Apr 23, 2014
Rabbi Zalman Posner, 87, OBM

Rabbi Zalman Posner, one of the last Shluchim of the Frierdiker Rebbe whose influence surpassed Music City, passed away. Update: Levaya on Friday.

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 RZPcondolences@gmail.com.

Baruch dayan haemes.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
How very very sad
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 splendour and presence when he entered a room;
A world renowned speaker, when he spoke, one was captivated both by the content of his talk and his depth and wisdom in which ever subject he would talk about.
He will be so very sorely missed by so many.
A dynamic and most special person!
Hamokom Yenachem eschem besoch shaarei tzion be'Yerusholayim
What a huge loss! May Hashem comfort his family.
We all share in the great pain of their loss
(4/23/2014 6:56:26 PM)
oh my! oh my!
hamokoim yenachem eschem b'shar availai tsion v'yerusholayim!
What a great great loss! Oy vey
ssk, cincinnati
(4/23/2014 7:11:11 PM)
Boruch Dayan HaEmes
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.
(4/23/2014 7:12:15 PM)
Stacey Rubin
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.
(4/23/2014 7:28:32 PM)
fourth passing today! Moshiach now!
(4/23/2014 8:27:20 PM)
A special man -- he should be a gute better for his family and for us all!
(4/23/2014 8:28:19 PM)
BDE, what a gem bnei yisroel lost, we are entering new era in Lubavitch.
(4/23/2014 8:41:58 PM)
BAruch dayan haemet, moshiach now
(4/23/2014 8:56:01 PM)
Boruch Dayan Emes
Moshiach Now!
(4/23/2014 8:59:45 PM)
What a sad day....
(4/23/2014 9:25:40 PM)
Oy vay!!!
(4/23/2014 10:05:26 PM)
(4/23/2014 10:45:29 PM)
Very sad to hear
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.
(4/23/2014 11:10:08 PM)
so sad
He was a wonderful teacher and a kind man. We learned so much from him.
(4/23/2014 11:15:04 PM)
o boy not again
very sad very sad. seems like siblings just sat shiva. yes, he should be a gute bette and bring good news to his family.
Montreal mishpocho
(4/23/2014 11:17:33 PM)
Rabbi Chaim Jacobs Scotland
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
(4/23/2014 11:33:04 PM)
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.
(4/24/2014 12:39:30 AM)
boruch dayan haemes
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!!
(4/24/2014 12:56:54 AM)
(4/24/2014 1:00:18 AM)
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..
(4/24/2014 2:20:20 AM)
Jay Stillman Nashville Tn.
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.
(4/24/2014 8:34:01 AM)
miriam muskal (zaklikowski)
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
(4/24/2014 11:24:41 AM)
Beth (Karr) Ducklo
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.
(4/24/2014 12:34:31 PM)
The Posners showed us the way...
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 were also surrogate parents to my parents in those early years of marriage as my brother and then I, were born.

The Posners made such a strong and positive impression on my parents that after a 3 yr stint in the US Air Force in Valdosta, Georgia when we moved back up North to the Bronx and my parents looked up "yeshiva" in the phonebook and saw the name "Achai Temimim Lubavitch", the first thing they said to each other was, "The Posners were Lubavitch and they were so special and kind. Let's visit this yeshiva."

And the rest is history. We all went to Lubavitcher yeshivos and have b'H raised our own Lubavitcher families.

Every thing I teach my children and every Yid who is connected to Yiddishkeit through our Chabad House is the zechus of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Posner.

They are our spiritual grandparents who transmitted the values of Torah and Chassidus to us, who connected us to the Rebbe and Chassidus.

They were our lamplighters and with appreciation for everything they taught us, we - my entire family, parents and siblings- have absorbed a Shlichus mindset and strive to follow their example, by continuing to ignite more and more neshomos.

The depth of gratitude to the Posners can't be expressed through words but only through our actions. We hope they will always have the nachas that they expect from us.

May we be reunited with them and experience their love and warmth and teachings very very soon with Bias Moshiach Tzidkeinu!

Sorah (Feldman) Shemtov

(4/24/2014 1:19:15 PM)
Thank You, Sorah
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.
(4/24/2014 2:14:13 PM)
Baruch Dayan Emes
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.
(4/24/2014 2:24:42 PM)
Ty Sorah for your very inspiring story.
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.
(4/24/2014 6:37:11 PM)
Rochelle Zelenka-Diatikar
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.
(4/24/2014 9:18:42 PM)
Fond Memories
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 with him.

When we finally moved away, Rabbi and Mrs. Posner came to us the day we left with food for us to take and to give us a personal good bye. The food on the plane got messed up so the only food I had was the food Mrs. Posner had prepared.

Growing up in Nashville with not many frum people, the frum community was very close to each other. On Succos, we used to go succah hopping to all the frum families. Our favorite succah to go to was the Posners. Mrs. Posner would come out with the best cookies and Rabbi Posner would tell the best stories that made everyone laugh. Once, right before the last days of Pesach, hurricanes came through Nashville knocking out power by a lot of people. The Posners insisted we come for a meal. Even though it was pouring rain we walked over. After the meal, Rabbi Posner insisted I wear his rain coat the whole way home. So for a mile and a half, in 90 degree rainy weather, I wore his rain coat home with it dragging on the ground since it was way too big for me. I laughed the whole way because I could not say no to him.

Later in life when I got married, Rabbi and Mrs. Posner made a huge effort to be at my wedding in NY. Rabbi Posner had not been feeling well and had to get special permission to fly. Not only did they come to the wedding but they were there from beginning to end. Rabbi Posner spoke under my chuppah and it meant so much to have him there with me.

A year and half later, at my first sons bris, the Posners were there again. It was a zechus having them join me for this next huge simcha in my life.

Having grown up with them in my life, helping me go from kindergarten with Mrs. Posner as my teacher, to elementary with Rabbi Posner as principal and then encouraging me to go on to a frum high school in Chicago led me to where I am today. I am eternally grateful to them and all they have done for me and my whole family.

May their children be comforted in this time and know how much both he and his wife have accomplished and continue to accomplish.

Devorah (Udelson) Drew
(4/24/2014 9:22:12 PM)

Was a kind smart person, always greeted everyone with a kind word, May his family have a in knowing that he will be remembered as a kind and thoughtful person who did great things for yiddishkait.
(4/24/2014 11:28:18 PM)
R. Posner put me on the right path; I am forever grateful. May his family be blessed in comfort.
(4/25/2014 7:30:52 AM)
Sharon Moskovitz Boomer
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.
(4/25/2014 2:32:12 PM)
Dugma chaya
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!
(4/25/2014 3:37:26 PM)
Living Legacy
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 teaching me my first gemara in sixth grade. I just shared this gemara with someone this past Purim!
The influence this couple played in my life continued on through finding the right Chabad High School, then seminary, shidduch and eventually inspiring me to go on shlichus myself. My husband and I started a Chabad house in South Carolina that is now being run by the Posner's grandaughter!
While I view myself and my family as spiritual grandchildren of the Posners (and the people who came through our Chabad house as their spiritual great-grandchildren), I find it amazing how our path merged with that of his biological grandchild. In addition, my children (Udelson grandchildren) attend a Chabad Cheder with other spiritual grandchildren of the Posners - the Feldman (Shemtov) grandchildren. The intertwining of all these "grandchildren" is proof of the immense impact one couple had across the world - not just one city!
My most prevalent feeling over the last few days, has been one of tremendous gratitude to a couple who spent over 50 years in a distant city to spread the beauty of Torah and chassidus. A feeling of gratitude that I was a recipient of that dedication, that will continue Im"H with my children and generations to come. May his family find comfort in a true LIVING legacy.
Chani (Udelson) Goodfriend
(4/25/2014 3:59:24 PM)
Rabbi Posner led the way
Dear Children,
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.
(4/25/2014 4:24:10 PM)
Remembering Rabbi Posner
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
(4/25/2014 7:08:06 PM)
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