12 Jan REMEMBERING RABBI YEHUDA KELEMER ZT”L
My heart is broken, along with thousands of others, at the loss of my morah d’asrah Rabbi Yehuda Kelemer zt”l. I was blessed to grow up in West Hempstead, NY when it was still a small town and we were a very close-knit community. Rabbi Kelemer was at the epicenter of our lives and we turned to him for everything – torah, advice, compassion, leadership. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that he was truly one of the greatest of the greats, the purest of the pure, a genius among torah giants, and one of the most humble people I have ever met. Someone pointed out that in West Hempstead, no one sat around the Shabbat table speaking lashon hara about the rabbi. It is true – there was literally nothing to criticize, nothing to complain about, nothing to question. Everything he said and did was to make our community a home of torah, chessed and goodness, and everything he said and did came from a pure and noble place. No one questioned his intentions because we had no doubt that they were always good. For me, Rabbi Kelemer was synonymous with the neilah service on Yom Kippur. As the community grew, so did the number of minyanim on Yom Kippur, and every year I would hold my breath and hope that Rabbi Kelemer would be leading the neilah service in our minyan. When Rabbi Kelemer davened neilah, I closed my eyes and could see the gates of Heaven opening up as he beseeched Gd on our behalf, begging for another year. He had the purest voice of an angel – anyone who has ever heard him daven can attest to it – and I knew that if Gd would listen to anyone, it would be to him. As I got older, I would just go to whichever neilah minyan Rabbi Kelemer was leading, that is how powerful and personal it was for me. It truly was one of the greatest privileges in my life to be in Rabbi Kelemer’s presence when he davened neilah, and to this day I close my eyes every Yom Kippur during neilah and transport myself back to West Hempstead, listening to his angelic voice leading the davening, and imagining the gates of Heaven opening for all of us in his zechut. My sincerest condolences go out to Rebbetzin Kelemer and the entire Kelemer family. We are mourning with you, crying with you, and praying that Rabbi Kelemer zt”l will be a meilitz yosher in shamayim and continue to beseech G-d on our behalf just as he did here on earth. יהי זכרו ברוך Yehi zichro baruch.