On Erev Shabbos Chayei Soroh in Toronto, with the ushering in of Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel, one of the biggest supporters of Torah of our generation, HaRav Moshe Reichmann, passed away in the 83rd year of his illustrious life.
R' Moshe was born in Elul, 5690 (1930) in Vienna to his father, R' Shemaya. Originally from Hungary, the family moved to Vienna to seek business opportunities. His parents realized that the situation in Europe was becoming dangerous for Jewry. In 1938 when Germany suddenly took over Austria, they were out of the country visiting their family in Hungary, but they left everything in Austria behind and went to Paris. When the Germans took over France, the family fled to Morocco, first to Tangier, and then to Tetouan where they lived for 15 years. R' Shemaya went into business and was again very successful. He sent his children off to yeshivos, which was not an easy decision in those days.
Thus did young Moshe make his way from Tangier to Yeshivas Torah Emes in England, and under the leadership of HaRav Moshe Schneider, he grew and matured in Torah and yiras Shomayim. The yeshiva experienced difficult times of want and poverty. Its students barely had enough to eat. The Rosh Yeshiva contacted one of the bakeries (Grodzinski's) which supplied kosher bread to the Jewish community and asked them to give the yeshiva its leftovers so as to keep the students minimally satisfied. They arranged for a yeshiva student to come each morning to pick up the leftover bread from the previous day. The bakery was in the East End of London, and the Yeshiva was far away in the North End.
Young Moshe, a favorite of the Rosh Yeshiva, was appointed to ensure that the bread was picked up. It was the
hardest task in the yeshiva. No bochur wanted the humiliation of carrying a sack of day-old bread on his back in the bus and then for a 15-minute walk to the yeshiva's kitchen. The young fellow found it easier to do the unpleasant job himself than to find takers for it. One day, the Rosh Yeshiva summoned him. "Moshe," Rav Schneider comforted the young man, "In the merit of doing this you will one day provide for the whole Torah world!"
After a several years, Moshe headed for the Gateshead yeshiva and later, went to study in Eretz Yisroel in Yeshivas Ponovezh. HaRav Shach took a deep liking to this young man, an affection that was to grow into a partnership for Torah, with R' Reichmann becoming a major supporter of Torah in Eretz Yisroel.
R' Moshe went on to study in Yeshivas Mir in Brooklyn, and here, too, he found favor in the eyes of the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Avrohom Kalmanowitz. He created a network called Otzar HaTorah to do outreach with Oriental Jews who had distanced themselves from Torah. Still a bochur at the time, he assumed great responsibility in this area, establishing many dozens of chadorim and yeshivos for Sephardic Jewry, hoping to counteract the efforts of the Zionist Aliyas Hanoar youth immigration movement determined to eradicate Torah and mitzvos from this huge community of Jews in many North African lands. In this capacity, he also had contact with the Chazon Ish, whom he consulted on many matters.
After his marriage to the daughter of the philanthropist, R' Moshe Feldman, they moved to Montreal and later, to Toronto, where he remained till his last day, reaping blessed success in his many business undertakings. Before long, he had earned a reputation as one of the greatest supporters of Torah in our generation. It is said that they gave as much as $50 million in some years.
One of the extraordinary features of his generosity was his establishing the financial basis, Yated Ne'eman, per the request of HaRav Shach. He donated huge sums as seed money and provided ongoing support for the newspaper. At one difficult period, he organized a huge loan so to prevent the paper from collapsing. Characteristically, he refused to be reimbursed, but the repayment was forced upon him against his will.
HaRav Eliahu Raful, rosh yeshiva of Neve Eretz who was very close to R' Reichmann, noted that R' Moshe actually had the mind of a genius, as many testified. His soul, as well, was extremely refined and noble, in fact, outstandingly so. He was straight as a ruler in all of his dealings and his love for Torah was legendary. All of these exemplary facets of his personality were grounded in the firm yiras Shomayim which burned in his bones.
One of the few exceptions to his insistence on not taking any public credit for his generous support was his founding of the Beis Shemaya yeshiva for Sephardim in Bnei Brak, named after his father. His dream, says the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Englander, was to build the yeshiva up the be the equivalent of Ponovezh for the Sephardic community, and he invested resources to advance this goal.
HaRav Shach once said of him, "I cannot grasp how a single man was deemed worthy by Heaven to support and maintain the entire world of Torah."
In an interview with Institutional Investor that was quoted in the New York Times, Mr. Reichmann said his business accomplishments had never given him the sense of fulfillment he experienced as a youthful religious social worker and teacher in North Africa. But "what could have been is a silly way to look at things," he said. "You are what you are."
He is survived by his wife, and by two sons and three sons-in-law, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who continue along his path of Torah and support of Torah.