By Mindy Rubenstein, Chabad.org
Alexander Imich, who had been named the oldest man in America earlier this year, officially became the oldest man on the planet this month. At 111 and three months, he is now the oldest living man in the world after an Italian man passed away last month, a week before his 112th birthday.
Imich, born in Poland in 1903 and a resident of New York City’s Upper West Side since 1965, reconnected with his Judaism a few months ago, thanks to some visits from Rabbi Pinny Marozov, who co-directs Chabad of Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife, Chaya.
The rabbi first visited Imich in the hospital back in February. An ensuing visit to his home, after Imich was released and began recovering, had him affixing a mezuzah to Imich’s apartment doorway and helping the senior citizen don tefillin. Marozov said he didn’t think Imich had put on tefillin since his bar mitzvah—nearly 100 years ago—in Czestochowa, Poland.
Marozov visited him again just before Passover and brought him some handmade shmurah matzah, advising Imich’s home attendant to make sure he ate it on the first night of the eight-day holiday. “He knew about the matzah. I showed it to him and right away he knew. And he knew Pesach was a very important Jewish holiday.”
The rabbi added that “he was very happy to see me. He remembered me. He looked good.”
Imich earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. He survived the Holocaust, spending two years in a Russian labor camp near the White Sea. In 1951, he immigrated to the United States with his wife, Wela, who passed away in 1986.
He spent his career working as a chemist, ultimately trying to prove to other scientists that the neshama, the soul, survives physical death.
In 1995, at the age of 92, Imich edited and published a book called Incredible Tales of the Paranormal about his theory.
Marozov plans to visit Imich again soon. “I got the opportunity to put on tefillin with the second oldest man. Now I will get the chance to put on tefillin with the oldest man in the world,” he said.
Because Imich’s home is a 30-minute drive from his Chabad House and not in the area where he normally serves, he also plans to be in touch with Chabad of the Upper West Side so they can assist him as well.
Since the article ran—first in the Brooklyn-based Jewish Press and then on Chabad.org—Marozov has gotten lots of feedback. “Even yesterday, I got a text from a director from a community center who read the article and said, ‘What an amazing, wonderful job!’ That was nice.”
As for Imich, who has full-time care, he started receiving so many well-wishers that there’s now a sign on his door limiting visiting hours. “It was overwhelming,” Marozov said of the number of people who stopped by after reading about him.
The rabbi, of course, is already planning his next visit. “It’s all very nice,” he said. “I’ll be back by him soon.”