IRF Mourns the Loss of Yaakov Birnbaum, zt”l
April 10, 2014
The International Rabbinic Fellowship joins with the rest of the Jewish community and all people of conscience in mourning the passing of Yaakov Birnbaum, zt"l one of the fathers of the movement to free Soviet Jewry. A refugee from Hitler's Germany, Yaakov spent the immediate post -war years helping survivors of the Shoah as well as refugees from North Africa rebuild their lives.
In 1964, with the memory of the Shoah and its impact in his consciousness, he founded the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, which became a key organization in galvanizing the Jewish community and the ultimately the world community to recognize the plight of Soviet Jews and move to ameliorate their dire situation. In addition, the SSSJ sent hundreds of activists and rabbis to the Soviet Union over the course of three decades to visit refusniks, give them support,teach classes and keep their stories and hopes alive.
Yaakov zt"l enlisted and brought into the movement talented young Modern-Orthodox rabbis such as Rabbis Shlomo Riskin, Yitz Greenberg, Avi Weiss, Saul Berman, and Charles Sheer as well as young lay activists such as Glenn Richter and Malcolm Honlein who helped change the face of modern day Jewish and world history.
May his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may his memory be a blessing for all of klal yisrael and the entire world community.