02 Feb REMEMBERING RABBI DR. ABRAHAM J. TWERSKI ZT”L
Klal Yisrael suffered a great loss this past Sunday with the petirah of Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski z”l. Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski zt’l , a prolific author, prominent lecturer and trailblazing psychiatrist whose work on addiction, self esteem and other mental health issues was years ahead of its time died today of COVID at Laniado Hospital in Israel at the age of 90. Rabbi Twerski zt’l was a direct descendant of the Chernobyler and Sanzer dynasties and was able to trace his family tree all the way back to the Baal Shem Tov. He was highly respected in both the Torah and the secular worlds for his work, skillfully weaving a Judaic perspective into hard-hitting issues including addiction, depression, chemical dependency, stress and other sensitive areas. He founded both the Pennsylvania-based Gateway Rehabilitation Center and the Shaar Hatikvah rehabilitation center for Israeli prisoners and served as the clinical director of Pittsburgh’s St. Francis Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of medicine. Rabbi Twerski was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and enrolled in the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago (now located in Skokie, Illinois) and received semicha in 1951. In 1953 he enrolled at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, and subsequently graduated from its medical school in 1960, after which he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps by counseling those in crisis but understanding a societal preference for licensed professionals, the then-Rabbi Twerski went to medical school to earn a degree in psychiatry. Having failed to qualify for a scholarship, Rabbi Twerski found himself months behind on his tuition by his third year of medical school, his financial crisis alleviated when television star Danny Thomas paid his $4,000 outstanding bill after reading a news story about a young rabbi who was struggling to pay for his schooling. Having spent so many years working with those suffering from various addictions, Rabbi Dr. Twerski jokingly noted on many occasions that he was addicted to writing. In addition to writing on purely psychiatric topics, Rabbi Dr. Twerski wrote many Jewish books as well, with ArtScroll having 50 of his titles in their current catalog. Rabbi Dr. Twerski also collaborated with Peanuts comic strip creator Charles Schulz on several titles which sold well in the United States and were hugely popular in Japan where Charlie Brown and his loyal beagle Snoopy are beloved characters. Rabbi Twerski’s medical career included Gateway Rehabilitation Center, Pittsburgh, which he founded and serves as medical director emeritus, clinical director of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, and founder of the Shaar Hatikvah rehabilitation center for prisoners in Israel. He was co-rov of Congregation Beth Jehudah with his father until 1959. During this time, he composed the famous tune for “Hoshea es Amecha,” which became popular across the world. Rabbi Twerski’s clinical career specialized in addiction and much of his popular writing concerned self-improvement and ethical behavior. He merged mussar and haskafah in his Twelve-Step Program with ideas from clinical psychology. Rabbi Twerski is a prolific writer of Jewish books and delivered thousands of shiurim. Rabbi Twerski is featured in dozens of YouTube videos tackling a variety of topics, some dating back over a decade ago while several were released just a few months ago. His brothers are Reb Aaron Twerski, the Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, as well as a former Dean and professor of tort law at Hofstra University Law School; Rav Michel Twerski, the Hornosteipler Rebbe of Milwaukee; the late Rav Shloime Twerski, the previous Hornosteipler Rebbe of Denver; and the late Rav Mordechai Dov Ber Twerski of New York. The levayah was held in Beit Shemesh late Sunday night. In his tzavaah, Rabbi Twerski zt’l wrote that there should be no hespedim – an item he emphasized by circling five times – but, per another request in his tzavaah, as mourners carried the mittah to kevurah, they sang his famous song, “Hoshia Es Amecha,” which Rabbi Twerski had composed in honor of the weddings of his twin brothers, Rabbis Michel and Aaron, who got married several weeks apart in 1960. Rabbi Twerski once told his nephew Labe the reasoning behind this seemingly strange request to have the song sung at his levayah: “I know that this song brought simcha to many Yidden, and I hope that will be a zechus for me in Shamayim.” Rabbi Twerski zt’l is survived by his second wife, Gail; brothers Rabbis Michel and Aaron; three sons, one daughter, and many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.
Yehi zichro boruch.