Losing a Rebbe, Losing a Father // Remembering Rav Yechiel Perr, Rosh Yeshivah of the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway

The yeshivah world and the community of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns find themselves in deep mourning after the petirah of the rosh yeshivah of the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, Rav Yechiel Yitzchak Perr, at the end of last week. The Rosh Yeshivah, who was 89, placed his individual stamp on the world of Torah and mussar for decades and was a central figure in the establishment of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns as a community of bnei Torah and talmidei chachamim.

The Rosh Yeshivah combined a number of disparate elements in his personal chinuch and in what he gave to his talmidim. A son and grandson of respected rabbanim in New York and Canada, Rav Perr initially learned in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin. From there, went to Lakewood and became a talmid muvhak of Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l. After his marriage to his rebbetzin Shoshana, who is a daughter of Rav Yehuda Leib Nekritz, a granddaughter of Rav Avraham Joffen, and a great-granddaughter of the Alter of Novardok, Rav Perr immersed himself in the mussar teachings of Novardok.
At the levayahs on Sunday in Far Rockaway and Monday in Eretz Yisrael, the maspidim included Rav Yisrael Reisman, Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rav Binyamin Carlebach, Rav Yaakov Bender, Rav Moshe Brown and Rav Perr’s sons and talmidim.
There were several elements that many of the maspidim mentioned. The Rosh Yeshivah’s unique and startling insights went along with his powerful curiosity, as described by his son Rav Moshe Perr, who is now taking on the role of rosh yeshivah. Many of the maspidim in Eretz Yisrael mentioned his striving for emes, which went along with that curiosity.
Rav Yaakov Bender and Rav Malkiel Kotler noted the way in which the Rosh Yeshivah opened the world of his rebbeim and the gedolim of Europe to his talmidim, despite the fact that Rav Perr was born and raised in the US. The fact that he had come to a neighborhood where people were suspicious of bnei Torah and not only allayed their suspicions but made those very people into bnei Torah was remarked upon. It has changed the face of the whole area and redirected entire generations.
Perhaps one of the most poignant points made about Rav Perr was the description of how the Rosh Yeshivah influenced and changed the lives of his talmidim and those in the community who learned from him—and how his loss leaves them both bereft but also full of a new purpose: to carry on the lessons they learned from him. Menachem Kleinkaufman, his oldest grandson, told Ami that the outpouring of grief he has heard from those whose lives the Rosh Yeshivah affected with his wisdom has been couched in terms of love, as in the loss of a paternal figure.

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