Twenty thousand mourners converged in the streets in front of Mesivta Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn Monday afternoon to express their grief and sorrow at the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, the dean of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, a senior member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) of Agudath Israel of America, and one of the foremost authorities on Jewish law and practice.
Kamenetzky, 95, died in Baltimore early Monday morning, and word of his passing quickly spread among the broad masses of Orthodox Jewry who looked to him as a beacon of Torah scholarship, authority and wisdom.
Kamenetzky was born in the small town of Dolhinev, near Minsk, Poland, in 1891. While yet a young child he gained a reputation as an illui (genius) in Torah learning. He studied in the world famous Slobodka Yeshiva, in the suburbs of Kovno. He remained in Slobodka close to 30 years, many of them spent in the Kovno Kollel (advanced Talmudic institute), which at the time included some of the greatest young Torah scholars in Europe.
Subsequently, Kamenetzky became the rabbi of Tzitevyan in Poland, where he brought up his young family. Seeing, however, the storm clouds of World War II beginning to gather, he decided to move to America. After a brief period in Seattle, he became Chief Rabbi in Toronto, where he remained for several years. In 1945, Kamenetzky became dean of Mesivta Torah Vodaath in New York, where he remained affiliated until his death.
Besides his formal and informal counsel to thousands, Kamenetzky was long active as a prime rabbinic authority and supporter of the work of Agudath Israel of America, having served several decades on the movement’s Presidium and many years as a member of its Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.
Kamenetzky become seriously ill some two years ago, and succumbed Monday as a result of heart complications. He was buried in the Mt. Judah Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens, New York.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.