Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Adar I 5763 - February 27, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Remembering R' Aharon Paperman, z"l

by The Family

Part II

Last year on 22 Adar, Rabbi Aharon Paperman z"l, well- known rov, mechanech, orator, and fundraiser for Torah institutions was niftar. His long and productive life was dedicated to promoting the growth and development of Torah and Yiddishkeit on the American and Israeli scene.

Who was this multifaceted man who touched so many people in all walks of life and of all ages and left a lifelong impression on each of them? What caused him to be loved and respected by all who knew him -- even if they did not necessarily agree with his ideals?

He had an engaging and magnetic personality and a smile that warmed every heart. It was no wonder that whoever knew R' Aharon felt a close, personal connection to him. Wherever R' Aharon went, in whatever capacity he served, he always reached out to the individual. He took a profound interest in each and every person, with the result that each person felt a close connection to him.

The first part discussed his early years in Baltimore, his education in Telz yeshiva in Europe and his subsequent return to America to become a rov. It also told about his decision to volunteer to join the US Army as a chaplain, taken in consultation with the Telzer roshei yeshiva HaRav Eliyohu Meir Bloch zt"l and HaRav Chaim Mordechai Katz zt"l, and his subsequent achievements as a chaplain in Italy.

A Chaplain in Italy

During his stay in Italy, R' Aharon worked tirelessly to fulfill his many duties. He often went beyond the call of duty to help any Jew. He traveled constantly to all the different units of the army, meeting and talking with the Jewish soldiers, boosting their morale, and comforting them when necessary. He followed up these meetings with a letter to the family of each soldier. Among his personal papers are the many replies he received from parents and wives back in the States, thanking him profusely for his care and attention.

R' Aharon was responsible for all the spiritual needs of the Jewish soldiers, both in life and after death. In addition to arranging minyanim and leading services for them, this also included procuring arba minim for Succos and wine and matzos for Pesach, which in war-torn Italy was not a simple task.

In 1944 R' Aharon arranged, organized, and conducted a Pesach Seder in Naples for approximately 1500 Jewish soldiers who were then on the front lines. The commander of the Fifth Army, General Mark W. Clark, attended the seder and spoke words of encouragement to the assembled. This event received wide press coverage and was a tremendous kiddush Hashem.

The following year, R' Aharon was in charge of a Pesach seder for over 4000 men! What had been a huge train station in Florence, Italy, was converted into a gigantic dining hall for the seder. The hall was so large that it was impossible to see from one end to the other.

R' Aharon, with his unique personality, was able to convince those in charge to give him white parachute material to be used for tablecloths. He needed eggs and potatoes for the soldiers, but the army only had the powdered version and R' Aharon was very reluctant to rely on their kashrus for Pesach. He persuaded them to purchase potatoes from the British Army, even though this involved bureaucratic difficulties.

R' Aharon proceeded, with special permission, to go with groups of soldiers to gather fresh eggs from the farmers who lived in the countryside, which was normally forbidden by Army regulations. As for wine, the General himself sent his own private plane to Algiers to bring cases of kosher wine, sealed and stamped by the local rabbonim. This event was once again a magnificent kiddush Hashem, and was one of R' Aharon's most famous accomplishments during this era.

R' Aharon had many other opportunities to be mekadesh Sheim Shomayim during this period. One incident he was fond of relating was when General Mark W. Clark scheduled a conference of the Jewish chaplains of the Fifth Army together with the representative of the Jewish Welfare Board, a Reform rabbi who was part of a delegation sent to Europe by President Truman. The conference was to be on a Shabbos morning.

At the designated time, all were present except for Chaplain Paperman, the Orthodox Chaplain. The other attendees were getting jittery. After all, one does not keep a General waiting, and certainly not an emissary of the President -- especially when there is a war going on! General Clark, a non- Jew, noticing their discomfort and annoyance, said, "Don't worry. If Chaplain Paperman said he'll be here, then he'll be here. Today is Shabbos. Chaplain Paperman is probably walking now from where he is stationed."

And so it was.

While in Italy, R' Aharon did whatever was humanly possible to help those who survived the nightmare. He traveled to the different D.P. camps trying to locate relatives of people he knew and of people who had written him, begging his assistance. He sought survivors of the Telzer mishpochoh and succeeded in finding some. He assisted in the hatzoloh efforts of Agudas Yisroel as their contact in Italy, asking them to send siddurim, tefillin, and other religious supplies, and distributing these, as well as their food packages, to the refugees.

He asked the survivors what he could bring them, and then used all his resources to fulfill their requests. One poignant episode occurred when R' Aharon asked a young Bobover chossid what he could do for him. The man asked for a gemora Bava Kama, because that was what he had been learning when he was deported. This touched R' Aharon so deeply that he was determined to find the sefer, even in war-torn Italy! With the help of some Jewish soldiers, they found a huge stash of seforim that had been confiscated and stored in a shul in Rome.

The man was ecstatic. He claimed he had not seen a letter of the Aleph-Beis for five years, but if R' Aharon wanted to farher him on what he had learned previously, he was willing!

It is interesting to note that the Jewish Welfare Board periodically sent their representatives to different army camps throughout the U.S. to evaluate the chaplains stationed there.

In 1943, shortly before R' Aharon was sent overseas to Italy, an evaluation by a Jewish Welfare Board member found him to be "fanatic and intent on strict adherence to extreme Orthodoxy." In view of this, the JWB rabbi maintained, his potential to fulfill his duties to all Jewish soldiers was questionable. He did not integrate with his fellow officers, eating in his room rather than with the other officers, due to his insistence on keeping kosher. He was so intent on fully observing Shabbos, that he wouldn't answer a telephone on Shabbos -- and so on.

However, in December 1944 after serving in Italy, Chaplain Paperman was awarded the Bronze Star in recognition of his outstanding performance as a chaplain. He was cited for his bringing the "consolations of religion to large groups of Jewish men." His ministering to the sick and concern for the dead were lauded. The same JWB evaluator wrote him a sincere letter of congratulations.

Return to Civilian Life

Upon returning to civilian life, R' Aharon once again heeded the advice of his good friend R' Avigdor Miller, zt"l, who told him, "Now you have the chance of a lifetime! You have a pension from the army and, therefore, don't need a job right away. Take advantage of this opportunity and sit down in yeshiva and learn."

R' Aharon moved his family to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, planning to learn in the beis medrash of Yeshiva Rabbenu Chaim Berlin. In the middle of the year, the rosh hayeshiva, HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, zt"l, enlisted him to serve as the first head of a new yeshiva ketanoh, which was later to become well-known as the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway under the leadership of R' Elimelech Silber zt"l. In this capacity, R' Aharon worked as principal half of the day and studied in Chaim Berlin during the other half.

A year later R' Aharon returned to his position in Plainfield, New Jersey, which had been held for him all this time. In the interim, the Nitra Yeshiva arrived to re- establish itself in the United States. They first settled in South Branch, N.J., a small town not far from Plainfield.

R' Aharon taught the Jews of that area what a privilege it was for them to be able to reach out and help these newly arrived refugees. He took a group of people from Plainfield and surrounding towns to meet the refugees in their new homes. He explained to them that even though they were not directly related, and did not even know these people, nevertheless all Jews are really one family.

They rallied behind him to do whatever they could for the fledgling Yeshiva. One of the couples became so close to the families of R' Michoel Ber Weissmandl zt"l and the rosh yeshiva R' Yitzchok Zev Meyer zt"l, that to this day they are considered like family. This couple today boasts numerous grandchildren all bnei Torah studying in the finest yeshivos in America and in Israel.

Upon R' Aharon's return from the army, R' Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz zt"l had invited him to take over the helm of Torah Umesorah when R' Shamshon Raphael Weiss zt"l left. Although he had never met R' Aharon, R' Shraga Feivel had heard much about him and he sent a shaliach to approach and convince him. R' Aharon declined and the position was filled by Rabbi Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky o"h who led Torah Umesorah very capably for forty years.

Subsequently R' Shraga Feivel, who had taught in Scranton, Pennsylvania upon his arrival in America before moving to New York City, encouraged the young members of that community to hire R' Aharon as principal of their Hebrew Day School. As a result, a delegation from Scranton came to Plainfield with a contract and convinced him to come serve as the principal of the Hebrew Day School. In 1949, the Paperman family moved to Scranton where they lived for six years spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit.

As the principal of the Hebrew Day School, Rabbi Paperman had a great impact on the community. He was responsible for building a staff with proper ideals and capabilities to educate and influence the student body. He was very involved in the curriculum and supervised the day-to-day learning in all the classes. He instituted separating the boys and the girls when the boys learned mishnayos, gemora, and bar mitzvah related studies.

His untiring efforts to bring children from Scranton and the surrounding towns, most of whom had weak religious backgrounds or none at all, to the Hebrew Day School bore much fruit. Many bnei Torah and marbitzei Torah today owe their Yiddishkeit to his success in convincing their parents to send them to the Day School instead of public school and maybe to afternoon school for some Hebrew studies.

The "Twenty-Minute Men"

At that time, the Young Israel of Scranton was just organizing and Rabbi Paperman was asked to give his guidance. He agreed and was hired at the huge salary of $1 a year!

Under his guidance, the Young Israel grew and many of the town's youth were brought into the fold. Many shidduchim resulted and the Young Israel, and the school, grew and flourished. The impact he made on the community was very strong, and the friendships forged there lasted a lifetime.

R' Aharon impressed upon the baalebatim who were shomrei Torah the importance of learning Torah every single day, even if only for a short time. Thus, these men began by setting aside twenty minutes every day to learn by themselves on their own time, and became known as the "Twenty- Minute Men." The daughter of one of these men, who is married to a ben Torah and has several married children learning in Lakewood, claims that all the credit for her family turning out the way it did goes to R' Aharon Paperman. His establishing the Twenty-Minute Men revolutionized their whole attitude towards Torah, and this was transmitted to the next generation.

His relationship with the Young Israel members was very special. On one hand, he was one of the boys. At the summer weekly baseball games in Nay Aug Park, everyone wanted the rabbi on their team -- not because he was the rabbi, but because he was a "slugger" and was always placed fourth in the lineup. On the other hand he was admired and respected as their rabbi and mentor. The Scranton community truly loved R' Aharon, and in a memorial tribute to him, the Hebrew Day School fondly recalled him as "one of our founding fathers, and a true pioneer of chinuch in America."

Fundraising for Telzer Yeshiva

When the Telzer roshei yeshiva in Cleveland asked R' Aharon to become their Executive Vice President in charge of fundraising and help rescue them from their dire financial straits, he could not refuse. Although he had done some fundraising in Scranton, he never envisioned himself in that position but rather as a spiritual leader and teacher. However he had a tremendous hakoras hatov to the Telzer Yeshiva and he was convinced that Telz was extremely important for the advancement of Torah education in America and so he subordinated his educational talents for the sake of the Yeshiva.

In retrospect, although this move was a great personal sacrifice for him, it probably was a major factor in his children's, grandchildren's, and great- grandchildren's being the full Torahdike Jews that they are. The chinuch for his children was superior, and the yeshiva environment they lived in greatly influenced their lives.

For the next thirteen years the family lived in Cleveland, where R' Aharon played a major role in the growth and development of the Yeshiva. Although he was a master fund- raiser, his effect on the Yeshiva was not only financial. He was a member of the inner hanholoh, and taught in the Machon (teacher- training program) of the Yeshiva. He was also a member of the Vaad Hachinuch of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, which was under the auspices of Telzer Yeshiva.

His relationship with the bochurim was warm and genial. They appreciated his classes and his interest in each of them personally. As in all his previous positions, he was very successful in Cleveland, for he had the unusual ability of being able to move easily among all types of people, showing respect towards all regardless of their station in life.

He developed relationships with people of different social and religious levels, and when he asked them to contribute money they would do so because they felt they were doing something for him. At the same time, he opened their eyes to appreciate the true value of the Yeshiva, thereby increasing the Yeshiva's prestige in the eyes of the community.

A group of philanthropists requested that R' Aharon teach them Chumash once a week. The group consisted of four couples and they met in one of the couple's home each week on a rotating basis. Soon word spread and many others wanted to join, because this was not just translating the Chumash -- this was hashkofoh on a high intellectual level.

Not wanting the group to become too big, they decided that each week the host couple could invite one couple to join for that time. This Bible Class continued for many years and was rarely canceled -- only under dire circumstances!

Maintaining His Principles

Although he was a master fund raiser, everyone knew that he would not compromise his ideals for money. His unyielding tenacity led him to be widely respected.

One of the biggest donors in Cleveland with whom R' Aharon had a close personal relationship, passed away on a Shabbos. As soon as R' Aharon was informed of this, he went to the deceased's home where he found the son and daughter with a group of friends. Upon seeing him, the son beckoned R' Aharon to join him. He then informed R' Aharon that the funeral would be in the Park Synagogue which is Conservative. "Will you come, Rabbi?" asked the son.

"I won't go in, but I'll stand outside. I'll be there."

Whereupon the son turned to his friends and said "I told you the Rabbi wouldn't go in." Although it poured during the entire funeral service, R' Aharon remained outside.

Teaching by Example

Although R' Aharon was not always home, he made sure to give his children quality time. Mitzvos were never felt to be a burden. Every Shabbos and yom tov was eagerly anticipated -- it was fun and exciting because the children were always included. There was singing and dancing at every occasion.

From their father they learned the importance of truth and honesty. They saw his yashrus in all of his actions. The children grew up with the learning of Torah as a focal point in the home. R' Aharon had a study but every day he studied Torah at the dining room table in the middle of the house for all to see and hear. His seforim had a prominent place on the dining room table.

R' Aharon always showed interest in his children's studies, jobs, and friends. His children's friends were always made to feel at home as R' Aharon spoke to them as if they were indeed one of his own. A great-nephew remembers: "He would talk to children without condescending, giving them a feeling that he respected what they had to say."

From his example, the children learned the concept of "Hevei mekabel es kol odom beseiver ponim yofos." Age, religious affiliation, or one's intellectual attainments were unimportant. R' Aharon always had a nice word for whomever he encountered.

Two of their children were married and the other two grown when R' Aharon was approached by the Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim/Talmudical Academy of Baltimore to join their staff. Here, again, was an opportunity to be involved in chinuch habonim and to show hakoras hatov to his old alma mater. So, in 1968 the Papermans moved to Baltimore where R' Aharon served as President of the Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim/Talmudical Academy.

During his tenure in Baltimore, many organizations and institutions plied him with offers to join them in various capacities. R' Aharon's desires were twofold. He wanted to be involved in furthering Jewish education. To him, educating the children and youth were of supreme importance. Often throughout his army career and in his positions in rabbonus, he commented on the difference he noticed between people whose lives are founded on deep religious foundations and those whose lives are not, and how they cope with life.

His second great desire was to move to Eretz Yisroel and, eventually, to be able to sit and immerse himself in Torah study. He often bemoaned the fact that he was born fifty years too early, before the concept of kollel had been established!

When Chinuch Atzmai approached him with an offer to raise funds for their worthy organization, he saw the possibility for the realization of his dreams. R' Aharon accepted the position on condition that he also have a role in the actual chinuch in the schools he would nurture. He became a member of the hanholoh and when he was in Eretz Yisroel, he attended the meetings that were entirely devoted to educational topics. He was in charge of School Development and during his tenure, the growth of schools in the Chinuch Atzmai network, both in quantity and quality, was phenomenal.

Eretz Yisroel

R' Aharon and his Rebbetzin moved to Eretz Yisroel together with their youngest son and lived in Yerushalayim -- first in the Ezras Torah neighborhood and later in Bayit Vegan, until they moved to Kiryat Telz-Stone, a picturesque town about fifteen minutes west of Yerushalayim on the road to Tel Aviv.

R' Aharon had been one of the representatives from Telzer Yeshiva who had originally bought this land when the Yeshiva decided to expand to Eretz Yisroel. This too was a major accomplishment, and not without obstacles.

In the midst of the negotiations the Six Day War broke out. Everyone was mobilized and, overnight, there was literally no one to deal with! The delegation decided to return home, in view of the circumstances. During their stopover in England, they heard that boruch Hashem the war had ended. They immediately returned to Eretz Yisroel and were able to finalize the purchase.

R' Aharon and his wife were among the first settlers of the Kirya, and he took great pleasure in seeing it grow to be the large community it is today. He was considered one of the "elders" of the Kirya, and was greatly respected by all who knew him there. Many people living in Telz-Stone became acquainted with R' Aharon and turned to him for guidance and advice in various situations.

Their house was always buzzing with family and friends from Baltimore, Scranton, Plainfield, Cleveland and elsewhere. Their warmth (and the good food served by the rebbetzin) was definitely an attraction which made Telz-Stone a popular spot on the itinerary.

Although they lived in Eretz Yisroel, R' Aharon spent five months of the year in the US raising funds for Chinuch Atzmai. In the first years, he also traveled to S. Africa. The remaining months of the year were spent studying Torah undisturbed. As Chinuch Atzmai's fundraiser, as in all his previous undertakings, he worked with tireless devotion, for chinuch was always of supreme importance to him.

When the Telzer Yeshiva opened its doors in Eretz Yisroel and HaRav Mordechai Gifter zt"l moved to Kiryat Telz-Stone, he and R' Aharon learned bechavrusa. At that time, R' Aharon discontinued his trips to S. Africa so that he could have more time to learn with HaRav Gifter. He was once again closely involved with the talmidim.

The petiroh of HaRav Boruch Sorotzkin zt"l necessitated HaRav Gifter's return to the United States and the closure of this branch of the Telzer Yeshiva. Losing his chavrusa and the companionship of his close friend was a severe blow to R' Aharon. However, he found other chavrusas and continued his daily learning schedule.

R' Aharon always said that he was always able to see Hashem's helping hand in all of his endeavors. In the rabbinate, in chinuch, and in fundraising he realized that his successes were not his own doing. Hashem endowed him with the sparkling, magnetic personality and the talent and capability to attract so many diverse people and imbue them with Torah perspectives. As a renowned orator speaking at countless dinners and other functions for many organizations across the country, he was thrilled to be of assistance to so many Torah causes, but he shunned publicity whenever possible. Although his fame spread due to his many successes, he knew they belonged to Hashem and not to him.

As R' Aharon aged and his health began to fail, he cut back on the length of his trips to America for Chinuch Atzmai spending more time learning in Eretz Yisroel. At the point he felt he could no longer travel, he retired. It was not an easy decision for such a dynamic, energetic person but, ultimately, he was forced to admit that the time had come.


Upon retirement, R' Aharon realized the fulfillment of a life- long dream, to live in Eretz Yisroel and learn Torah all day. He sat at his dining room table and learned with different chavrusas throughout the day. He was very content during this time and grateful to the Ribono Shel Olom for enabling him to do so.

In his later years, he became the patriarch of his extended family -- not only his own children and grandchildren but also nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren. He was loved and respected by family members of all ages and religious convictions. All came to enjoy Uncle Aaron and Aunt Chaya's company and seek their advice in business, chinuch, and personal affairs.

During the last two years of his life, his health began to decline and he suffered greatly. However, to him the greatest pain was his inability to learn Torah. R' Aharon also bemoaned the fact that his oldest son, who lives in Eretz Yisroel, had to spend so much time away from his learning while caring for him. R' Aharon was niftar at the age of 88.

HaRav Aharon Paperman, z"l, was zocheh to see children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that are not only shomrei Shabbos, but true bnei Torah, all following in the Torahdige path that he paved for them. This was infinitely more than he had davened for on his wedding day; much more than he had ever dreamed of achieving.

Yehi Zichro Boruch.

The family is interested in gathering more information and stories about R' Aharon Paperman. Anyone having such information is requested to phone or fax: (US) 718-338-5626; 845-425-9014; (ISRAEL) 011-972- 3-6186-584; or 011-331-4841- 2569.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.