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Graubart, Y.L.


GRAUBART, Y.L. (Judah Leib ; 1861–1937), rabbi and halakhic authority. Judah Leib Graubart was born in Szrensk, Poland. One of at least eight children, he was raised with an appreciation of Talmud scholarship and ḥasidic piety even as he was exposed to Haskalah. His teachers included his father, elder brother Issachar Plock, the Kalisher rabbi, Ḥayyim Eliezer Wax, and Rabbi Nathan Leipziger of Szrensk. Graubart received smicha from both Wax and Leipziger.

Graubart went on to serve as rabbi in Yanov, Makov, and Stashov. In Makov he published the first volume of his five-volume collection of clarifications of talmudic texts and of responsa, the Ḥavalim be-Ne'imim (1901–39); volume 2 appeared while he was in Stashov. At the outbreak of World War i, the Russians accused Graubart (and others) of espionage, and imprisoned him in Siberia. By the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, Graubart was free in Moscow, where he led prayer services, taught, and collected funds for impoverished Jews. Graubart recorded his experiences in his memoir, Sefer Zikaron (Lodz, 1925/6).

Returning to Poland, Graubart supported Mizrachi Zionism against the Agudat Israel rabbis. Like prominent Polish Mizrachi Zionist, J.L. Zlotnik (Elzat), Graubart immigrated to Canada in the early 1920s. He became rabbi to Toronto's Polish Jews, while Jacob *Gordon served Russian-born Jews. Relations between the two soured when they sparred over supervision of kosher meat. In Toronto Graubart also spoke out against violators of the Sabbath, and even preached several outdoor Sabbath sermons in Toronto's bustling Jewish Kensington Market. A strong advocate of Jewish education, Graubart supported the talmud torah Eitz Chaim (est. 1918). He had complete disdain for the Reform rabbinate. He also acknowledged, with regret, that North American Orthodox rabbis fell short of an old-world level of learning. He nevertheless recognized that a new generation of North American-trained rabbis was needed and supported the modern Orthodox yeshivas in New York and Chicago.

Graubart continued writing in Canada. His last three volumes of Ḥavalim be-Ne'imim reflect New World concerns and show that he was now corresponding with other Orthodox rabbis in Canada. He published a collection of sermons in Hebrew, Devarim Ki-Khetavam (St. Louis, 1931/2) and a second collection of essays and sermons, Yabi'a Omer (Lodz, 1936). A number of shorter essays were published in the Yiddish press.

Despite misgivings about the state of Judaism, Graubart energetically worked to build Orthodox Jewish life in Toronto. He also fostered a tradition of advanced rabbinic scholarship in Toronto continued by Abraham *Price, Gedaliah *Felder, and others.


S.A. Speisman, The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937 (1979); Ch.L. Fox 100 yor yidish un hebreyshe literature in kanade (1980), 73–4.; M.D. Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in American: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1996): 81–83.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]

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