
Radomsker Yeshiva Keter Torah. He escaped Europe on the very
day the Second World War broke out, settling in Eretz
Yisroel. There, he met and married his Jerusalem- born wife
Ahuva, and developed close and enduring relationships with
the Presburger Rav, the Tchebiner Rav and the Ponevezher
After the war, Rabbi Besser moved to the United States and
became active in Agudath Yisroel, serving first as the
organization's vice president and later as a member of its
presidium -- a title he holds to this very day. Rabbi Besser
credits both the Chazon Ish and Rabbi Izhak Meir Lewin for
encouraging him to dedicate his life to klal work.
The rav of Congregation Bnei Israel Chaim in Manhattan,
Rabbi Besser is a founding chairman of the Daf Yomi
Commission, a member of the U.S. Commission for the
Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, the American
president of Bikur Cholim Hospital of Jerusalem, and
chairman for Eastern Europe for the Ronald S. Lauder
Foundation -- to name but a few of his many distinguished
titles. Rabbi Besser and his wife reside on the Upper West
Side of Manhattan.
The dedication of Agudath Israel of America's new Rabbi
Moshe Sherer National Headquarters will also take place at
the upcoming dinner -- the first major event sponsored by
the Agudah since moving from its 84 William Street address
to new, substantially larger offices at 42 Broadway. The
dinner will feature a special tribute to the many Agudath
Israel supporters and lifelong friends of Rabbi Moshe
Sherer, zt"l, whose generous endowments helped make
the new national headquarters a reality.