Reb Yechezkel “Chazkel” (Charlie) Roth, one of the first Temimim in America, passed away on Sunday, 21 Iyar, 5782.
He was 97.
He was the youngest son of Reb Meir Hillel Roth, who served as an unofficial gabbai in 770 during the first years after the Friediker Rebbe arrived in America.
Though Reb Meir was a Sadigerer chosid, he developed a close rapport with Lubavitch, the Friedike Rebbe, and the Rebbe, then known as the Ramash. It was in the merit of Reb Meir that the Rebbe began farbrenging in public every shabbos mivorchim. (See the link below for the whole story, as told by Reb Chazkel.)
When the Friedike Rebbe moved into the newly purchased 770, the yeshiva Tomchei Temimim moved there too. It was then that they expanded the yeshiva to include a mesivta and yeshiva ketana. Young Chazkel was learning in Torah Vodaas during this time, but when his best friend, Yizchok Popack, told him about the new mesivta starting in 770 that he was going to join, Chazkel transferred there too. Thus, on 5 Shvat 5701 (2 Feb. 1941), he became one of the first nine temimim to learn in the mesivta, under the tutelage of Rabbi Shneor Zalman Gurary. (One of his classmates and friends from then is, yibodel beyn chaim l’chaim, Rabbi Leibel Posner.)
Reb Chazkel would fondly relate his memories of those very early years, when he was one of the few bochurim to be regularly present at the Friedike Rebbe’s seudos and farbrengens on the second floor of 770. He would also recall in vivid detail witnessing how the Rebbe (the Ramash) first arrived in 770 on 28 Sivan 5701 (23 June 1941). He also merited to have several yechidus with the Friedike Rebbe and the Rebbe.
When the Rebbe organized a gift for the Friedike Rebbe to publish the ma’amorim that he said in America starting in 5700 (1940), Reb Chazkel was one of the financial contributors to this cause (at the young age of 20!) and was zocheh that the Rebbe wrote his name with the others to be given into the Friedike Rebbe. (See below for a facsimile of it.)
After his studies in Tomchei Temimim for six years, he became involved in helping the newly founded State of Israel, both during the War of Independence and by running various kibbutzim. He eventually returned to the U.S., where he became a journalist for many decades, most notably for the Jewish Post and Opinion, the National Jewish Post, and ABC. During these years, he would bring journalists and writers to meet the Rebbe.
In his later years, he became a mashpia of sorts to less affiliated yidden. He had a special talent to convey the rich teachings of chasidus in a way that everyone can relate to. In his unique way, he exuded chasidishe warmth, chayus, and simchah until his very last days.
He was also instrumental in contributing his memories for the book on the history of Tomchei Temimim in America, titled “Toldos HaTemimim B’Artzos HaBris” [5779/2019], written by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Keller.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.
Interview with Reb Chazkel Roth:
HMS: The Shabbos Mevorchim Kiddush
CORRECTION: In the above link it states that the Friedike Rebbe was in Morristown in the summer of 1945. Actually, it was 1941.