12 Jan REMEMBERING RABBI YEHUDA KELEMER ZT”L
When Rabbi Kelemer zt’l saw you, he would literally cross the road to greet you. He greeted everyone with a smile and a kind word and made you feel that you were the closest person to him. He spoke to you as though he had all the time in the world for you, even though he couldn’t possibly. Rabbi Kelemer was a unique individual who influenced every person who he ever met. It didn’t make a difference if you were the gadol hador or the custodian, Rabbi Kelemer made everyone feel loved and they loved him in return. Rabbi Kelemer knew volumes of Torah, but was modest about his knowledge. In a word, Rabbi Kelemer was a tzadik. Everyone has their own Rabbi Kelemer story and they all have a common theme: He went out of his way, but didn’t make it seem like a big deal, and he made every person feel special. He made every person feel as though they were the most important person to him. The highlight of living in West Hempstead has always been getting to know Rabbi Kelemer. A few years ago, Rabbi Kelemer was in a terrible accident and was in the hospital and then a rehab center for many months. I went to visit the Rabbi in the rehab center and as he was lying in his bed, he told me that it was a bracha that this accident happened to him. When I asked him why it was a bracha he told me that while he was in rehab, a different member of his family would come with their family each Shabbos to spend with him. He was able to focus on his children and their families in a way that he usually did not have the time for, as he was constantly involved with the kehilah and others’ needs. I will forever cherish the 10-15 minutes every Motzei Shabbos Rabbi Kelemer and I would speak immediately following Ma’ariv. We discussed the shiur he had just given between mincha and maariv, my family, and business matters. He was a role model when there are so few true role models in this world and was able to give advice to people in a way that they could understand and accept. Working in Brooklyn and the Catskills over the summer, Rabbi Kelemer always allowed me to be his shaliach mitzvah to deliver envelopes and packages to people in need. I would deliver packages to all different types of people and have no idea how Rabbi Kelemer even knew about these people. He would pay bills for almanahs, provide food and clothing for people in need, and help Rebbeim in Eretz Yisrael. When my father-in-law suddenly fell into a coma in Florida, Rabbi Kelemer was available by phone day and night to answer sheilahs and provide comfort. After my father-in-law passed away, Rabbi Kelemer always made sure to come to my home to visit with my mother-in-law, now an almanah, whenever she was visiting with us. It didn’t matter if it was raining or snowing or 100 degrees out, Rabbi Kelemer would go out of his way to make someone feel welcome in the community and to check in with them. When Rabbi Kelemer went to a levaya or shiva home, your pain became his pain. So too, when you had a simcha, it became his simcha, too. I remember how happy he was to be at my son’s hanachas tefillin and to share in the simcha of our son being able to do this mitzvah. He went out of his way to join us at our son’s yeshiva for the occasion, even though he didn’t have to. Our joy was his joy. On this last Simchas Torah, there was a scavenger hunt throughout the community for the children, which ended in front of Rabbi Kelemer’s home. There was a line around the block with children and parents waiting to speak to the Rabbi and his Rebbetzin. The Rabbi greeted each child, gave each one a Simchas Torah treat, and asked the child his or her name, which school he or she attended and then added something personal to connect with each child. Just as he made adults feel special, he treated each child with respect and made them feel special, too. I make sure to personally deliver the Jewish Vues to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin each erev Shabbos (and often a bag of popcorn or Shabbos treat, as well). The Rebbetzin always texts me a “Thank you and Gut Shabbos” and makes it seem that their Shabbos would not be complete without the paper. Rabbi Kelemer was always known for his consistency in his drashas. He always had his four questions for the Shabbos HaGadol and Shabbos Shuva drashas. On Motzei Pesach he would let us know which establishments were permissible to buy from right away; he would always say that we could buy anything from the local store Western Beef and the entire kehilah would answer “Except the beef!” He would encourage parents and grandparents to go to Toys R Us after the first days of Pesach, and later on would tell us to buy from Amazon. He was known for his “Amen Brigade” where he would gather the children together and say Amen with them at kadish and give them lollipops afterwards. Every once in a while I would search through my tallis bag when he was a lollipop or two short because he never wanted a child to be disappointed. One time he didn’t have enough for my son and after shul he came to my house to give him the promised lollipop. Besides the Torah that Rabbi Kelemer taught, he showed us all how to treat one another. There wasn’t a person too great or too small for the Rabbi; he loved each and every one of us. Rebbetzin Kelemer and the entire Kelemer mishpacha- Just as the Rabbi experienced true simcha during our simchas and true pain during our pain, we share your pain today. Rabbi Kelemer, you will be truly missed by your Rebbetzin, your family, your kehilah, and all of us whom you have influenced without even knowing how much. Yehei Zichro Baruch.