A Chossid Was Born
A Chossid Was Born | Oro shel yoseph > Commemoration > Yossie, My Best Friend 22

Oro shel yoseph > Commemoration > Yossie, My Best Friend > A Chossid Was Born

A Chossid Was Born

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Yosef Yitzchak Halevi Raichik was born on the 13th Teveth 5713, to his parents Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid and Rabbanit Leah,of blessed memory
His father, an Amshinav chossid, learned in the Tomchei Tmimim Yeshiva of Utvesk, Poland, where he became a Lubavitcher chossid. His mother was raised within a Gur Chassidishe family. Both of them were Holocaust survivors who came to America after the war, met, married and went to live in Los Angeles, California. There, Yossie, the third of ten siblings, was born, the second of twin boys.
For many months of the year, Yossie's father was absent from home while working as an emissary of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, HaRebbe Harayatz, and later of the Rebbe, leader of our current generation. Rabbi Shmuel Dovid was the first shaliach (emissary) of the previous Rebbe to Los Angeles, and was the moving force behind transforming Los Angeles from a city lacking in Jewish traditions and knowledge to a city thriving with Torah and Yiddishkeit. His wife, Rabbanit Leah, devoted herself to raising their seven sons and three daughters, all the while coping with the poverty and reduced circumstances that prevailed amongst the European immigrants of the time.
Yossie learned in the Los Angeles Talmud Torah and after his bar mitzvah was sent to the Tomchei Tmimim Yeshiva in Montreal. After studying there for four years, Yossie moved to Crown Heights in Brooklyn to continue his studies near the Rebbe. During the years prior to his marriage at the age of 30, Yossie wholeheartedly involved himself in projects aimed at improving the material and spiritual welfare of Jews worldwide.
Yossie's work began with the Mivtza Tefillin campaign in Manhattan and spread to projects in the Far East (during the year 5736). In 5737 he studied at Toras Emes Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Upon his return to California in 5738, he assisted the new shaliach of San Diego, Rabbi Yona Fradkin, in establishing a Beit Chabad in that city. In 5739, Yossie traveled to Iran where he was a central figure in bringing over one thousand Jewish refugee children out of the turmoil of the Iranian revolution to the United States. When this project was completed, he went to work with Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, the head shaliach to California, and became one of the producers of the now famous televised fundraising show, "The Telethon to Life." It was during this time that Yossie made many deep and lasting friendships in the entertainment industry in Hollywood.
In 5743, he married Dinah nee Backenroth, from Tel Aviv, and the young couple settled in Yossie's hometown. After five years the family moved to Israel, first to Tel Aviv and then to Kfar Chabad.
Yossie and Dinah's children saw the example of a devoted chassid of the Rebbe who worked tirelessly on behalf of Jews worldwide, an example the children have taken to heart and are emulating in thought and action. 
In the last twenty years of his life, under the direction of the Rebbe, Yossie dedicated himself to the project of saving the afflicted children of the Chernobyl nuclear accident by bringing as many as possible to live and be treated in Israel. His life became divided between traveling the world in pursuit of funds for this massive project and fulfilling his position as one of the Directors of Tzach in Israel. At the same time he spent many hours helping shluchim in Israel and abroad in whatever way he could. Yossie always connected with people through his heart, generously offering whatever he had in order to help another with a problem. His compassion did not recognize borders or boundaries or limitations. This was one of his astonishing qualities about the man that led him to affect so many lives for the good.
There was a greatness of spirit and a special charm, or chein, that was apparent to everyone Yossie worked with or helped; his smile, the intelligent light in his eye, his energetic spirit communicated his concern, faithfulness, decisiveness and love for his fellow. These qualities set Yossie apart, and whether he was working for children in Iran or Chernobyl, adults in Los Angeles or Argentina, everyone used the same words to describe Yossie; warm, funny, resourceful and willing to give his all to help.
 Yossie Was One in a Million
 "Just as Yosef the Tzaddik." His family and close friends report that even when he was a small child, people were attracted to Yossie.   Deep in his being, seeds of Ahavas Yisroel had been planted, and Yossie extended his hand to all. Even in childhood, his circle of friends included people of all ages who were captivated by his magical smile and good heart.
 "Speaking frankly, when we were kids, I was jealous of him," confides his older brother, Abi.
 "We are all blessed with different talents, but Yossie was one in a million. Throughout my entire life I have not met another person like him, with so much love towards his fellow man, who radiates such acceptance."
 "Yossie always made other people happy. Even when he was in the greatest of difficulties, he wrapped his beautiful smile around him and no one knew. The other person was always uppermost in his thoughts. He was the first of us who went to the 'outside world' on the various missions, and he always remembered to bring us gifts on his return." "Once," Abi remembers, "he went out with barely a cent in his pocket, and I knew he had no money, however, when he returned he brought something for each of us. For me he bought a nice pen…"
Abi laughs when he remembers the pen collection Yossie started as a child "even though he had the most terrible handwriting!"
Abi recalls that every time he came home for Shabbos, he discovered Yossie had added new people to his circle of good friends, and all of them filled the small family home in the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles. The door was always open and Yossie's mother, Rabbanit Leah, well-known for her hospitality, made any new friend of Yossie's immediately feel more than welcome. The apple did not fall far from the maternal tree.
Charlie Diamond, was one of Yossie's childhood friends, although Diamond was a university student and Yossie was a l3 year old teenager when they met.
"While I was in university, I worked in a drug store.  One of my customers, a Satmar chossid, regularly bought wine from me. He invited me to his Purim Seudah and I went. At the seudah, twins who turned out to be Yossie and Shimmy, came in. They had just had their Bar Mitzvah and were given watches by the Rabbi. The next thing I remember Yossie was showing me his watch. That was the beginning of a long friendship. Yossie would ride his bike to the store in order to help me sort out returned bottles. I would buy him a soda and we would talk. You knew he would become a great success. He had the gift of gab and was interested in everything; business, sports and world events."
A close friendship developed and Charlie started visiting the Raichik home.
"He got a lot of his personality from his mother," relates Charlie. "She was interested in the world as well. They had an open house with something always going on there, day or night." 
Even after Charlie married and moved to Toronto, the connection between Yossie and Charlie did not waver. During visits to the town, Yossie would just drop in.
"Once he brought a big teddy bear as a gift for our baby. We still have it 38 years later and it's a great memento of a dear friend."
 A Chassidishe Soul
Rabbi Mordechai (Marty) Weiss, another childhood friend of Rabbi Raichik, also recalls their first meeting. This was in 5721, when they were both small boys. 
 "Who was Yossie Raichik that when I hear his name or remember an incident that we shared, I have to smile and at the same time I want to sit down and cry. The loss of my dearest friend leaves a hole in my heart that goes through my very soul."
It was not just the smile or his quick wit or the absolute sweetness that had salt and pepper mixed in. Yossie had 'IT,' whatever 'IT" was, in spades.
The first time I really got to know Yossie was in October, 1960. My family had moved from a neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles called Boyle Heights to west Los Angeles and I changed schools. On the first day of attending Yeshiva Toras Emes, all the talmidim would go to the auditorium and daven. We were lined up by class and even though I was a year younger than everyone they put me in the higher class for that day. There was a buzz and an undertone of excitement and anticipation in the room. Did Yossie Raichik write the lines to Rabbi T. (a very scary Rebbe to all who met him) or not? Would Yossie DARE defy Rabbi T., known in the Yeshiva just as 'The Rebbe', as he had boasted the previous day? I was eagerly anticipating what would happen. One of the other students told me that the Rebbe would kill Yossie. But where was Yossie? He had not shown up yet. Moments before we began davening, Yossie walks in, cool as a cucumber, no hesitation, no fear. I overheard one student whisper to Yossie, "Did you do it?" Yossie responded NO! The student responded, "Yossie, the Rebbe is going to kill you." Then Yossie spots me, comes over and says, "You are Marty Weiss! Welcome to our side of town," as if Yossie had nothing else on his mind. By the way, Yossie was 8 1/2 years old.
Marty continues to tell how at the end of davening all the other talmidim went off to their classrooms and only his class and Yossie's class stayed in the big auditorium for 15 minutes of singing Jewish songs. After they finished they found their seats at a couple of long tables facing the Rebbe. "Raichik," the Rebbe called out: "Did you do the punishment?"
"NO!" answered Yossie.
"The Rebbe jumped out of his seat" describes Marty, "and with an incredulous and angry expression, ordered Yossie to come up to the front of the class and bend over the table. Rabbi T. started slapping his rear end and Yossie faced the class with a smile on his face, no other reaction."
Rabbi T. was going at it, slapping and slapping, when he suddenly realized that Yossie was not crying or moving around. "What is going on?" he demanded. Yossie promptly pulls down his pants and showed us that he has another pair of pants on under his outer pair of pants with a workbook in between to cushion the blows that he knew Rabbi T would unleash on him. The class and Rabbi T. had never seen anything like this and we all broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Rabbi T. then went and pulled down both pairs of pants and really let Yossie have it! That was the last time Rabbi T ever started up with Yossie and Yossie became a legend at Yeshiva Toras Emes.
Marty recalls another incident from their Talmud Torah days, concerning a mischievous act of Marty's. Marty was sent to the principal's office where he waited for his punishment. Before he realized what was happening, the door suddenly opened and there was Yossie and Marty's English teacher, who was furious.
 "What's the matter?" the principal asked in shock.
 "That student, Yossie Raichik," he answered, angry and insulted. Hearing his friend's name, Marty became interested. The English teacher said that during a heated argument with Yossie, the young boy insulted him with the most terrible abuse.
 "What did he say?" asked the principal, unable to conceal his curiosity.
 "He called me…" the teacher could not speak, "He said that I am…that I am a Misnaged!!!"
 "For a moment silence prevailed in the room," said Marty finishing the story "and then the principal burst out laughing and said: what a wonderful Chassidishe soul the child has! Even when he wants to insult someone, the worst name that he comes up with is 'Misnaged'."
Many years later, when he was 19, Yossie succeeded in causing a real uproar, and this time it even made it into the newspapers. In the summer of 5732, the Los Angeles Times, under the curious headline "The Sabbath Brings the Police Legwork" reported that on the previous Sabbath, two Yeshiva students, Yossie Raichik and Dovid Skolnick, crossed against the traffic light on Edinburgh Highway en route to services in the Atzei Chaim Synagogue. Two police officers stopped them informing them of their violation of the law and asked for identification.
 "We don't carry identification on the Sabbath. It is against our religion."
"Well," the officers told them "we are going to have to write you up" and having filled in the relevant forms, presented it to them for their signatures.
"We cannot sign anything on the Sabbath," they answered. "Since this too violates our Shabbat law."
The officers then decided that these law-breaking citizens should be taken immediately, by police car, to the station. This the students also refused, saying, "We cannot ride in a car on the Sabbath. That, too, is against our religion."
The reporter continued to describe this unusual incident, as over 50 men from the nearby synagogue, converge at the crime scene to rescue these "law breakers." The situation soon got out of hand. The two police officers radioed for assistance and within minutes the head of the station arrived.
 "A check with the rabbi determined Raichik and Skolnick were members of the synagogue. But the police still had to have identification. It is policy," reports the paper. "Raichik and Skolnick and officers Meisner and Spring walked two blocks to the students' apartment, to examine their identification." A few days after this incident they received a police report for jaywalking!
As a result, the police officials met with representatives of the religious community who jointly decided that all future incidents would only be dealt with after the Sabbath.
 You Have Everything
Yossie's childhood friend, Marty, recollects another episode from the days they both learned in the yeshiva fondly called 770, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
"In 1973 or 1974, Yossie, with few of his friends, traveled to Manhattan on Fridays with a Mitzvah Tank which they parked on Madison Ave – they put tefillin on the men and handed out candles to the women to light for Shabbos. The tank was parked in front of a large office building, where many people worked in marketing and advertising. People came and went, in and out of the building and up and down the avenue. Some would just walk by quickly, New York style, averting their eyes and not responding to the bochurim. Several would stop and chat briefly while other brave souls would actually go into the tank and put on tefillin. As usual, many would chat with Yossie.
Several employees in one particular office were discussing the Mitzvah Tank and remarked that Yossie was a cool, sharp guy who had good answers for every question. One of the successful young advertising executives, a rising star in his firm, overheard the conversation and decided to go down and meet Yossie personally.
This first meeting blossomed into a very strong friendship. Yossie would meet him a couple of times a week to discuss Jewish philosophy and Yiddishkeit."
Marty remarks that those meetings were very challenging for Yossie. He sat with a young Jewish guy who had everything money could buy, and yet Yossie felt that it was his responsibility to "dig him out" from the dark shell he was living in and show him the light. Yossie didn't want to scare him off by putting pressure on him, but he couldn't accept that such a talented man had no clue about the truth of Yiddishkeit.
"He used to return from these meetings and come into 770 and tell us about his experiences. Yossie would learn chassidus late into the night or farbreng with his Mashpi'im (rabbinic mentors). Over and over again he would pray to the Almighty to put the correct words in his mouth, that He should guide him to be the right shaliach to bring the advertising executive towards a Jewish life.
Well, anyway, one time I came into 770 on a Thursday night. There was no Yechidus that night. Yossie was farbrenging with some friends, and after a few drinks of 'L'Chaim' he walks over to the door to the Rebbe's office (the Rebbe was not there, this was about 2 am), he lays himself down on the floor and starts to cry bitter tears begging the Rebbe to give him the right guidance."
As their friendship became deeper and stronger, Yossie asked his friend to come to 770 to the farbrengens of the Rebbe. Many of these farbrengens had devices enabling those present to hear a simultaneous translation of the Rebbe's words. The friend was very impressed with the Rebbe and began to understand where Yossie got his strength of character.
Towards the beginning of the summer, recalls Weiss, the friend called Yossie to see his new car. They were driving towards the Hamptons, down a long stretch of road in his brand new, expensive sports car, talking, when all of a sudden he pulled off to the side of the road and started crying like a baby, tears running down his cheeks; crying out of control. Yossie was stunned but waited for his friend to calm down.
"You are so lucky" the young man cried out, "you know who you are, you know where you are going. My God, you have the Rebbe to answer all your questions and doubts… What do I have? I have a hole in my soul so big you can drive a train through. I am lost. I thought that all I needed in life was success and a lot of money and I would be happy. I have nothing. I am nothing. I thought that by buying this expensive car it would validate my success. I have just won a prestigious award in my industry, I was given a big bonus, but now driving with you, I realize I have nothing." And with that he began to cry all over again.
Later that night (or very early the next morning), Yossie came into my dorm room and woke me up. He had to talk with me about what happened. "This young guy who has everything a young man could want: success, recognition by his peers, money, and he is "mekane me" (envies me) because I am a chossid of the Rebbe."
"That was Yossie Raichik" says Marty.
 "Each time I think of him" he sighs, "a great smile appears on my face, while at the same time tears well up in my eyes and my throat is strangled with yearning. Was it his smile? His quick wit? Intelligence? The lovable character with which he was endowed. It really is everything, each characteristic on its own and all joined up together, that made my best friend who and what he was. Yossie did have IT, he had 'everything' and in enormous quantities, and this radiated on everyone."
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