12 Jan THE LIFE & LEGACY OF R’ YEHUDA (JORDAN) KELEMER ZT”L
This past Friday, Klal Yisrael lost a true Tzadik.
Rav Yehuda Kelemer zt”l, the Rav of the Young Israel of West Hempstead, was niftar at the age of 74. Rabbi Kelemer, HaRav Yehuda Ben Dov Ber, led his shul and community since 1983. Rabbi Kelemer was born and grew up in Miami, Florida. His father and uncle, Berele and Shmuel, were famous cantors. The Rav’s father-in-law, HaRav Shmuel Dovid Walkin zt”l was the son of the Beis Ahron and helped saved thousands during the Holocaust. His mother-in-law a’h, Rebbetzin Tzivia Walkin’s grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Landynski, was the Rosh Yeshiva in Radin with the Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Kelemer himself was a 10th generation (direct – “ben achar bas”) descendant of the Baal Shem Tov.
A humble and brilliant man, a veteran of the rabbinate, and a guide to numerous individuals and families, Rav Kelemer served with distinction as a Rav, Morah Hora’ah, and a mentor for decades. Rabbi Kelemer received semicha from Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt”l of the Mir Yeshiva Yerushalayim. Hagaon HaRav Rav Elyashiv zt”l would send people in America to ask Shailos to him. Rav Elyashiv zt”l quotes Rav Kelemer’s zt”l shailos numerous times in his “Sheilos and Teshuvas.” In fact, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l also quotes Rabbi Kelemer zt”l numerous times throughout the Igros Moshe.
Prior to learning in the Mir, Rav Kelemer zt’l learned in Telz Cleveland. With his brilliant mind, Rav Kelemer was chosen by the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Gifter zt”l, as his personal Chavrusa at the young age of 15.
The Rabbi began his Rabbinical career in Switzerland where he was teaching in a Yeshiva. He was then the Rabbi in Middle Village and then moved to Brookline, Massachusetts to serve the Young Israel of Brookline. Rav Soloveitchik zt”l would often refer people in Boston to Rav Kelemer zt”l for complex halachic questions.
Rabbi Kelemer zt”l is considered a pre-eminent posek among pulpit rabbanim in America and has an amazing mastery of a myriad of Torah sources. Rabbi Kelemer authored several sefarim including the Tsnif Melucha and Tosefes Kesubah and was involved in the kashrut supervision of various establishments throughout the country. Rav Kelemer is credited with leading the West Hempstead, Long Island community to flourish over the past number of decades, assuming the role of mara d’asra of The Young Israel of West Hempstead in 1983. Over Rabbi Kelemer’s career, the Rav amassed a kehillah of 700 families, joining the ranks of one of the fastest growing Orthodox communities in the United States, attracting Yidden from well beyond the tri-state region.
The Rav in his humility reflected the growth of the community. He viewed himself as just another community member, but he was ultimately much more. Rabbi Kelemer was known to be quite reserved with a humble exterior. Yet, he had a poignant and unmatched vibrancy that allowed him to lead his congregation with intense passion. This energy led to varied programming in the shul for children, adults, and the growing senior population of the neighborhood. The rav had a special place to include newly marrieds who joined the community with high hopes to raise Torah observant families. His shul and community is proud of his devotion, kindness and tzidkus.
Rabbi Kelemer had been ill for the past number of weeks and his petirah is a shock to the community. Rabbi Kelemer is survived by his beloved Rebbetzin, many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Yehi zichro baruch.