Baruch Dayan Emes

Baruch Dayan Emes

Rabbi Avrohom Moshe (Aba) Dunner Z”L

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12 replies on “Baruch Dayan Emes”

When I think of Rabbi Dunner ZZ”L, the image I have is of someone who was always there for me. It didn’t matter what the issue, the time of day, of his own health situation, Rabbi Dunner was simply always there, ready to listen, to advise, to comfort.

Baruch Dayan Haemet.


There was a comment that Reb Aba Dunner made that definsed him, sort of a mission statement. He was discussing the fate of tens of thousands of destroyed kvarim across Eastern Europe, and he said “when I got involved with cemeteries, my father, the rov, told me ‘Aba, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s the kever of Reb Yisroel Salanter, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, or a simple shammas- every Yid has a right to same kovod.”

It was a revealing statement because it explains the success that Reb Aba had in all his great works, the way he maintained the human touch even as he became ever more prominent- individuals were no different than communities, his efforts for the lone rabbi battling it out in a decrepit Ukrainian hamlet were no less intense than high-profile diplomatic negotiations in the halls of power.

Every Yid has the same right.

Sometimes, as people become ever more accomplished, they lose a certain facet of their personalities, become more human in front of the cameras and lights and less so in private: with him, the opposite was true. As much as he could hold a crowd of thousands mesmerized- and did, always for good causes- he related to the yachid with the same warmth, optimism and grace.

Just a few months ago, he came to my hometown of Montreal to serve as guest speaker at a dinner benefiting the Yaldei Developmental Center. He scheduled his stay in Montreal for several days, hoping to use the time to raise funds for the Conference of European Rabbis. He never got around to fund-raising.

First, he insisted on visiting Yaldei in order to see first-hand the extraordinary work they do with developmentally-delayed children: after all, his speeches were no mere soundbites, this was no politician looking appropriately sympathetic. He wanted to see the kids, touch them, speak to them- then he would give over their message. It was real.

Then, in the aftermath of his speech, in which he openly referred to several personal nisyonos, people lined up to draw from his reservoir of emunah, eager to hear the secret of how someone who had sustained so much loss could be so upbeat.

So instead of raising funds, he used his time to raise spirits.

He once told me the secret: he said that after the loss of his wife and then his son, when he himself was unwell, the Sassover Rov in London had suggested that he ‘adopt’ a bracha, making it his own. He chose the bracha of ‘Hanosein l’yaef koach, Who Gives Strength to the Weary’ saying it several times a day. ‘Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed,’ he told me, “I stand up and say the bracha, re-energizing myself.”

Yes, he was a ‘ya’eif’, weary, but we didn’t see that: we only saw the koach.

I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked to, but considered him a dear friend nonetheless. I think he was that way with everyone, remembering what was important to them, rejoicing in their successes and feeling with them in their struggles.

Another thing: he never grew cynical, despite the fact that his position thrust him into organizational politics, forcing him to mediate between people and institutions. He was humble, happy and hard-working.

Spending time with him was sheer joy- after profiling him two years ago, a few months ago, the opportunity to do another feature arose. I jumped at the chance.

Twice I met him and wrote about him amidst laughter- this, the third time, it’s amidst tears.

Meeting R’ Aba z”l, and yb”l, Charlotte was a pleasure enjoyed not only by my husband & myself, but also by my parents, Shmiel & Telsi Birnbaum, sheyichyu. As a contemporary, my father took an instant liking to R’ Aba and was honored to call him a friend, as we all are.

Two years and 4 months is not a long time to know someone. But when that “someone” is R’ Aba Dunner z”l, it takes but an instant to consider him a close friend and confidant. His warm, engaging smile, all encompassing hand shake, penetrating eyes, and his genuine interest and focus of attention on whomever he was speaking to, made him instantly loved. People looked forward to an opportunity to meet him again, and it is with great sorrow that I think that this will no longer happen.

We met at our daughter’s vort to Yanki Wolf in March 2009. Our Machatunim, Moshe & Rita, expressed an aura of expectation and excitement that R’ Aba and Charlotte were in Lakewood, and would be attending. The bonds of friendship that started at the vort, were cemented at the Aufruf in Antwerp, a Sunday trip to Knokke, followed by dinner with our hosts, the Wolf’s. In fact, we felt that we were family. After that, whenever we heard that the Dunner Sr.’s were in Lakewood, Naftali would make it a point to stop by and pay a short visit (with me or without me). Naftali arranged for R’ Aba z”l to speak to the boys at the Minyan Shelanu on Tisha B’av morning 2009. Subsequently, R’ Aba would always ask Naftali how the Minyan boys were doing.

R’ Aba’s Klal work is well known; his legendary involvement with the boys imprisoned in Japan, his work in preserving the kevarim in Europe and in the building of Mikvaos, are just the tip of the iceberg. As a person, he was a giant of a man and a true gentleman! The last time we saw R’ Aba was Purim at Ephraim Dunner’s Bar Mitzvah. Had we only known, that it would be the last time……

R’ Aba z”l will always have a special place in our hears.

Yehi Zichro Baruch
Rivky & Naftali Eisenberg

P.S. I will send pictures in a separate email, as I do not see an option for it on this forum.

My Bar Mizva was in 1977 -at which Abba zl spoke at a small family seuoda at home (GG). I usually can’t remmber droshos given two weeks ago…but i remember so clearly that at my BM Seudo, the olam was literally on the floor with tears of laughter. I even remember vagully some story about Tefilin in Africa (perhaps the family know more about this). That was Abba’s way- combining intense warmth and humour on all occasions. Zichro Boruch.

The late Aba Dunner z’l was very personable and approachable.
When he was sitting Shiva for Bentzi z’l, a visitor from Israel asked Aba if he knew who he was, but Aba told him that he didn’t know upon which the man explained who he was. When Aba saw me, he pointed to me saying, “I know who you are!” with his typical big smile! He had time for everybody big or small – nothing was beyond his Kovod!!
May Aba Dunner z’l be a tremendous Meilits Yosher for all his family and for Klal Yisroel!

R’ Aba zt”l was a man of tremendous warmth, as everyone sawwho met him. His warmth emanated not merely from being a “chevraman” who enjoye the company of intelligent people, but rather from a deep appreciation of the worth of every human being, and the specialness of every neshama. I saw this in my work at Kisharon. Whenever he would come to visit his brother Shimmy, for whom he always displayed the greatest affection, he would spend time also speaking to all the other students with genuine love and respect. He had time for them all, connecting with each of them personally in a way that showed tangibly that, for that minute or two, he or she was the most important person in his life. R’ Aba accorded these special neshamos no less respect, affection and attention than anyone else. Unlike many people, he felt comfortable with them, so they felt comfortable with him. This was his hallmark: the genuine respect and warmth he had for every single person, from all walks of life. This was an inheritance from his father zt”l, and was in turn passed on to his children – and Benzi zt”l also epitomised the same middah. I have no doubt that their heilige neshamos are delighting in each other once again in a special place in Gan Eden. Yehi zichronam livracha.

When I was broadcasting for Spectrum Radio 558 (Jewish Programme)about 12 years ago, I remember that one week Aba had to visit South Korea in connection with his shoe business. He told me that as there was no kosher food in South Korea, he had to take 5 days worth of sandwiches. He told me that on the 5th day his sandwiches were tasting like the soles of his shoes.!

Aba Dunner was a great man and a wonderful mentor. He will be sadly missed.

I can’t express the way I felt when I heard the news.

Rav Abba Dunner was a constant inspiration for me, for my family, and for our whole community in Leipzig.

I owe him great thanks. Because of his avodas hakodesh people like me can live in Torah Communities throughout Europe. Without his support to the institutions I had the chance to study at, I would not be who I am today.

Words can’t say how much we all will miss him. But his spirit, his koach inspires us to keep going on.


Zsolt Balla

this is a comment I published in the newsletter of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities on July 18th.

alef/tav davar pilpul rassegna stampa notizie flash


Di Segni,
rabbino capo
di Roma

Se ne è andato ieri, a 74 anni, dopo una lunga malattia contro la quale ha lottato con tenacia, Aba (Rav Avraham Moshe) Dunner, segretario della Conferenza Rabbinica Europea. Era nato in Germania, a Koenigsberg, da una famiglia di rabbini, che fece appena in tempo a emigrare in Inghilterra dopo la notte dei cristalli. Vari membri della famiglia hanno ricoperto e ricoprono incarichi di responsabilità comunitaria nel Regno Unito e altrove. Aba è stato negli ultimi 20 anni il cuore dell’organizzazione rabbinica europea; la sua attività è stata discreta, senza clamore, ma decisiva e senza compromessi, cosa che gli ha provocato non poche ostilità e conflitti. Il suo rapporto con l’Italia ebraica, non molto noto pubblicamente, è stato di attenzione affettuosa, supporto continuo, contatti politici e religiosi ai massimi livelli, e progettazione. Tra i suoi rammarichi quello di non aver potuto fondare a Roma un kolel, una scuola residenziale per adulti; ma il principale sostenitore avrebbe dovuto essere proprio suo figlio Bentzion che purtroppo è rimasto vittima di un incidente stradale. Un lutto che negli ultimi anni si è aggiunto ad altri della sua famiglia, ai quali ha reagito con incredibile vitalità. Ci mancherà la sua forza, la sua modestia e la sua saggezza.

Aba was like my big brother, admired by us all – the Pri chen brotherhood, loved by my parents and my children. A uniqu personality, never to be forgotten by anyone who knew him.

If I were ever to have told my dearest friend, Aba Dunner, that I thought that in many ways he was an Adam Gadol, I think he would not have taken me seriously. He didn’t see himself with any airs at all – he just was doing what he believed he had to do. But, when it came to loving and serving the Jewish people, Aba was a great man; when it came to picking himself up from adversity, Aba was a great man; and when it came to helping organizations, or communities or people – totally ‘lishmoh’, Aba WAS a great man.

When Aba was sitting shiva for his son Bentzi (after losing his wife and his father, and nearly his own life – all in the same year!!), I came to be menachem avel, as did many, from all corners of the globe. I sat in front of Aba, and he said, “Reb Avraham, there is no choice. Now we have to do more.” I heard that from him many times when things were difficult for him. When the average person would say, “How could I, at a time like this”, Aba would say, “How could I not”.

Aba loved Jews – any kind of Jews. He was a Jew-junkie. Jewish neshamos made him ‘high’. He used to talk lovingly about all the rabbis in the field as “our boys”, and inquire about them with that fatherly concern. It didn’t matter whether he, or the Conference of European Rabbis was involved. His level of concern was the same.

But Aba was also a life junkie. He has a freshness and excitement about him no matter what the discussion. He was never jaded about anything. And because he was always fresh, he always saw a new dimension, a new Torah question.

Once, he saw a line of adults queuing up for a Bris in Moscow. “How could it be,” he wondered, “that they all have this natural mesirus nefesh, when it was considered such a great thing for Avraham Avinu?” He was so bothered by the question that when he got back to England, he went straight to go ask his father. And, no sooner did he have the answer, than he started sharing it with others – with such geshmack, with such relish!!

Oh Aba, we miss you, we miss you. But you have also left us so much.

Bye, bye my dear friend.

My dear Aba…
My good old Aba,

I can hear your joyfull voice,
I can see your ironic smile,
your shining eyes,
feel your caring hand on my shoulder..
and this one thing i know for sure:
the memory of you will stay in my heart for ever more.
Your support, your unshakeable belief and your friendship are things
that I will never forgett.


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