By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Refael Yigal Pizem, who grew up as a religious Zionist in Israel and became a prominent Chabad Shliach in northern Israel, passed away on Sunday evening, 10 Nissan 5779.
He was 78 and suffered from an illness.
Rabbi Pizem was born on 2 Shvat 5701 (1941) in the city of Tveria as a descendent of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chabad Chassidism, and Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar, author of the famed commentary on the Chumash, Or haChaim.
He learned in Tzfas in his youth and then enrolled in the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh led by Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Neria OBM and Rabbi Avraham Zuckerman. After serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he returned to teach in the same Yeshiva.
After his marriage he learned in the Kollel of Rabbi Yaakov Nissan Rosenthal in Haifa and received Smicha ordination from Rabbi Chanania Yomtov Cohen and Rabbi Akiva Hakarmi.
In the late 60s, he worked as a teacher for Judaic studies in the religious youth village Kfar Chassidim and later in the Levinson school in Kiryat Yam, one of a cluster of townships in northern Israel near Haifa.
In 1972, he flew to New York for his first visit to the Rebbe. Following that special moment in his life, he began running Chabad activities in the Krayot area, which grew to become a network of institutions and communities.
With the Rebbe’s call to focus on summer programs before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Pizem established day camps and activities for Krayot’s children.
Over the next decades, Rabbi Pizem succeeded in building a Chabad community in Kiryat Shmuel that today includes a shul, education and outreach institutes, as well as a Chabad Yeshiva with some 75 students.
He is survived by his wife Rachel and children, Yosef Avraham – Krayot, Israel, Shimshon – Acco, Israel, Eitan – Tzfas, Israel, Chananel – Sderot, Israel, Racheli Chaimson – Crown Heights.
The Levaya will take place on Monday at 3:30 pm from Merkaz Chabad Nefesh Chaya in Kiryat Shmuel, with burial in Haifa, Israel.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.