By COLlive & Chabad.org
Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, a publisher of Chassidus Chabad teachings and a longtime Shadchan who assisted in hundreds of Chabad Shidduchim, passed away suddenly on Wednesday morning, 3 Shvat, 5779.
He was 61.
He was born in Detroit in 1957, the eighth of 15 children, to Rabbi Meir and Cheyena Avtzon, survivors of Joseph Stalin’s oppressive regime. Despite the many challenges of living in the former Soviet Union, Avtzon’s parents managed to remain fully devoted to Judaism and risked their lives to enable others to appreciate and observe their Jewish heritage as well.
In Detroit, the Avtzons’ home served as a bastion of authentic Chassidic warmth and inspiration. After studying at Telshe Yeshivah in Chicago, young Yonah went on to study at the central Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah in Brooklyn, where he would begin to develop the primary focus of his life: disseminating the Rebbe’s teachings to the English-speaking world.
Sichos in English began as a small-time operation in 1977, a side project for teenaged Avtzon and fellow yeshivah students —translating and printing the Yiddish talks of the Rebbe into English and distributing them in pamphlets to many thousands of eager readers around the world.
In time, with the blessing of the Rebbe, the operation expanded to include the writings of other Chabad Rebbes and Chassidim. Even as SIE burgeoned into a major publishing operation, Avtzon remained focused on his goal, getting high-quality Jewish content into the hands of as many people as possible.
To that end, the prices were always kept low and almost all content has been made available for free online.
In 1983, he married Rivka Hazan of Bnei Brak, Israel. She was born in Moscow, where her parents were stalwart Chassidim who bravely kept the flame of Judaism burning in Soviet Russia. She immigrated to Israel with her family at the age of six.
The Avtzons made their home in Brooklyn, and Rabbi Avtzon continued to pursue his publishing work. In time, he was honored with assisting in the English translation of the Rebbe’s Michtavim Klaliim, public letters, which were published several times a year.
The Rebbe instructed him to personally edit every single book that he published, and this became his guiding principle.
In recent years, SIE embarked on a monumental translation of and commentary on the Code of Jewish Law known as Shulchan Aruch HaRav, authored by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement. It was a painstaking labor of love to which Avtzon dedicated several hours every day, personally reviewing every page.
To date, seven of the planned 12 volumes have been published, and the eighth is expected shortly. The project—which consumed much of Avtzon’s time in recent years, and is expected to exceed $2 million in cost—is the collaborative effort of a team of translators and rabbinic experts, led by Rabbis Eli Touger, Sholom Ber Wineberg, and Uri Kaploun, all of whom had been working with Rabbi Avtzon at SIE for decades.
Rabbi Avtzon was perhaps best known for his role as a senior Shadchan in Chabad, compiling a large database of names of single bochurim and girls, and dealing with each match in a hands-on manner. He is responsible for hundreds of Shidduchim matches over many years.
He had been ill in recent months and was found unresponsive on Wednesday morning, 3 Shevat. Poetically, it was on that same Hebrew date in 1992 that the Rebbe spoke publicly about how each and every individual could serve as the “mouth” of the Rebbe, an extension of his efforts to spread Judaism and inspire others.
He leaves behind his wife Rivka, and children: Levi Avtzon – South Africa, Chanie Wolf – Crown Heights, Shmuly Avtzon – Crown Heights, Mushky Edelman – Crown Heights, Sheina Oster – Crown Heights, Stery Goldberg – Crown Heights, Chenny, Zalmy, Sruly, Sholom Ber, Meir and Leah.
He is also survived by his siblings, Adela Bernstein (CH), Leibel Avtzon (CH), Esther Blau (CH), Yossi Avtzon (CH), Riva Kaplinsky (CH), Dina Borenstein (CH), Gershon Avtzon (Yerushalayim), Sholom Avtzon (CH), Mordechai Avtzon (Hong Kong), Devi Baumgarten (CH), Sternie Chesney (CH), Lazer Avtzon (CH), Shainy Tiefenbrun (CH) and Chanie Zirkind (Fresno, CA).
The Levaya will take place tomorrow, Thursday, at Shomrei Hadas in Boro Park at 10:45 am and passing by 770 at 12 pm.
Shiva will take place at 541 Crown St.
Davening times to be announced.
The family needs 6 Minyanim.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes: Yonah ben Meir