By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Yitzchok Zalman Posner, a central figure in the first wave of baalei teshuva in America as a Chabad Shliach, passed away on Wednesday, 23 Nissan 5774.
He was 87 and passed away in Rancho Mirage, CA.
One of the last remaining Shluchim the Frierdiker Rebbe sent in the United States, he left an everlasting impact on Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as the rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel for 53 years.
“It was one of the farthest outposts from Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights,” the Jerusalem Post wrote about the Shlichus he began in 1949 at the instruction of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was one of the first students of the central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch that opened in New York in 1941.
Rabbi Posner was 22 years old at the time and he knew almost nothing about the city known as “Music City USA.” Because his shul was located next to the Grand Ole Opry country music concert hall, farmers would mistakenly wander in on Friday nights, eating peanuts and waiting for the show to start.
Jews were so few in the area, that when the board of Sherith Israel interviewed him, one elder took Posner aside and warned, “Don’t take the job. The shul is a holding company for the cemetery. We have a mortgage we can’t pay.”
Posner, whose father was the legendary Pittsburgh Shliach Rabbi Sholom Posner OBM, was nevertheless able to connect with composers, singers, doctors, and Vanderbilt University students and professors, hungry for a Judaism that nourished them.
After taking the position in Nashville, he married Mrs. Risya (Didi) Posner, daughter of one of the leading figures of the Chabad movement in the U.S., Rabbi Shlomo Aron Kazarnovsky, and the granddaughter of a renowned Chassidic personality, Rabbi Asher Grossman of Nikolayev.
Together, they dedicated their lives to reaching out to Jews and connecting them with their heritage. In 1954, they founded the Akiva Day School, which has graduated hundreds of dedicated and proud alumni – living all over the United States, and serving Jewish communities around the globe.
His influence has far surpassed the southern state. As a noted scholar, author and orator, his works and talks have inspired Jewish men and women around the country and even the world. He was the featured speaker at the annual “Encounter with Chabad” weekends in Brooklyn.
Using a contemporary language for mystical thought, his translations of Chabad Chassidus classics make them available to the wider public. Among his work was translating two sections of the Tanya, Chabad’s central text, into English, as well as other Chassidic discourses.
His most known book was “Think Jewish”, an instant classic since its publication in 1978, which offered “A contemporary view of Judaism, a Jewish view of today’s world.” It was reprinted in 2002 with its essays remaining as relevant and eloquent as when they first appeared.
He contributed over the years to publications such as Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas, OU’s Jewish Action journal and others and addressed students, congregations and conventions worldwide.
Rabbi Posner is survived by his children: Mrs. Shifra Deren of Stamford, CT; Menachem Mendel Posner of Atlanta, GA; Mrs. Sussi Denebeim of Palm Springs, CA; Mrs. Mimi Liberov of Porto Alegre, Brazil; and Rabbi Shimon Posner of Rancho Mirage, CA; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He is also survived by his siblings, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Posner of Crown Heights, Mrs. Rivka Sasonkin of Avital, Israel; Mrs. Bassie Garelik of Milan, Italy; and Rabbi Zushe Posner of Lod, Israel.
The Levaya will take place Friday, 25 Nissan at 9:30 am, leaving Shomrei Hadas Chapels in Boro Park at 10:00 am, and passing by 770 at 10:45 am, before arriving at the Beis Hachayim – Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.
Shiva will be at 1378 Union Street, Crown Heights.
Condolences can be sent to [email protected]
Baruch dayan haemes.
Our family is very honored and humbled to have have had the opportunity to grow in Torah and Mitzvos by having a close relationship with Rabbi and Rebbetzin Posner in Nashville. They taught and guided us by setting a loving and kind example and will continue to do so by the influence they’ve had on our family. In my 11 year old son’s words he was an approachable and always kind and caring Torah giant! May the Posner family find comfort knowing how much their parents gave to Nashville. With much gratitude & appreciation, The Peisers
We all loved your father and are greatful for what he taught us. He showed us how to live happy Jewish lives and enhanced our childrens education through Akiva. The many mitzvah’s we enjoy today were taught to us by Rabbi Posner. I believe the joy we have derived as a family has come from the teachings of your father. May his memories help to ease the pain of your loss. Know that we hold each and everyone of you dear to our hearts.
I grew up as one of three daughters named after Chabad Rebbetzins in Nashville, TN. These names, while not typical of the city, were a source of connection and strength that stayed with us on our journeys of life. As a child, I remember Rabbi Posner capturing my attention with such statements such as “I am a Palastinian Jew.” On Purim, when asked what he was dressed up as, he would say he was dressed up as a “stuffed shirt”. As a graduate of their school Akiva Day School, I remember Mrs. Posner as my kindergarten teacher and Rabbi Posner… Read more »
To be a shliach we need to have someone to emulate,who is human like us but shows that we do have the koach hameshalayach if we make ourselves a kayli .the rabbi was a dugma Chaya of this rule to hundreds of shluchim of ALL AGES.We are forever indebted to him!
Rabbi was an incredible man. I grew up with him and the Rebbitzen. His creation of Akiva School and the impact he had on the Nashville Jewish community can not be measured. Vivi, Shimon, Mendy, Sussie and Shimon know he will be remembered fondly by the many people he touched.
R. Posner put me on the right path; I am forever grateful. May his family be blessed in comfort.
Was a kind smart person, always greeted everyone with a kind word, May his family have a נחמה in knowing that he will be remembered as a kind and thoughtful person who did great things for yiddishkait.
My parents became frum in Nashville with the help of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Posner. My sisters and I were all born and raised there. We are all frum and Lubavitch today only because of the Posners. Rabbi Posner was a man with a lot of class who was also fun and a pleasure to speak with. When Rabbi Posner spoke to you he always did it with a smile and a twinkle in his eye that you could not help but smile back. Even when being Menachem Avel him when Mrs. Posner passed away, he had me smiling and laughing… Read more »
As a student in one of the first classes of Akiva School, the accoplishment of which I am to this day most proud, was to see him smile with a twinkle in his eye when answering or posing a question. His teaching and wisdom is still an inspiration to me. My heartfelt condolences to his immediate family and to all of us, his extended family.
What an amazing story. Look how important it is to maintain a good name for lubavitch. The only reason we have Dr. Feldman and family is bc rabbi Posner gave lubavitch a good name 2,000 miles away in Ga.
I am frum and living in Israel thanks to Rabbi and Rebbitzen Posner. I learned all the customs that I keep in their home in Nashville.
Thanks for your short, but inspiring and enlightening words describing Rabbi Posner’s A”H greatness and ability to accomplish so much as an ‘early’ chossid over many years. He certainly was a giant in influencing so many with his chassidishe varemkeit and great knowledge. May we very soon merit to have our Rebbe back with the wonderful fruits of his inspiration.
My family is forever indebted to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Posner. Although both of my parents grew up in NY – my mother just minutes from 770 in Midwood- neither had ever known about the Rebbe or Chassidus until after their marriage, when they moved down South to Nashville so my father could attend medical school there. It was there, at Shearith Israel Shul, that my parents met the Posners and as my mother likes to say, “met a Rabbi who looked European but spoke like an American”. The Posners will always be our family’s foundation and entrance into Lubavitch. They… Read more »
So very sorry to hear about Rabbi Posner’s passing. I have always had the utmost respect for him, as he was always the wisest man I knew. I have wonderful childhood memories of his stories at the Sherith Israel. My condolences to all.
dearest shifra and family
sorry to hear about your father of blessed memory
it is with heart felt condolences that i send this e mail to you and your loved ones
much simchas and nachas from your loved ones
your classmate miriam
with full humility, head bowed, i must thank my Rebbe Posner and his family, for bringing me back to Yahadut, for joining me in Kiddushin, to enable Hashem to grant us 3 wonderful children, and to encourage us to return to Eretz Yisrael, and may his efforts and many seeds bring Our Holy Moshiach soon! thank you Rebbe! you are missed.
Extremely sad….for his family, but also for us. Honestly, who do we have left?
I wish there was a website that would gather lectures from all these super stars that are no longer around.
I love Chabad.org but they – let’s say – more particular about what they can post.
I wish there was a site that would post lectures from Zalman Posner AH, JJ Hecht, Nisson Mindel, Emmanuel Schochet and the likes of these guys..
I remember Rabbi Posner from when I was a teenager in Crown Heights. I heard him speak once and always remembered him to be special. He just had this special aura!!
Rabbi Posner was and will continue to be an inspiration to the Nashville Jewish Community. Rabbis that have come to Nashville during Rabbi Posner’s leadership and after have learned much from Rabbi Posner.
What a loss of such a warm great and vibrant chosid who truly shone as a shliach of the Rebbe throughout his life. We will alweays have fond memories of his speaking visits to Glasgow Scotland. Ad Mosai do we have to wait for the hisgalus of the Rebbe and bi-us Moshiach Tzidkaynoo
very sad very sad. seems like siblings just sat shiva. yes, he should be a gute bette and bring good news to his family.
He was a wonderful teacher and a kind man. We learned so much from him.
He was very good to me as a student at Akiva and very good to my family when I was a boy and we needed help.
I will always be very thankful to him.
BAruch dayan haemet, moshiach now
BDE, what a gem bnei yisroel lost, we are entering new era in Lubavitch.
A special man — he should be a gute better for his family and for us all!
fourth passing today! Moshiach now!
What a huge loss! So privileged to have had him officiating at my wedding. He created a warm and loving environment in Sherith and will be sorely missed. Mayh e rest in peace with his lovely wife. I will never forget him.
A huge loss. The Rabbi presented a strong and uniquely Jewish/Chassidic perspective in an encouraging and open way. He was sent to a place which was “cold and dark and there was no light” to make light. the light became sparks of spiritual energy and unending positive influences affecting lives near and far.
hamokoim yenachem eschem b’shar availai tsion v’yerusholayim!
What a great great loss! Oy vey
The world at large and ‘bifrat’ the world of Chabad has lost one of its greatest teachers, leaders. authors and personalities with the passing of this great and humble man; A true giant of a man! His brilliance and knowledge surpassed that of many, his wit and sense of humour was unique, as was he himself. To know R’ Zalman was to love him, he endeared himself to one and all, and I will always remember the special twinkle in his eyes! He was a gentle giant who had time and patience for one and all, and one felt his… Read more »