Rockland County, NY - Monsey Remembers Lifelong Prominent Principal, Rabbi Nachum Muschel
Rockland County, NY - It was an outpouring of love yesterday for a long time pillar of the Monsey community as hundreds of family, friends and students turned out to pay their respects yesterday to Rabbi Nachum Muschel who died on Shabbos at the age of 90.
A Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Muschel left his hometown of Tarnow in Poland in 1939, fleeing with family members to Siberia. Rabbi Muschel’s first job upon his arrival in the United States was teaching at the Beth David yeshiva in Waterbury in 1945, and it was several years later that he moved to the Monsey area, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Rabbi Muschel served as the temporary rabbi of Monsey’s Community Synagogue in the mid 1950’s and also served as one of the shul’s baalei tefilla. But it was with the opening of the Hebrew Institute of Rockland County in 1954 that Rabbi Muschel truly became a major force in the community, joining the fledgling school in its third year as principal. Rabbi Muschel served at the school, later renamed the Adolph Schreiber Hebrew Academy of Rockland, for over forty years as both principal and dean.
“He was one of the original mechanchim in America,” community activist Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald told VIN News, who recalled attending 30 Torah U’Mesorah conventions with Rabbi Muschel. “He knew all the kids in his school and he knew how to reach them. He represented Modern Orthodoxy in a very respectful and very educated way . He believed in progressive education and the latest modern techniques. He was a respected mechanech.”
Strongly committed to providing his students with a top notch Ivrit B’Ivrit education as well as a curriculum that stressed the history of Israel and the Holocaust, Rabbi Muschel would travel the world in search of the best teachers, according to his nephew Mark Meyer Appel.
“I remember him interviewing relatives in Israel to work in the yeshiva when I was there,” said Appel. “He gave them the same bechina and the same evaluation he would give anyone else. His whole life was dedicated to the yeshiva and getting the best teachers. He would bring them to America and arrange housing for them.”
Rabbi Muschel served as a judge numerous times in the National Bible Contest, held in New York, and once as judge at the International Bible Contest in Israel.
“He was a tremendous expert in Tanach and a great talmid chochom,” said Appel.
Rabbi Muschel’s commitment to his yeshiva extended to all corners of his life. As the rabbi of Congregation Hadar, located in the ASHAR school building on Highview Road, Rabbi Muschel would be paid by congregants to sell their chometz before Pesach, but would donate the money to the yeshiva.
Appel noted that Rabbi Muschel’s tolerance was a key factor in bringing less affiliated Jews closer to the fold.
“He understood that a lot of people weren’t shomer Shabbos at that time, but knew that by giving them a solid education they would be in time,” said Appel.
Rabbi Muschel and his wife Sara had four sons, one of whom died in 1995. Appel has vivid memories of his uncle’s strength during the levaya for his son, Dr. Joseph Muschel.
“Even as they were putting his son into the ground, he took out his Tehillim he didn’t skip a single word,” recalled Appel. “At the most emotional time in his life he still had his Tehillim in his hands, repeating every word in a loud, clear voice.”
Instead of succumbing to grief at the death of his 32 year old son, Rabbi Muschel channeled his energies in a positive direction, establishing the Joseph N. Muschel Memorial Foundation in 1996 and dedicating an ambulance to the Israeli settlement of Hashmonaim in the West Bank in 2003.
The last time Appel saw Rabbi Muschel, who had been experiencing heart trouble for years, was at the wedding of a grandchild, where he served as mesader kiddushin, just thirteen days before his passing.
“ I asked him how he was feeling and he said, ‘Thank G-d I made it to the wedding,” said Appel. “He was larger than life, the kindest man and the most honest rabbi I have ever met in my life.”
Several hundred people turned out at ASHAR’s new school building in New City yesterday for the two hour long levaya, where Rabbi Muschel was recalled as a masterful maspid, a tremendous baal chesed whose door was always open to anyone in need, not just in the prime of his life but until his very last days.
Aron Schwartz, a 2003 graduate of ASHAR, said that Rabbi Muschel was a powerful force that shaped the Monsey community for decades, providing students with an unmatched curriculum in both Jewish and secular studies.
“We learned not just how to be Jews, but productive members of society,” said Schwartz. “We learned to love and appreciate Israel and how to embrace a culture. We learned that college and yeshiva can coexist. We learned never to stop asking questions. Rabbi Muschel was big on always challenging ourselves to become better. ASHAR didn’t just lose a dean. Jewish education lost a leader.”
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