In honor of Yud shevat, 5775 – Marking 65 years
The year was 1949, Erev Rosh Hashana 5710. A bochur from Williamsburg came running into 770 for Yom Tov. It was late in the afternoon no one was in 770.
He had not yet given his Pan to The Freideker Rebbe, he went into Gan Eden Hatachton and proceeded upstairs to the Previous Rebbe’s apartment.
As he began going up The Rebbe – then The RaMash – was coming down.
“The RaMash” asked the bochur what he needed upstairs. With Pan in hand he explained that he had missed giving in his Pan as he was at home in Williamsburg. The Rebbe took the envelope from the bochur’s hand, opened it a crack and took out the dollar bill which was inside, handed it back to the bochur saying, “Dos Iz fahr dir” this you keep. He then turned and went back upstairs to deliver the bochur’s Pan.
Rabbi Chaim Ciment was this bochur. When telling this story he jokes that this makes him the first Chosid to have given the Rebbe a Pan and the first who merited receiving a dollar from the Rebbe.
This eve of Yud Shevat, Rabbi Ciment turns 85, k’eh. He and wife Esther have served as Shluchim for 60 consecutive years in Boston. They are from the most senior Shluchim, personal witnesses to the bridge between “Dor HaShishi and Dor Hashvii.”
Some of Rabbi Ciment’s stories on Shlichus, particularly ones he was able to glean from Rabbi JB Soloveitchik z’l “The Rov” in Boston, regarding his close relationship with The Rebbe while both studied in Berlin and The Sorbonne have been publicized through JEM’s Living Torah. Many personal stories from “the early years” were yet untold.
L’kovod Yud Shevat, 65 years, we bring you a sampling of these “early years” stories.
Rabbi Ciment is the youngest child of Reb Yosef Ciment. Reb Yosef and his brother Reb Yaakov Y. Ciment established Sighet in America. How did this young boy with deep roots in Sighet-Satmar come to Lubavitch?
It was a Yechidus his father had together with the Tzeilmer Rov, by The Rebbe Rayatz. The Rayatz asked The Tzeilmer Rov, “Ihr hoht a Yeshiva?” the Rov answered no. He explained that he did not want to interfere with the existing Yeshiva, Torah V’daas. The Rayatz dismissed this answer, “Vos Iz?, Torah iz nisht a business – Yagdil Torah V’yaadir.” The Tzeilmher followed this directive and opened his own Chassidic Yeshiva. Reb Yosef was enamored by the sheer sincerity of the Rebbe. The Rayatz himself was struggling with his own American Chassidic Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim, yet he passionately convinced his “competition” to go forward and open another Yeshiva. This “Emes B’taharosa” became more and more apparent to the young Chaim. Soon after, and with his father’s blessings, he became a full-time Bochur in Lubavitch. While in Lubavitch, he continued living in Williamsburg such that he brought a sandwich from home to have throughout his day. “The RaMash” found him one day in Zal learning during supper hours. He walked over and quite concerned asked the young bochur; “Un vos iz mit Essen?” and what is about eating?
As a bochur, in 1954, Reb Chaim was sent to Yeshivas Achei Tmimim Lubavitz in Boston, founded ten years earlier by The Rebbe Rayatz. Its first Menahel was Rabbi Abraham Hecht z’l. Prior to Rabbi Ciment, Rabbi Yehoshua Kastel Z’l was the Menahel. The Yeshiva had fallen on very challenging financial times and it became Rabbi Ciment’s mission to stabilize it to allow its continuing to function. With The Rebbe’s guidance and brochos he did so. He went on to fully develop a pre-school, elementary and two high schools, separate for boys and girls. The Yeshiva became the address for any Jewish child who needed and/or wanted a Jewish education. Its philosophy, until today, is unwavering – no Jewish child will ever be turned away due to their inability to pay. This is unheard of in the modern Jewish day School movement. In the early 80’s a Yeshiva Gedolah was added which significantly enhanced the stature of Lubavitch in Boston.
Located in the prestigious Cottage Farm area of Brookline, tens of thousands of Talmidim and hundreds of Bochurim have studied in Boston Lubavitch’s schools and Beis Medrash. 2014 marked The Yeshiva’s 70th year (1944-2014). It was also the year that The New England Hebrew Academy Boston Lubavitch Yeshiva enjoyed its highest student enrollment ever in its history. Many hundreds currently fill the Yeshiva’s distinctive campus which has been forced to expand several times in the last years.
In his beginning years the challenge was too overwhelming and at one point Rabbi Ciment asked the Rebbe permission to quit. The response was not long in coming; “L’tovoscho U’letovas HaYeshiva,” the Rebbe directed him to stay. The Rebbe’s assurance and brochos were enough and he remained. He certainly has merited seeing the fruition of these promises of The Rebbe to him.
The brochos were delivered in amazing ways. In his early 50’s Rabbi Ciment was hospitalized due to a sudden paralysis of his entire body. Some untreatable disease had ravaged his body. Any little movement he could make was extremely painful. Upon hearing the frantic report, the Rebbe immediately responded “es iz gornisht” it is nothing! Mazkirus delivered the message, as is, to Boston’s Mass General Hospital where the doctors and nurses stood by helpless. To their amazement, within 24 hours Rabbi Ciment was able to walk again on his own and he was soon discharged. The sole medication they had to prescribe was aspirins.
Later in life, there was a concern of another serious ailment. The Rebbe responded with reassuring brochos. But it did not stop there. On many occasions by dollars, The Rebbe would give him a second dollar for a Refuah Shileimah. At times when the Rebbe spotted Reb Chaim while leaving a Yom Tov Teffila or other occasions, The Rebbe would “ask” him with a sweeping hand motion “is it all taken care of?” It was as if the Rebbe was monitoring his medical condition and keeping it – as it remains through today- totally under control.
As a bochur, Rabbi Ciment was known as being a Masmid. Apparently Rabbi Mentlik the Rosh Yeshiva included this detail in a regular report of the Talmidim to the Rebbe. In his next Yechidus, The Rebbe startled the young Bochur Chaim by saying; “M’zoght oif eich az du host a gutta kopp,” they say about you that you have a good head. The Rebbe then proceeded to give him a personal learning regiment of some of the most lengthy and intricate areas of Halachah.
Reb Chaim was introduced to his Aishes Chayil in Boston. A daughter of renowned Baalei Chessed and prominent members of The Boston Jewish community, Esther Sonn a native of Germany. She married Reb Chaim in 1956 and The Rebbe was Mesader Kiddushin. Rebbetzin Ciment, a legend in her own right, has worked side by side with her husband each and every day of their Shlichus. Until today, Rebbetzin Ciment is the first to open the Yeshiva’s doors each morning and is most often the last to leave in the late evening hours. She has been joined by two sons, Rabbis Dovber and Yaakov Ciment, together with their wives, as the administration under Rabbi Ciment, assisting him in directing and growing this iconic institution of Jewish education, a bastion of a Kiddush Lubavitch, fueled by the ongoing brochos of The Rebbe.
By Lekach and by dollars The Rebbe, at times, would call Rabbi Ciment back and give him an additional one with the words “Fahr Gantz Boston,” for the entire Boston. After 60 years, there is no doubt that the Rebbe’s aspirations for this Shliach were and are being fulfilled.
He stands physically tall, but he stands even taller with pride carrying the name of The Rebbe and Lubavitch. 66 years ago he received The Rebbe’s first brochos. From then and throughout the Rebbe’s 65 years of Nesius he continued to receive special Kiruvim, guidance, brochos and open yeshuous.
It is no surprise, therefore, that on this 85th birthday, bli ayin hora, ceaseless gratitude for, and to, his Rebbe is readily offered by Rabbi Ciment at any opportunity he possibly has. He readily wishes to impart onto those who did not merit to bear personal witness to this extra-ordinary past 7 decades. He continues to instill an appreciation for what was and inspiration and conviction for what will assuredely still be to a younger generation of Chassidim and Shluchim.
This senior general in the Rebbe’s army of Shluchim, together with his Rebbetzin, will assuredly be in the forefront as the Rebbe returns in a guf gashmi with Moshiach, imminently.