By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Yehoshua Binyomin Gordon, the Head Shliach who oversaw the growth of Chabad of the Valley in California and a teacher to many, passed away on Monday, 29 Shevat 5776.
He was 66 and suffered from an illness.
Rabbi Gordon and his wife Deborah Gordon arrived as Shluchim of the Rebbe in Encino in 1973 as one of the first Shluchim operating in the State of California under the auspices of Head Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Cunin.
Following much legwork and personal encounters, their small operation has become known as Chabad of the Valley, leading to the establishment of over 26 Chabad centers in the urbanized San Fernando Valley located in Los Angeles County.
With its headquarters in Tarzana, Rabbi Gordon built a sprawling network of synagogues, Mikvahs, adult education classes, holiday programs, Hebrew schools, summer camps and other youth and educational activities.
For his success in community building and dedication to the Rebbe, Rabbi Gordon has become a role model for many Shluchim over the years. His colorful ties were only an exterior to his relentless energy, sharp mind and honest approach.
Beyond California, Rabbi Gordon was known as a master teacher who engaged tens of thousands of people in his daily online classes given on Chumash with Rashi, the book of Tanya and the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah.
His precise explanations and lucid delivery have brought the joy of Torah study to students around the world. In a unique delivery style, Rabbi Gordon drew upon a great reservoir of personal experiences, Chassidic tales and anecdotes to make his classes come alive.
“I’m grateful for Rabbi Gordon’s kind, loving patience that shines through his elucidations of the most abstract concepts and humble humor that helps give over the content,” said Zevulun Brewer, a rice farmer in Thailand who tuned in daily.
These popular classes aired on Chabad.org, have led the Judaism website to develop a mobile app to provide a seamless learning experience with Rabbi Gordon’s daily videos in one place for easy viewing.
Many of the gems Rabbi Gordon would share have been personally heard from members of his illustrious family, among them his father, the Shliach Rabbi Sholom Ber Gordon and his grandparents, the known chassidim, Rabbi Yochanan Gordon and Rabbi Eliyahu Simpson, the secretary of the Frierdiker Rebbe.
Rabbi Gordon said that he was motivated to teach by the example his late father has set by teaching in his synagogue in New Jersey every day for nearly 60 years. “I guess you can say it’s in my DNA,” he commented in an interview.
“Imagine if the Internet would have been accessible then as it is now; the world would have been able to study with him,” he added. “There are many scholars more learned than myself, but I’ve been given the gift of clarity, the ability to make things simple and understandable.”
Asked once how he found time to teach on a daily basis, Rabbi Gordon said: “This is the greatest therapeutic gift there can be. At all other times, my mind is always wandering as I think about the pressing issues of the day. When I’m preparing—and especially, when I am teaching—a class and I know that it will be recorded and I need to get it right, I’m able to push myself to focus 100 percent. If anything, this is my most relaxing moment of the day.”
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said in a statement: “His many accomplishments, and the inspiration he brought to so many individuals and families through his classes and his leadership, make this a very sad day. His premature passing will leave a huge void.”
He is survived by his wife Rebbetzin Deborah Gordon, and their children, Rabbi Yossi Gordon – Woodland Hills, CA, Yochanon Gordon – Tarzana, CA, Faygie Herzog – Encino, CA, Rabbi Eli Gordon – Encino, CA, Dena Rabin – West Hills, CA and Chaya Mushka Drizin – Los Angeles, CA; and grandchildren.
He is also survived by his siblings Mrs. Yocheved Baitelman – Brooklyn, NY; Mrs. Chanie Friedman – St. Paul, Minnesota; Mrs. Bluma Rivkin – New Orleans, Louisiana; Rabbi Yossi Gordon – Melbourne, Australia; Rabbi Mendel Gordon – London, England; Mrs. Frumie Posner – Birmingham, Alabama..
The Levaya will take place today, Monday, Shvat 29, at 1:30pm at Chabad of Encino, 4915 Hayvenhurst Ave, Encino, CA 91436. The Kevurah will follow at Mt. Olive Cemetery, 7231 E Slauson Ave, Commerce, CA 90040.
Baruch Dayan Haemes.