Rav Ephraim Oshry obit

Volume 16 • Issue 19 | October 07 - 13, 2003
Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, 89,
religious scholar, dies
By Albert Amateau
Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, leader for 50 years of the landmarked
synagogue Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on the Lower East Side and
venerated among Orthodox Jews as a sage of the Torah and author
of a five-volume religious response to the Holocaust, died on
Sunday afternoon, Sept. 28, the second day of the Jewish New
Year, in Mt. Sinai Hospital at the age of 89.
He was revered for the influence of his character on succeeding
generations of the congregation as much as for his scholarship.
“He was known as a Posek, a term bestowed on a man whom
people can ask the difficult questions of life,” said Victor B.
Zybernagel, a member of Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol
at 16 Norfolk St. for 30 years.
Born in Kupishok, Lithuania, in 1914, Ephraim Oshry studied with
the great rabbis of the day. He was interned in a concentration
camp near Kovno, Lithuania, by the Nazi invaders during World
War II. His first wife and their children died in the camps before
the end of the war. In 1949, he married Frieda Greenzwieg, a
survivor of Auschwitz, said his son-in-law, Rabbi Mendel
The volumes on the religious response to the Holocaust were
begun while he was in the camp, written in Hebrew on bits of
paper, which were buried and retrieved after the war, according to
Zybernagel. It was the rabbi’s life work. A one-volume version in
English won a National Jewish Book Award several years ago, he
Rabbi Oshry and his wife left Lithuania and landed in Rome where
the rabbi organized a yeshiva for orphaned refugee children. In
1950 he managed to bring all the yeshiva students with him when
he moved with his family to Montreal. They came to New York in
1952 where he was invited to be the rabbi of Beth Hamedrash
Hagadol, a congregation founded in 1852. The family has long
made its home in the Seward Park Co-op on E. Broadway.
For several years Rabbi Oshry ran two yeshivas, one for boys and
the other for girls, in the East Bronx. He is also the patron of a
yeshiva named after him in Monsey N.Y., Shaar Ephraim, run by a
son-in-law, Zelig Greenberg.
Rabbi Oshry is survived by his wife, three daughters and six sons.
He designated his son-in-law Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, to
succeed him at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol.
The funeral was at the synagogue on Mon. Sept. 29.
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