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Biography



Rabbi Simcha Maslow and
his wife Sara Raizel
by his grandson Aaron Maslow


Born in 1891 in Czyzew, Poland, Simcha Maslow attended the famous Lomze Yeshiva.  He married Sara Zaks in 1914, and they resided in her hometown of Zambrow, Poland. At that time, Poland was part of Czarist Russia.  Besides obtaining smicha, Simcha Maslow engaged in various entrepreneurial pursuits, e.g. buying cigarettes and various sundries and selling them to the soldiers of the warring countries during World War I, and becoming a salesman for the American sewing machine company Singer.

In 1924, Rabbi Simcha Maslow left his family and immigrated to the United States. The plan was to bring over his family after he had acquired citizenship. While in America, he earned a living principally as a shochet and mohel. A string of Jewish farms existed in Colchester, Connecticut, and he served as their shochet. With her husband in America, my grandmother Sara Raizel Maslow supported herself as a businesswoman in Zambrow. Employing other women who worked under her, she ran a seamstress shop, turning out dresses and other women's clothes.

After acquiring citizenship in 1930, Rabbi Simcha Maslow returned to his family in Zambrow. He was reluctant to go back to America but his mother wrote from America asking that he return with his family. He made the fateful decision to return to America and spent two more years there (1932-1934) without his family. In late 1934, Rabbi Maslow made his last trip back to Poland to prepare his family for their emigration from there to the United States.  My father, Morris Maslow, my two aunts Esther and Helen, and my grandparents all arrived in New York on Jan. 31, 1935. My grandparents also had a daughter Frumit, who died as a teenager in Zambrow, and was buried there.

The family moved from the Bronx (where my grandfather and father were active in Young Israel of Tremont) to Brooklyn in the early 1940s. In Brooklyn they continued their activism in the Young Israel movement and davened at Young Israel of Avenue U. Rabbi Simcha Maslow never served as a pulpit rabbi; instead he served in other capacities.  For many years he taught in yeshivas. Many boys preparing for their bar mitzvahs were taught their Torah and Haftora portions by my grandfather without charge. As ardent Orthodox Zionists in pre-Israeli statehood years, my grandfather and father were both very active in the Hapoel HaMizrachi movement. They ran as candidates for the World Zionist Congress on the religious Zionist slate (although they were too low on the list to win.)

Landsmenshaften were an integral aspect of American Jewish life back then. Immigrants from the same town formed mutual aid and burial organizations, meeting frequently and providing assistance to one another.  Rabbi Simcha Maslow was active in the United Zembrover Society, lending money and giving advice to fellow Zembrovers. In fact, giving advice was a forte of his. Several family members remarked to me how people would always seek out his advice on all sorts of secular and religious problems.

In the days before kashrut supervision became a nationwide business, Rabbi Simcha Maslow served as an individual mashgiach at catered affairs in the New York City area. He insisted on keeping the keys and opening up the place himself; it was he who turned on the ovens and stoves for the cooking.

My grandfather had some modest real estate investments and he repeatedly made worthy charitable donations.

Rabbi Simcha Maslow was a modest man. He could have used his smicha to have the title "Rabbi" printed with his name in the telephone book yet he chose the more modest "Rev."

In the 1950s, Rabbi Simcha Maslow and my father were instrumental in forming Young Israel of Ocean Parkway and hiring Rabbi Herbert Bomzer as its first rabbi. My grandfather taught the Chevra Mishnais class there, waking up early every morning and trudging to the shul to teach the class, even if only one man would show up. He did this until the day he suffered his fatal heart attack in 1964.

Orthodox Judaism bloomed in America in the last two decades of the 20th century, when those born after World War II entered adulthood.  However, during the mid-20th century, at a time when Orthodoxy was struggling to survive, there were certain unheralded individuals who labored to keep Torah Judaism alive. My grandfather Rabbi Simcha Maslow zt"l was one of them.


 





 


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