The Helige Detroiter
A Pillar of Chesed comes to America
On July 7, 1923, כ”ד תמוז תרפ”ג, Harav Hatzadik Rav Yaakov Chaim Perlow, born in 1888, the son of Harav Yisroel the Rebbe of Stolin, came to America. There were already many Stoliner Chassidim in the USA. The cream of the crop Chassidim, many who were in the audience by the Bais Aharon, Harav Aharon of Karlin, davened in the East Side in Manhattan at 48 Orchard St. Reb Nisson Pilchick related to us the impact that their עבודת התפילה had on him. The Rebbe, got to work on many chesed projects together with the Rebbitzin Chana Chaya.
Builds a Shul and Home for Chesed
The Rebbe yearned to have a large Shul as well as adequate space for his chesed. The Rebbe made a trip to Detroit where many rich chassidim lived and there he raised $7000 which was enough to buy two buildings 159 and 161 Rodney St. One building was renovated into the big Shul and one three story building became his residence and a home for his chesed.
It is told of a Yid who dropped off his sick son at the doorstep of the Rebbe who cared for the sick person and after a few weeks when he was well, the father came to pick him up without even saying thank you. The father understood that the home of the Rebbe was for healing sick people just for the sake of chesed.
The Rebbe had an entire floor for all types of homeless people. The Rebbe had only one request: All guests must leave their shoes at the doorstep. The Rebbe then inspected the shoes and the shoes that needed repairs were sent to a private shoemaker who fixed them and brought them back to the door step. Everything was done in a discreet manner. They couple began to work tirelessly to open a kitchen for all the poor Yidden.
The Rebbe had a history of being a Baal Chesed and that is why his heilige father agreed he come to America. They didn’t rest a moment and were always busy helping another Yid. In those days when the economy was very bad it was common that the landlords evicted many Yidden who couldn’t pay the rent. The Rebbe teamed up with the Boyaner Rebbe and the Kapitchnitzer Rebbe to raise thousands of dollars to pay for rent, electric bills, and other expenses for people that needed. Food was scarce so the Rebbe paid for that too. He was also instrumental in helping Yeshivas to cover their payroll.
There is so much more that can be told of their chesed. The Rebbe was the back bone of the Vaad Ha’ezra to help Rabbinim during the war, as well as the Agudas Ha’admorim to help Rebbes settle in America. He received thousands of letters from Europe for all kinds of help, and he never turned down anyone. There was not a person that didn’t have a fond memory of the Rebbe, always with a smile and his extra ordinary Ahavas Yisrael.
The Rebbe himself lived very plain. All his seforim were in crates as to buy a bookcase was a waste of money.. The money can be used to help another Yid. Whenever Hagaon Reb Shlome Heiman needed some obscure sefer, the Rebbe somehow had it. The Tolna Rebbe who resided in Montreal at the time was desperatly looking one Erev Shabbos for the sefer Meor Vashemesh. The Stoliner Rebbe came to visit then and the Tolna Rebbe was in seventh heaven when the Stoliner Rebbe took out the sefer which was in the wooden crate that the Rebbe took along with him.
His Chesed was great but the Rebbe still managed to learn many hours a day and nights.
Hundreds of Bachurim at the Table
His Shabbos table was filled with guests and the Stoliner Shul on 161 Rodney St. in Williamsburg became a dining room after davening on Friday night, with hundreds of boys who learnt in Yeshiva eating at his table, including many bochurim from Torah V’daas. The Rebbe and the Rebbitzin were the host and parents to all. The Simcha and delight on the boys’ faces was obvious.
A Home for all
Being the only Chassidishe Tish in Williamsburg, the Rebbe’s personal Tish drew many Yidden from all different types of Chassidus. The Rebbe showed great respect toward all the guests with ניגונים and ספורי צדיקים that the Tish was ממש מאין עולם הבא. It ran until the wee hours of Friday Night. Since it ended so late, the Rebbe would start davening at 10 am to give the Chassidim a chance to rest and regain their strength and stamina so they could deliver a Stoliner davening with the usual screaming and geshmak. The shul also was a welcome home for many Chassidishe Yidden who came from Europe, as there weren’t any Rebbes in Williamsburg at that time. Here they found the warmth they were craving.
The Rebbe was a special maven in music and had a great musical ear. He played the violin and saxaphone. He introduced many niggunim as he had music notes from the past Rebbes and composers which he brought along from Stolin in Europe. Every year before Rosh Hashana as the Minhag is in Stolin, the Rebbe introduced 6 new songs to be sung during the ימים נוראים. Rav Ben Zion Shenker frequented the Tish and was very close to the Rebbe. He sat with Rebbe on Friday afternoon reviewing and helping him with reading the stack of music notes.
The Rebbe was a great Baal Tefilah who brought teshuva to those who heard his Davening. Such a Mesikus!
Mariam’ke, the wife of Volf Aba Bigman, who was by the Heilige Bais Aron from Karlin was a Chassidista and when the Rebbetzin Chana Chaya passed away in 1939, she took over the housekeeping and cooking.
One day while walking up the steps of the Rebbe’s house at 159 Rodney St., she slipped and tumbled down the steps. She was around 90 years old then and she lost consciousness and looked as if she had passed away. One of the Chassidim ran up to the Rebbe to ask him to pray for Mariam’ke. The Rebbe smiled and told the chossid to whisper in her ears:”The Rebbe wants you to make a kugel for him!” Those words revived her and she got up as if nothing happened to her.
The Rebbe led the Chassidim for 23 years. He travelled to many cities to spread Yiddishkeit and to raise money. He visited Bangor, Maine, Chicago, St. Louis, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit. It was there in Detroit while visting his Chassidim, that his untimely passing at the age of 58, 6 days in Iyar 1946, took place. After mincha on ו’ אייר he simply said “the time has come”, put his head down and his Heiligeh Neshama passed on. There was a question as to where to bury the Rebbe but when they opened his suitcase and saw that the Rebbe had prepared and brought along his Tachrichim -burial clothes- they understood that the Rebbe chose Detroit as his resting place. Until today the Stoliner Chassidim and Yidden in Detroit visit the Heilige Tzion on ו’ אייר. Hence, the Rebbe is known as “The Detroiter” זיע”א. The Rebbe didn’t leave over any children but his Chesed and good name will always be remembered along with the Rebbetzin who passed away 16 days in Cheshvon 1939.
May the Rebbe be a מליץ יושר for all as he was a Pillar of Chesed and Ahavas Yisrael to all. זכותו יגן עלינו ועל כל ישראל אמן