A Genuine Friend
A Genuine Friend | Oro shel yoseph > Commemoration > Yossie, My Best Friend 22

Oro shel yoseph > Commemoration > Yossie, My Best Friend > A Genuine Friend

A Genuine Friend

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"I wish I could say that I was his best friend
----but I can say, Yossie Raichik was my best friend."
 (expressed by many friends at the Shiva)
When he heard that a book was to be written about his good friend, R. Levi Edreyi opened a new file, "Yossie" on his computer and started to write. For weeks on end, he wrote and erased, not quite sure how to formulate what he wanted to say, wanting all those who did not know Rabbi Yossie Raichik to really know him—but how to catch in words the essence of his best friend?
 "As someone who knew Yossie well, I know that if Yossie had to read and approve what was written, he would say, 'Write down your feelings, I don't care if it isn't interesting.' He would give me the feeling that whatever I do is the very best."
R. Levi knew Rabbi Raichik for over ten years - through their joint work in Tzeirai Agudat Chabad. "I don't know anyone else that has passed away that I think about every day," he says. "Mamosh every day – in the office, with his large photo on the wall facing me, when I leaf through the photo album, or when I pass by his office and pinch myself…Every trip to Jerusalem, as we drive past Har Hamenuchot cemetery, I have a sign as to where his grave is, near the number 1 highway."
 "Whenever we met, he asked how I was and what was going on. It was more than good manners. He cared and waited for a genuine answer. It was a pleasure to share experiences and discuss problems—he was a genuine friend."
I Would Drop Everything for Him
Rabbi Levi Edreyi remembers the daily routine at the office. Every knock on the door of Rabbi Yossie's office, he smiles, was a gamble - was he or was he not available? The answer was usually no. If he was in the middle of a conversation, Rabbi Yossie waved hello, or motioned, "Come in, wait a minute, I am almost finished." On the other hand, if Levi was 'in luck' (his term) and Yossie was available, "Every moment sitting with him was a pleasure, and I searched out those moments."
Levi's children who from time to time came to visit him at work received special treatment from R. Yossie. "He spoke with each of them as though he were his son. He asked what they had studied and if they wanted a drink or candy.
Yossie and I had davened together in the same shul, Beis Menachem. To see Yossie praying aloud, word by word, was very moving. After prayers, we had coffee together – a great way to start the day."
"I had the zchut," he concludes, "of working side by side with Yossie—helping him with his visitors when they landed in Israel, driving him to and picking him from the airport and seeing how he treated all the children. Those who knew Yossie also knew that a 'change of plans' was part of Yossie…Sometimes I waited for hours, sometimes I cancelled plans because of his delays, but …there never was a time I refused him; when he wanted something; I would drop everything for him."
"And why?" asks Edreyi, and immediately answers, "I just melted at Yossie's answers and apologies ….even when he got me upset, he was never malicious or inconsiderate. If he ever felt that someone was uncomfortable because of him, it hurt him. It was a great privilege to do for him or help him with whatever he needed."
Edreyi continues his recollections. He is sorely missed, he says, as a friend and advisor. He was "a listening ear" for the workers. "He listened attentively, made sure that everyone felt good and was treated well, from the Board member to the most junior worker."
It was understood that Reb Yossie was responsible for all the staff get-togethers, hitvaduyot on Chassidic dates, Rosh Chodesh parties and even Sunday morning breakfasts. On his own initiative and expense. He insisted on those events as though they were major events, going to every worker with a L'Chaim. "Those meals," observes Levi, "are really missed. Without Yossie there is no one to take charge of the little-big things in the same way…No one can fill his shoes."
 Proud of Being with Yossie
R. Edreyi cannot forget – before the holidays Rabbi Raichik would phone all his friends and associates to wish them "Chag Sameach". Even when Edreyi had phoned him several times for urgent work problems, Raichik did not forget and would phone just before candle lighting to wish him 'Chag Sameach' and all blessings. "As though we had not already spoken several times that day when he could easily have wished 'Chag Sameach,'" Edreyi recalled emotionally. "Weren't there more important people to call with those precious moments? He was 'a mensch'. It is difficult to convey how much I miss those conversations now."
The last phone call from Rabbi Raichik was on the Friday before he was hospitalized (on Motzaei Shabbat). Levi had just returned from a week abroad. R. Yossie phoned to ask how he was and how his trip had been. They discussed his forthcoming trip to the States for treatment, a trip that, as we know, did not take place. Edreyi offered to accompany him so that he could help wherever necessary. R. Levi felt so happy and privileged that Yossie had agreed. "This was a great zchut, the knowledge that I could make things easier for him and that he was happy that I travel with him – unfortunately this did not take place."
In R. Levi's every word, one hears his pride in having a friend like Rabbi Raichik; he remembers another "small" but very meaningful example. Every Shabbat morning, there is a kiddush that is sponsored by the members of the shul. On the Shabbat before a family member's birthday, Edreyi who was paying, would also invite his friends who did not usually daven with him. Among the friends was Rabbi Raichik, who although he lived a distance away would walk over and participate.
"From early morning, even before the services began, I was approached and asked, "Raichik will definitely come, right? Then clearly he will lead the Chassidic discussion". Which is just what happened. He would come and everyone sat around him, fascinated. He knew how to explain, how to demonstrate what it means to be connected to the Rebbe and to be a genuine example of a true Chossid. The discussions would go on for hours. I would sit next to him, electrified with each word, happy and proud that I had such a friend."
"When we traveled to many places, events and gatherings in Israel and abroad, I was proud and excited that "I was the one accompanying Yossie." Despite all the noteworthy people he spoke with, and as busy as he was during these meetings, he never forgot to make sure that I felt comfortable. We nearly came to blows," Reb Levi said jokingly, "when I would beg him to leave me and concentrate on what he really had do…Today, when I meet people I follow the "tips" in human relations that I learned from him.
 "He Was Able To Relate To Everyone"
Melbourne-born Rabbi Mordechai (Mottel) Feiglin is an old friend of Rabbi Raichik.
They first met at 1973 when Reb Mottel went to the Lubavitch Yeshiva at 770. They became close especially as they were both part of the group that drove every Wednesday to Forest Hills in Queens to teach Torah to Jewish children in the local schools, in the program, "Release Time" or "Wednesday Hour" under the auspices of Rabbi J.J. Hecht, a"h.
In Shvat that year, in honor of his birthday, Mottel had the zchut of Yechidus (a private audience) with the Rebbe, and he mentioned the "Wednesday Hour" program. The Rebbe responded that he should "endeavor to get all of the students [that he taught] to attend Jewish day schools." To carry out this Shlichus, Reb Mottel made appointments to see each student's parents individually, sometimes several couples in one evening.
"When I mentioned to Yossie Raichik what the Rebbe had told me in Yechidus, he immediately offered to accompany me and assist in convincing the parents to take on this extra religious and financial commitment by sending their children to Jewish day schools. It took us many trips until we completed the visits with all of the families and hopefully we had a reasonable level of success. I looked forward to those trips and sharing Yossie's humor and company. However, what stood out most was his ability to talk to total strangers, make them happy and not give up until we had made every possible effort in convincing them to adhere to the Rebbe's wishes."
Reb Mottel jumps almost a decade forward, remembering how he, his wife and their eldest two children Moishe and Yossie, moved from Melbourne to Los Angeles for a job he took with an Australian real estate development company based in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles.
"It wasn't easy," says Reb Mottel. In LA they only knew a few families in contrast to Melbourne where they had a large family and circle of friends. "Yossie went out of his way to ensure that we settled well into our new surroundings. As a result of my friendship with Yossie our wives also became close friends with our families sharing and enjoying many Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, Simchas and good times together.
In 1985 when we moved back to Melbourne, we were sad to say goodbye to Los Angeles leaving such close friends (many of which were originally introduced to us by Yossie).
Another friend from that period is Rabbi David Sabol, brother-in-law of Rabbi Yossie Hecht (son of Rabbi J.J. Hecht). "While the pain of losing him is still raw, as I think about Yossie even today, he still brings a smile to my face," he says, "a special person, always smiling and caring for everyone, who enriched many lives."
Though Yossie was a few years older, from the time their paths first crossed they had a unique bond that transcended the passage of time. ("I know, me and thousands of others".) Each time they met over the years, they just picked up where they had left off, even if it was years later.
"Along with the social good times we always had when getting together with Yossie over the years, (boy, was he able to entertain!), he thinks out loud, "his presence anywhere raised the spiritual level of those around him. He was able to relate to everyone. His unwavering commitment to the Rebbe and his shlichus always stood out. He made being a Chossid "cool," smiles Reb David.
After the birth of their daughter Sara, the Sabols who were living in Long Beach, California, invited Yossie for Shabbos to join the Kiddush they were giving in her honor. Yossie said he would be coming and they made sleeping arrangements. As Shabbos approached they hadn't heard from Yossie (again, this was the pre-cell phone days). "We assumed that he either forgot or couldn't make it," remembers David. "We were disappointed, but what could we do? Fraide lit candles and I went to shul. During Kabolas Shabbos in walks Yossie – he was running late and parked off the freeway about a mile out of Long Beach and walked the rest of the way. He was a true friend and shared in and added to our Simcha," says David.
"Who can explain the ways of Hashem?"
 A Coat Suitable for a Shidduch
Somehow Yossie found time to help everyone. His cell phone was open day and night, available to all, at all times and all places. His hosts around the world tell us that when he spent Shabbos with them, the house was filled with song and if he went into the kitchen for a moment, peals of laughter could be heard. When he packed to go back to Israel, there were packages to take – 'Please take this "small package' to Israel for us,' he was asked many time over, causing him to nearly miss his flight. But Yossie never said no, never refused anyone.
 "It's amazing how he became such a part of our lives," recall Shimon and Nancy Katz, close friends from New York who were involved in the annual fundraiser for the Children of Chernobyl. They were helping arrange their niece's wedding and each time a problem or question arose, their first reaction was, "Let's phone and ask Yossie." "And a moment later we remember that this is not possible anymore and then we realize what a great loss, what an emptiness our dear friend has left."
The Katzes were not the only ones to phone Yossie to verify something or with a question that needed an answer. Mrs. Sharon Litvin, whose late husband Reb Moshe Zelig (Jay) Litvin, a"h, was in charge of public relations for the Children of Chernobyl, tells us a story that once more shows a good friend who came to help in the "small" details of life.
The Litvins, Baalei Teshuva Chassidei Chabad, came on aliya more than ten years ago and integrated in work in the Children of Chernobyl project; which is how Raichik and Jay's friendship developed.
Jay became very ill and one morning when he felt that the end was very near, he asked to speak to Yossie, his closest friend. Unfortunately, until Yossie arrived it was too late and Jay had passed away. The bond between the Raichik family and his widow Sharon and the rest of Jay's family, remained strong.
 "My son needed a sharp-looking winter coat for his very first shidduch – to meet the girl who was to become his wife," Sharon recalls. "Since it is hard to care less, or know less, about fashion than my son does, I went with him to pick out the all important coat. Sometimes, on really momentous occasions, we tend to believe that wearing the right piece of clothing will be the decisive factor in the outcome of history. That fall the dress coats that were in the stores were from Italy, a kind of long, skinny style that looked questionable to me. My expertise was limited. I stood in the men's clothing store and studied my skinny pickle son in the skinny pickle coat, and I was deeply unsure and insecure. At this point four years earlier, my husband, o"h, would have been with me, and together we would've sailed right through this rite of passage. My oldest son, who knows how to evaluate the current styles and arrive at a rational compromise, was a continent away. I didn't really trust the young trendy salesman who circled us, smoothly assuring my son that this coat was just the thing.
Maybe the anxiety of the whole shidduch process somehow revolved on this one decision, but I panicked. Who could I call for help? Who did I know who was qualified to know what was sharp- looking but not ridiculous? Who would be kind enough to take this seemingly insignificant problem seriously and help me out? The answer? Our friend Yossie Raichik!
I dialed his number, and miracle of miracles, he was in the country. Not only that, he was in his office two minutes away. I asked him if he would look my son over in this new coat and render a judgment. Anyone who knew Yossie can easily guess his answer, 'Of course come right over, I might not be the right person for the job, but I'll take a look.' But truth was, Yossie was the right person. He always wore distinctive and beautiful clothes. One got the impression he just had a natural eye for quality and color in the selection process, but once the clothes were doing their job of being worn, it seemed they ceased to be important; his mind had moved on to other more important things, namely, his work."
It was a cold and rainy night and Yossie was in his office, on the phone and working late, as usual. When Sharon and her son, Natanel, appeared in the door, he stopped everything to see how the new coat looked. Yossie checked him out as he thought about the length and cut. "My son was uncomfortable, but it was impossible to be uncomfortable around Yossie for long," says Sharon. "His intelligent and twinkling green eyes, his natural warmth and ready jokes never failed to put a person at ease. He got Natanel laughing and after a short discussion we three decided the coat passed the test and Natanel could show up for his first meeting confident that he looked like a proper young man."
"I was relieved and grateful that I had someone to turn to in my awkward situation and left feeling like everything would be okay."
"Yossie had rare gifts with people. His willingness to laugh at himself, to extend a helping hand, to do everything in his power to make those around him happy and comfortable, made him an invaluable and unforgettable friend to our family."
Yossie the Shadchan
This was not the only time that Rabbi Raichik helped, indirectly at least, "build a home in Israel." In the example below, a home built on the foundations of Torah and mitzvot, is also to Yossie's credit. Laura Jacobson remembers:
"My sister Rosa, my brother-in-law Ray, and I met Yossie at our first Chabad Shabbaton weekend in Westerbeck Ranch in Sonoma (North Los Angeles) in 1980. We were all becoming religious because Ray had met some Lubavichers during a Chassidic gathering who told him he must come to the Shabbaton. And so, Ray convinced us to go. My sister and I bought blue skirts, white blouses, (she smiles), left our jeans home and we were off!! The whole thing really hit home for us, but the memory of walking into the warmth of the singing at the Friday night meal was just exhilarating. And who was the first person that greeted us with a huge smile?
And so, we all became good friends...Yossie, Abi, and the rest of the gang. Our religious path was being paved, and we were dealing with my mother's kitchen. Our family always got together Friday night. But now, we, the 'kids' were kosher and no longer able to partake of the delicacies of my mother's Friday night meals."
Laura remembers that Thursday vividly. Yossie called from the airport en route to one of his destinations, and said: "I got the answer to the kitchen problem: Clear out one little space in your Mom's kitchen, buy a few pots and dishes, and tomorrow night, when your parents come home you guys have a beautiful Shabbos dinner all ready for them."
"And that's exactly what we did," adds Laura. "That was Yossie, thinking of everyone else at every moment of his busy life."
After a while Laura moved to Crown Heights for a year, hoping to find her "perfect match". She came back to LA for the summer and visited the Chabad House in Westwood, where she met Yossie and told him what she was up to. "Hmm…there is a guy that I always meet in the Mikvah who seems like such a nice guy," Yossie commented. 
Laura looked at him as though he had lost his mind "You are not serious," she said, but Reb Yossie continued. "Do you want to go out with him?" he suggested and as she was deliberating…the speakerphone was on, and Laura heard the guy ask, "Is she an Ayshes Chayil?" Yossie looked at her, For sure!"
"Well, Howard and I were engaged 3 weeks after that phone call," and now it is Laura's turn to smile. "Right after we received a call from Rabbi Groner saying that the Rebbe gives a brocha for getting married, we ran into Yossie. As Howard tells Yossie what our plans are, he very nervously, almost panic-stricken, starts asking us if we are sure of what we are doing, do we know each other well enough, he reminds us that marriage is a big step... this is when Howard asks, "If you didn't want us to get married, why did you want us to go out? And after Yossie's unsure Mazel Tov, he still asks us, "But, you are REALLY, REALLY sure, right???"
Today, 23 years later, 5 incredibly happy Chasidishe kids, one great husband and wife team, Laura can answer, "Yes, Yossie we are really sure.
And it's all thanks to you."
 Part of the Family
Rabbi Raichik was there for his friends in joyous times and in hard times. Diana Dan knew Rabbi Raichik through her brothers Danny and Eduardo Elsztain.
When Diana went through a difficult divorce, he gave her support and was there for her. When her father had to return for business matters to Argentina, Rabbi Raichik accompanied her to the bet din, and made sure she finished the unpleasant process as quickly as possible.
"I met him two years earlier when my brother asked him to help with the preparations for our son's Bar Mitzva," she remembers. "Yossie, who was involved with every event in our family, was very helpful here too."
"For me," Diana explains, "R. Yossie was like a 'spiritual father'. We did not meet very often, but he was always there when I needed him, and not just for me. R. Yossie became a guide for many members of my Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz. He nicknamed me smilingly, 'my representative on the kibbutz.' Whenever there was a problem or question, I automatically called R. Yossie whose phone number was engraved in my memory. I knew R. Yossie would have the answer."
A good friend and donor from England offers this correction: R. Yossie was not only a friend, he was like a brother, and not just a brother, he hastens to add, but a partner, a close personal advisor, always ready to listen and find a solution. "All my life I looked for people like him," he said, "actually I would consider myself very very lucky if I ever find a friend like Rabbi Yossie Raichik."
Just tell him the name, and amazing experiences from all over the world spring to mind, all with one common denominator – a Jewish personality with a wide smile and shining eyes. "Yossie left his special mark wherever he went and in his special way he made an impact throughout the world."
 A Friend In Distress
"Just weeks before he passed away I received an e-mail," recalls Rabbi Kantor from Thailand. "He wrote to me that his good friend Bob Book is travelling in Thailand and would I deliver him a Shabbat package in his name. Bob was quite surprised 'Yossie traces me down wherever I am in the world' he tells me, overjoyed with the greetings and the package."
Educator R. Naphtali Roth, director of the Chassidic and Educational Center of Tzach, tells of a great friend who looked out for his friends all over the world. For personal reasons, R. Roth and his wife had to spend an extended period of time in the United States. R. Yossie was there at the same time. Despite his busy schedule, he found the time to organize a fully equipped 'office corner' so that Naphtali could continue his educational work.
 "In addition, Rabbi Raichik also looked out for my wife so that she could use the time well. Even when he was away on trips, Yossie made sure someone was there for us. On the morning of his return to Israel, he met with us, made sure that everything was running smoothly and again offered his assistance for any and everything. It is unnecessary to add that even from Israel Yossie continued to call to make sure everything was ok."
Rabbi Roth recalls a difficult period at Tzach a year before Rabbi Raichik passed away, when the police and tax authorities arrested and interrogated members of the staff. The atmosphere in the center was very heavy. Questions, doubts, and uncertainty hung in the air. A time when a smile was a precious commodity which only one person had – Yossie Raichik.
"He did not just rely on telephone conversations to encourage and strengthen," recalls Rabbi Roth emotionally. "He came to Jerusalem time and time again, to meet me personally. I remember one Friday afternoon when he called, announcing that he was on his way to Jerusalem, asking if I was in the office. Within a short while he appeared at the door with a "L'Chaim" and some cakes, setting the table quickly, creating a happy atmosphere and Chassidic simcha."
 "He invited all the other workers in the office and we sat for over an hour of Torah and encouragement. Needless to say, that that Shabbat was different than the ones before…only later did I find out that R. Raichik had come to Jerusalem especially to see me and encourage and lift my spirits!
"On Purim of that year, despite his deteriorating health which he managed to conceal from us, he arrived at our home, dressed up for Purim and happy, accompanied by his good friend R. Levi Edreyi. "Just to make sure you are happy," he announced. We had a hitva'adut for over an hour, enjoying. his shining presence even more than the impressive Mishloach Manot he brought. Rabbi Raichik was the best Mishloach Manot that we have ever received."
 Always in the Lead
Rabbi Naphtali Lipsker tells more about the difficult crisis at Tzach. "It is not hard to imagine the atmosphere during that traumatic period, with the work at Tzach tied up, the members and staff repeatedly harassed by the local authorities. Fear and trepidation in our hearts."
Rabbi Raichik had just returned from abroad. He found the staff working as best as they could, strong and determined but with heavy hearts, and that, says Rabbi Lipsker, just didn't suit him.
"From the day he returned, he led singing and dancing at the end of all the Mincha prayers held in the lobby of the offices. At 'Al Tira' (don't be afraid), he sang louder, insisting that we join in. A stranger who happened in would have surely thought that we all lost our minds, or that at least the cheerful person with the winning smile leading the dances had."
"One must remember that his situation was no better than anyone else's," Rabbi Lipsker points out. "As one of the senior staff of the organization, the worry was his as well, but Yossie knew the Chassidic way of 'distance any concept of distress'. Every day, after the singing and dancing he opened a table in the lobby and put out crackers, good herring, cold drinks and of course L'Chaim, in typical Yossie style. Yossie was worldly, he knew to discern what was good and what was excellent. However – only for others. For himself he asked very little."
Another former member of the staff of employees of Tzach, Rabbi Nosson Blumes, tells about his work with Rabbi Raichik.
The Blumes family lived in Jerusalem for several years and Blumes was offered a job at Tzerei Agudat Chabad, to arrange Bar Mitzvah celebrations at the Kotel. He knew Yossie from before. "Who didn't know Rabbi Yossie Raichik?" he asks rhetorically. When Blumes worked in Tzach, Yossie and he became closer. Rabbi Raichik offered businessmen visiting Israel a tour at the Kotel, in Jerusalem and environs or to organize a Bar Mitzva ceremony for them. "He took a back seat, saw what my potentials were, and where I would lead him, more than where he would lead me."
"He was not a boss," Blumes describes their work together. "If there were uncomfortable issues he raised them and we dealt with them together. Of the many people I have worked for, he was unique in his approach that made me feel more his peer than his employee."
"After he left his work with Tzach, Blumes came to Israel for a personal matter." I met with Yossie who was my first stop and my guide. He told me, no one will do anything for you, if you fall apart. You have to be captain of the ship, the leader who gives out the orders. If you need to, find a corner, shed a few tears, but then pull yourself together because no one else will fight your battles."
"Yossie helped with money, advice and connections, he gave fatherly love and guidance. He gave me the belief that I can succeed in my mission. His encouragement gave me a lot of the strength I needed to accomplish what I had to do. Years later when we met in 770, he told me, you know, I gave you 'chizzuk' (encouragement) because that is what I had to do, but I never thought you would succeed.
"It took me weeks, if not longer to write a few paragraphs, and I thought to myself, it's funny, I worked and developed a relationship with Yossie for over six years, and this is all I can write? But then I began to reevaluate our bond and friendship, and I came to an amazing realization:
"Yossie was the kind to encourage others, inspire others, not through amazing acts of kindness or uplifting words, (of which they were plenty) but by his presence, by seeing and feeling his devotion to work, his family, his being such a mensch – that made him special, more than interesting anecdotes or interactions. His being, his personality were what made Yossie one of the greatest people I ever met and knew.
Writing limits the emotions you felt when you walked into Yossie's room. It limits the smile and pat on the back I got when I bumped into him on Eastern Parkway and he asked me how things were going."
I wasn't a donor to Chabad or to Chernobyl. I was an employee of Tzach for a while, who every so often asked Yossie for advice. Yossie did not need to give me time and attention. He did not need to charm, impress or motivate me.
Yet Yossie gave me much, much more. He was my friend. In the period we spent together, in the good days and in the challenging days, he let me know him up close, to see who he really was and alongside that, everything else – the most sparkling anecdotes and stories – pales beyond anything one can tell or write."
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