Rabbi Elyakim Getzel Rosenblatt zt”l was a unique individual who left a tremendous impact on so many of his talmidim and on our community. His first yahrzeit was this past Sunday night. The event to commemorate his yahrzeit has been postponed due to the pandemic. Baruch Hashem, we had this incredible gadlus right here in Queens for so many years. There are not adequate words to express his accomplishments and his sterling midos. Woven into this biography are stories about Rabbi Rosenblatt that demonstrate who he was.
Rabbi Rosenblatt was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in 1933 and attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin Elementary School and Chaim Berlin High School. Brownsville at that time was a center of Judaism.
He was greatly influenced by his grandfather Avraham Dovid Rosenblatt zt”l who was an “everything man.” He was the shochet, the baal t’kiah, baal t’filah, etc. Rabbi Rosenblatt’s mother Sarah was a Dubrow and the daughter of Lubavitcher chasidim. Her father was the Lubavitch rav of Kesher Israel in Georgetown, Washington, DC. His father was Yechiel Michel. Rabbi Rosenblatt has two younger siblings, Chanah Leah (Rosenblatt) Kuritsky and Zev Wolf Rosenblatt.
Rabbi Rosenblatt was also greatly influenced by the shul where he grew up, Rayim Ahuvim. This was a place where people came to learn after their Friday night meal. Every week, another rebbe came to speak, and the focus in this shul was learning. These rebbeim all stayed at Rabbi Rosenblatt’s father’s home because they trusted his kashrus. So, as a boy growing up, he met and became acquainted with all these visiting rebbeim and he absorbed a love and appreciation of learning Torah, which was his trademark.
The shul had a Pirchei minyan for children, and the children led the davening. Rabbi Rosenblatt also learned his way of leading davening there.
After high school, he attended the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland for six months and then he went to learn at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Williamsburg under the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l. Rabbi Rosenblatt developed a strong kesher with Rav Henoch.
At a certain point, he left Chofetz Chaim because he wanted a dorm, and he went to learn in Lakewood under the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l. He learned in Lakewood from 1951 to 1958 and he developed a strong bond with Rav Aharon. In Lakewood, Rabbi Rosenblatt’s roommate and chavrusa was Rav Hillel Zaks zt”l. Rabbi Rosenblatt was also close with Rav Dov Schwartzman. While he was learning in Lakewood, he maintained his strong connection to Rav Henoch, as Rav Henoch and his rebbetzin used to come to Lakewood and Rabbi Rosenblatt spent a lot of time with them. Rabbi Rosenblatt would record Rav Aharon’s shmuzim on his reel to reel recorder, and Rav Henoch would come to Rabbi Rosenblatt’s dorm to listen to the recordings. Rav Aharon would also listen to recordings that Rabbi Rosenblatt made of Rav Henoch’s shmuzim.
There are many wonderful stories of Rabbi Rosenblatt while he was learning in Lakewood. Below are a few special ones.
When Rabbi Rosenblatt was learning in Lakewood, there were 75 bachurim and he was appointed the “veker,” which meant that he woke people for minyan. He woke them up by singing a Meleetzer nigun in the hallways every morning.
Then, he would prepare tea for Rav Aharon with one sugar cube. Next, he would return for the second waking in the hallways and sing again. He would then return to Rav Aharon, who had by that time finished his tea and then he would escort him to Yeshiva.
Another story happened when Rabbi Rosenblatt was still aged 19 or 20. The usual chazan at the Lakewood Yeshiva for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur was unable to daven. Rav Aharon asked Rabbi Rosenblatt to be the chazan. Every person in the Yeshiva at that time was a future leader of klal Yisrael, included Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita and Rav Meir Hershkowitz shlita. Rabbi Rosenblatt was in trepidation of doing this.
There was a group of talmidim who went to Rav Aharon and suggested a married person who should lead the davening, but Rav Aharon said, “No, Reb Getzel Rosenblatt.” They didn’t understand. They said they had this guy and Getzel’s a bachur. Rav Aharon said, “I want Rosenblatt.” That was the end of the story.
When Rabbi Rosenblatt was learning in Lakewood, he met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach zt”l and they would learn together. Rabbi Carlebach had already left the Yeshiva but he came back to learn during summer z’man and on Shabbasos. Rabbi Carlebach was a rav in a shul in New Jersey at that time. He used to say to Rabbi Rosenblatt, “Getzela, you join me, and we’ll turn over the world.”
One time, when Rabbi Carlebach was visiting during a sheva brachos, Rav Aharon pointed at Rabbi Rosenblatt to lead. Rabbi Rosenblatt pointed at Rabbi Carlebach. “Shlomo is here.” Rav Aharon answered back, “But, now you are the mara d’asra.”
During s’udah sh’lishis, Rav Aharon would point at three people to lead the singing. Rabbi Rosenblatt would start the singing, then Rabbi Michel Twersky shlita, and then Rav Levi Yitzchock Einhorn shlita.
One particular story that Rabbi Rosenblatt loved to retell was the following. One day, he passed by Rav Aharon’s office, and he saw Rav Aharon dancing in his small office. Rabbi Rosenblatt was puzzled. Why was Rav Aharon dancing by himself? Before he could say anything, Rav Aharon noticed Rabbi Rosenblatt and told him to call Chaim Epstein. Rabbi Rosenblatt waited to see what would happen. When Rabbi Epstein came out of the office, Rabbi Rosenblatt asked him what was going on. Rabbi Epstein explained that for 25 years the Rosh Yeshiva had a question on p’shat on a Biur HaGra in Choshen Mishpat. That minute he just figured it out. The Rav’s dancing demonstrated his tremendous joy in learning Torah.
The following story shows Rabbi Rosenblatt’s tremendous sensitivity. There was a minhag in the Yeshiva that bachurim would not become officially engaged without Rav Aharon’s blessing. When Rabbi Rosenblatt wanted to become engaged to his future wife, Trani Glicksman, daughter of Rabbi Chaim Meir who was a Bluzhover chasid and Batsheva (Trattner) who came from Boyaner chasidim, Rav Aharon was in the hospital in New York. Rav Schwartzman, Rav Aharon’s son-in-law, urged Rabbi Rosenblatt to go to New York and get the blessing from Rav Aharon. Rabbi Rosenblatt was hesitant as he didn’t want to bother the Rosh HaYeshiva when he was in the hospital. Rav Schwartzman told him, “Go right now and speak to him in the hospital.”
Rabbi Rosenblatt was hesitant. “I don’t want to bother the Rosh HaYeshiva when he’s not feeling well.”
“Go,” Rav Schwartzman said.
Rabbi Rosenblatt hesitantly decided to go and he made the trip from Lakewood to New York to the hospital. When he got there, he felt bad. He just couldn’t bring himself to bother the Rosh HaYeshiva, so he turned around and traveled back to Lakewood without the brachah.
Rav Schwartzman saw him and asked, “So, did you get the brachah?”
Rabbi Rosenblatt shook his head. “I couldn’t do it.”
Rav Schwartzman grabbed his coat. “Come on. You’re going back and I’m coming with you.” So, Rav Schwartzman accompanied Rabbi Rosenblatt back to New York and then he finally did get the brachah. This shows the delicate nature and sensitivity of Rabbi Rosenblatt, who would push off his own simchah not to bother Rav Aharon.
In 1958, Rabbi Rosenblatt married his eishes chayil, Trani, and they moved to Kew Gardens. Rabbi Rosenblatt once told this writer in an interview, “Baruch Hashem, my Rebbetzin Trani has been my partner in Torah over all of the years.”
He learned in the Kollel of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim. Next, he became a rebbe in the mesivta of Chofetz Chaim where he taught musar to a number of future rebbeim, including the current Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Rav Dovid Harris shlita. Rav Henoch trusted Rabbi Rosenblatt to teach musar to his students. Rabbi Rosenblatt eventually learned for the s’michah Yoreh Yoreh Yadin Yadin.
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt spent summers in New Hampshire with Rav Henoch. Rav Henoch’s style of learning had a profound effect on Rabbi Rosenblatt. He influenced his desire to spread Torah to as many people as possible. His unique style of learning is what was instituted at Yeshiva Kesser Torah.
Rabbi Rosenblatt was urged by his students in the late 1960s to start Yeshiva Kesser Torah, which originated in Corona, Queens. The name came about like everything else about Kesser Torah – through pure hashgachah. Rabbi Rosenblatt was sitting with one of the bachurim in his study, trying to think of a name for the yeshivah, when he noticed a sefer facing him with the title Keser Torah. That was it! How fitting that the name was chosen in Corona, which actually means crown in Italian.
In the early 1970s, Rabbi Rosenblatt opened Yeshiva Kesser Torah in Briarwood, Queens, and then in 1980 he opened the dormitory. The rebbeim of Yeshiva Kesser Torah included many important rabbis, such as Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, Rabbi Rosenholz, Rabbi Yair Hoffman, Rabbi Leibel Rockove and others. Also, Rabbi Rosenblatt ran a Beth Jacob Seminary of Queens for Women and there would be guest speakers in Kew Gardens for women at the Rosenblatt home. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt were blessed with three wonderful children: Batsheva Rosenblatt Rothberg, Yaakov, and Moshe.
In the 1980s, Kesser Torah flourished, teaching Torah to many full-time bachurim who have all become part of the Kesser Torah family. Today, talmidim from the Yeshiva are living in communities all over, including Israel. Many talmidim teach Torah in their communities and have built beautiful batim ne’emanim. Many use Rabbi Rosenblatt’s parshah sheets, which they disseminate in their communities. Many former students call every Erev Shabbos.
In 1994, Rabbi Yair Hoffman, one of the Yeshiva’s rebbeim, urged Rabbi Rosenblatt to move the Yeshiva to Kew Gardens Hills so it could reach more people. Again, Rabbi Rosenblatt recalls amazing hashgachah. Rabbi Rosenblatt and Rabbi Hoffman were driving through Kew Gardens Hills one day, when Rabbi Hoffman spotted a hidden “For Sale” sign in front of a small house. Rabbi Rosenblatt realized that it was the perfect home for the Yeshiva. He paid a very small deposit and the house became the new home for Yeshiva Kesser Torah. The location proved to be perfect – smack in the middle of Kew Gardens Hills, between the mikvah and the library.
Yeshiva Kesser Torah is unique in our neighborhood as it bears the imprint of Rabbi Rosenblatt. He created a mekom Torah where everyone feels welcome. Sefardim, Ashkenazim, chasidim, beginners, everyone comes together here and there is a true feeling of achdus. Rabbi Rosenblatt always stressed that what is inside is what matters; he didn’t look for any emphasis on externals. A shul member shared, “Yeshiva Kesser Torah is a mirror of what Hashem wants, accepting all Jews and not judging by anything external.”
“Rabbi Rosenblatt wanted to create a place where Jews could talk to the Ribbono shel Olam,” Rabbi Henoch Savitsky shlita, rav of Machzikei Hadas, shared. Rabbi Rosenblatt did not want Kesser Torah to be called a minyan factory. It is a shul known for heartfelt, slow davening and minyanim throughout the day until very late at night. This special yeshivah hosts the most minyanim in the neighborhood. The Yeshiva and its shul reflect the warmth and caring of Rabbi Rosenblatt and his rebbetzin, Trani Rosenblatt. Yeshiva Kesser Torah is known for Rabbi Rosenblatt’s beautiful original nigunim and for a special warm nonjudgmental atmosphere. There is always a spirited dance at the end of davening on Shabbos morning, and even on the Shabbos right after his passing, with the community and shul members mourning, the men danced around the bimah as they knew Rabbi Rosenblatt would have wanted them to do.
“That’s the simple, the chasidishe Torahalach say…” Everyone misses Rabbi Rosenblatt’s special way of sharing a pasuk from the parshah and then stating a chasidishe Torahalach gem that would leave the listeners with a valuable life lesson.
Rabbi Rosenblatt wrote and arranged three original, professionally orchestrated music CDs. Yamim Nora’im davening was especially awe-inspiring, accompanied by Rabbi Rosenblatt’s original melodies. On Shabbos morning during the kiddush, Rabbi Rosenblatt shared chasidishe Torah that illustrated valuable lessons on the parshah. Rabbi Rosenblatt would share the pasuk from the parshah and then state, “That’s the simple, the chasidishe Torahalach say…”
Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlita, rav of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok, stated, “When a leader of a community, the rav of a k’hilah dies, it’s a tragedy for the entire community.” Rav Oelbaum met Rabbi Rosenblatt 45 years ago. “Rabbi Rosenblatt was an energetic, ambitious man of many talents. He was a talmid chacham, a rosh yeshivah, a magid shiur, a speaker, and a mashpia.” He was m’kareiv so many Jews to a life of Torah and mitzvos. He used all of his talents to give nachas to Hashem.” When a person has talents,” Rav Oelbaum taught, “he has a responsibility to use those talents to serve Hashem.” If he doesn’t use them to serve Hashem, then Hashem will take them away. Rabbi Rosenblatt quoted Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l, former Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, very frequently. Rav Henoch taught that “to succeed in being marbitz Torah you have to love Jews.” If you don’t have sensitivity to another Yid, you won’t succeed. Rav Oelbaum stressed, “You need ahavas ha’briyos. “Rabbi Rosenblatt loved Jews. This is why he established Yeshiva Kesser Torah. Look what he accomplished. Yeshiva Kesser Torah is a magnet attracting Jews from all different places and backgrounds. There are continuous minyanim here. This should be a nechamah for his soul.”
Rav Henoch Savitsky stated, “Rabbi Rosenblatt exuded ahavah to others. He had a smile for everyone. He greeted everyone who came into the yeshivah.” Rav Savitsky said that Rabbi Rosenblatt incorporated the three aspects taught in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos: Torah, avodah, and g’milas chasadim. Rabbi Rosenblatt had greatness in Torah, greatness in avodah, and greatness in g’milas chasadim. He recalled how Rabbi Rosenblatt taught that every person has to know his strengths. When there were sheva brachos or a community Yom Tov meal, Rabbi Rosenblatt would call each of his talmidim by the title “Reb” and ask him to say a vort. He held that everyone was capable of saying something. The Yeshiva had certain standards. The minhag is to daven slowly, and for men to wear a hat and jacket. “Rabbi Rosenblatt took the strength of n’ginah and used it for t’filah. You could feel every word of his davening.” One of Rabbi Rosenblatt’s favorite pieces of Gemara that he liked to share was the story of Rav P’rida who had to repeat a lesson to his student 400 times. One time, after repeating the lesson the requisite 400 times, the student was nervous that Rav P’rida was going to leave soon, so he couldn’t concentrate and the rav had to repeat the lesson another 400 times. Rabbi Rosenblatt was a great lamdan with a promising career in learning, but he would come bring down the Gemara to the level so that his talmidim could understand and he would explain it until he was sure they understood. He could have worked on his own brilliant learning, but he chose to use his talents to teach others. He and his rebbetzin helped so many people over the years.
Rav Dovid Harris shlita, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim spoke of Rabbi Rosenblatt’s sweetness, his lev tov, and his welcoming everyone with a panim yafos, a smile. He and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt had a close connection with Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l and his first rebbetzin. Rabbi Rosenblatt was influenced by Rav Henoch’s gentleness and eidelkeit and he was m’kabeil this and the focus of musar and to be marbitz Torah. “Rabbi Rosenblatt gave his life to spread Torah. He led a life of commitment to the tzibur.” He led a life of dedication and persistence with tremendous success in spreading Torah for families and generations. “The secret of this was the connection, the love.”
Rabbi Herschel Welcher shlita, rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisroel, shared that Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt are still connected to talmidim from 30 and 40 years ago. “The m’siras nefesh they had for klal Yisrael we have to celebrate today.” Rabbi Welcher shared: “It’s is sad that we can’t see his smile, and warmth, and friendliness. This place, Yeshiva Kesser Torah, is an ongoing z’chus, and the talmidim of the Yeshiva are an ongoing z’chus l’doros.”
Rav Aryeh Sokoloff shlita, rav of the Kew Gardens Synagogue, said, “I was drawn to his sincerity, his integrity, his extraordinary midos, and his ahavas Yisrael and the way his talmidim and baalei batim related to him like a father. It was extraordinary… Rav Dessler taught that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ means that after you do something for someone else, you put a piece of yourself into that person. That part I can love as much as me. Rabbi Rosenblatt was such an individual… He cared so much you could feel it. He had unbelievable, unconditional ahavah. It makes you feel good when someone cares for you like this.” Rabbi Sokoloff stated, “He was a walking kiddush Hashem. He was real. He was genuine. Pure emes. Pure ahavah. He was a role model. He was unusual, extraordinary.”
Yaakov Rosenblatt, son of Rabbi Rosenblatt, stated, “My father had no greater pleasure in the world than to uplift someone in Torah or t’filah. For him that was everything. He had a single purpose: to bring the warmth of Yiddishkeit to others. My father used to say, ‘Hashem should help us.’ So, Hashem should help us realize the strength each neshamah has and be able to help one another.” Both of Rabbi Rosenblatt’s sons mentioned how happy their father was to record his shiurim on TorahAnytime so more people could hear them. Rabbi Rosenblatt had a very serious health issue 12 years ago, and he recovered miraculously and continuously expressed his hakaras ha’tov to Hashem for his recovery. He was able to record 546 lectures for TorahAnytime over these past 12 years.
This writer’s family has felt a close connection to Yeshiva Kesser Torah and to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt for many years. It is with great sadness that I write this article. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rosenblatt have always treated us like family. They made sheva brachos for our children when they married. Kiddushim for the birth of our daughters and our son’s bar mitzvah all took place at Yeshiva Kesser Torah. Rabbi Rosenblatt always liked to share the story that our son was almost born at Kesser Torah literally. I remember once when I was running a Shabbaton and I had planned out meals and housing for 80 people, I became flustered when so many people arrived at once. I ended up spending almost 30 of the guests to the Rosenblatts for dinner and they graciously accepted them. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur davening with Rabbi Rosenblatt’s melodies were always so special, as were all the Yom Tov and Shabbos davenings.
Today, we feel the tremendous loss, but we also recognize the tremendous gift Hashem granted us to have Rabbi Rosenblatt in our midst. I feel so much gratitude to have known such a chashuve rav who had such a tremendous impact on our lives. My husband, Rabbi Avraham Dovid Garber, learned at Yeshiva Kesser Torah in the 1980s. We owe a tremendous hakaras ha’tov to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin and the Yeshiva for all they have done to help our family grow in Yiddishkeit.
The l’vayah can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com. You can listen to the uplifting hespeidim by the community rabbanim and family members. Rabbi Rosenblatt is survived by his wife Rebbetzin Trani Rosenblatt, his children – Mrs. Batsheva Rothberg, Yaakov Rosenblatt, and Moshe Rosenblatt – and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and his siblings – Mrs. Chana Kuritsky and Zev Rosenblatt.
Hashem should bless Yeshiva Kesser Torah that it should continue in the ways of Rabbi Rosenblatt. Rabbi Rosenblatt’s beautiful nigunim, his deep Torah teachings, the way he lived his life – his legacy lives on.
The Yeshiva is currently building a beis midrash in his memory. For donations towards this or for the daily operations of Yeshiva Kesser Torah, please visit www.YeshivaKesserTorah.org.
By Susie Garber