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Remembering Rabbi Gutnick Z"L

17/05/2018 12:18:09 PM


Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Hakohen Gutnick, who served as Chief Rabbi of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, Rosh Yeshivah, Chabad Rabbi and Av Beth Din of Melbourne Beth Din passed away.

Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Hakohen Gutnick, who served as Chief Rabbi of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation and later as Rabbi Emeritus and Av Beth Din of Melbourne Beth Din, a senior Chabad Rabbi in Australia who was instrumental in building and leading the community's institutions, passed away at the age of 94 on Wednesday night, 25 Iyar 5778.

Born in Russia in 1924, he was 3 years old when his family escaped the KGB and immigrated to the Holy Land of Israel where they lived in Chevron. One year later the family were sent by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn to London, England, where his father Rabbi Mordechai Zev Hakohen Gutnick, a Tomim of Lubavitch – one of the original select students of the Lubavitch
Yeshivah-, served as the first Shliach to London until his passing in 1931, at the age of 35.

Rabbi Sholom Gutnick attended the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, studying there for 8 years and was known as a tremendous Masmid. He received Semicha and Dayanus from such Gedolim as Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky-Senior Dayan of the London Beth Din, Rabbi Nachman Shlomo Greenspan – Rosh Yeshivah Etz Chaim Yeshivah London, Rabbi Binyominson - the Zhlobiner Rav and Rabbi Rabinow and the famed Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian.

After the war, in 1946, he took up the position as teacher at the Yeshiva in Montreux, Switzerland. A year later, upon returning to
London in 1947, Rabbi Gutnick was appointed as the Rabbi of the Chevra Shas Shul in London's East End. He gave many lectures and Torah classes to students and working people.

In 1948 he travelled with his mother and step father Rabbi Osher Abramson to New York, and during a Yechidus – private audience, with the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, he was told that he should travel to Australia to spread Yiddishkeit there. He immediately travelled to Sydney, Australia with his mother and step father, where he gave Gemara shiurim and lectured to y
oung professionals whilst at the same time studying at the Sydney University where he gained his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy.

In 1952, he married Devorah Feiglin OBM and they settled in Melbourne, where he became one of the most influential Rabbis in Australia.

Rabbi Gutnick was one of the main driving forces behind the establishment of many of Melbourne’s Orthodox institutions. He was instrumental in the establishment of the fledgling Yeshivah in Burwood that was later transferred to its current home at 92 Hotham Street in East St Kilda. The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged his involvement in the Yeshivah with dozens of letters. He was appointed one of the first Roshei Yeshivah to teach there. His teaching skills were extraordinary and still to this day many students recount how they remember with clarity his shiurim. The Rebbe once wrote to him that his Neshama's Shlichus – Soul’s Mission- in this world was to be involved in that Yeshivah. He taught there for over 50 years.

The Rebbe encouraged him to write Chiddushei Torah- Torah insights- and instructed him to speak at the Kinnus Torahs – Torah Gatherings- in New York.

After his marriage in 1952, he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, a haven for European Jewry after the war, and he together with his Rebbetzin and its founding members were instrumental in establishing and growing what would become the largest Shul in Australia. The Shul was later renamed ‘Ahavas Sholom’ in honour of their beloved Rabbi. The Lubavitcher Rebbe instructed him to accept the appointment, on condition that it would not interfere with his teaching at the Yeshivah. Rabbi Gutnick served there as Chief Rabbi for over 43 years nurturing and growing one of the largest Shul memberships in Australia. He was instrumental in establishing after school Cheders for children attending public schools, Youth clubs, and Sunday morning Tefillin clubs. He launched the Caulfield Shul ‘Kollel Tiferes Zekainim’, a Kollel where he taught Torah to retired people for three hours each weekday. He celebrated at thousands of Jewish life Cycle events for members of the Australian Jewish Community.

In 1953, he was appointed as a Dayan and later as Av Beth Din of the Melbourne Beth Din, where he served for almost 50 years. While serving at this post he corresponded with many great Rabbis and Gedolei Yisroel.

In 1968, the Yeshiva Gedolah – Rabbinical College - of Melbourne was established, and the Rebbe requested of Rabbi Gutnick that he involve himself in the growth and strengthening of the Yeshivah Gedolah which was small at the time.

The Rebbe gave Rabbi Gutnick many Kiruvim, in 1969 just prior to an extended trip to Europe and Israel, he had a Yechidus -
private audience- with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Rebbe asked h
im to be his ambassador to Italy, France and Israel. The Rebbe instructed him to speak and to encourage the Chabad Shluchim- Emissaries there.

Rabbi Gutnick was an extremely gifted orator, and a person who was known to always uplift others around him. He was active in all aspects of Judaism in communities throughout Australia, traveling around Australia and Tasmania to spread Yiddishkeit.

He was involved in the
Rebbe’s Mivtzoim Campaigns, and made the first "Sukkah mobile" in Australia. In one private audience with the Rebbe he shared with the Rebbe a story that happened with him involving Mivtzah Tefillin, and the Rebbe responded by telling him several stories of how the Mivtzah of Tefillin had influenced entire families and brought them back to Yiddishkeit.

He is survived by his children R' Motty Gutnick - Melbourne, R' Meyer Gutnick - Crown Heights, R' Moshe Gutnick - Los Angeles and R' Yossi Gutnick - Melbourne, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Fri, 24 May 2024 16 Iyyar 5784