Rabbi Jacob Mendel Kirshenblatt z"l
Rabbi Jacob Mendel Kirshenblatt z"l was born on April 27, 1903 in the Polish town of Driltsh, the son of Golda and Zalman. At age 16 he entered the Yeshiva of Lomza and continued his studies with the renowned European rabbinic great the ‘Chofetz Chaim’ (Rabbi Meir Israel Kagan) at his Yeshiva in Radun, Poland.
Wishing to complete his rabbinic studies, he had little money, inadequate documents and faked identity cards, but complete faith that God would bring him to where he wished to go. Young Mendel Kirshenblatt z"l left for what was then Palestine and the newly established branch of the Lomza Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah. In 1929, at age 26, he was ordained as Rabbi Jacob Mendel Kirshenblatt z"l.
Rabbi Kirshenblatt z"l was trained in an old world rabbinic way. He was a shochet (ritual slaughterer), a mohel, a ba’al koreh (Torah reader), a teacher and a bit of a hazzan. In a colloquial way we would have referred to Rabbi Kirshenblatt z"l as a kol bo, which denotes a man of letters and experience, a man who can speak the word and law, and at the same time act on it.
After contacting a brother in Toronto, he received a position in Welland and the following year he met and married his wife Annie y”h. He then served for nine years as the pulpit rabbi, teacher, mohel and shochet in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, until he volunteered as a chaplain for the Allies during World War II, when he met Rabbi David Monson z"l.
By the end of the war, and after a short stint in Peterborough, Rabbi Kirshenblatt z"l joined Rabbi Monson z"l in building a great Conservative synagogue which became Beth Sholom. Rabbi Kirscheblatt z"l taught in Beth Sholom’s school and served as the synagogue’s assistant rabbi and Torah reader. He retired in 1972, but continued teaching bar and bat mitzvah students and provided chaplaincy services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (now part of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute).
Rabbi Kirshenblatt z"l had a well earned reputation for teaching children their bar and bat mitzvah portions. In fact, he had taught many generations of the same family and he continued to teach children until shortly before he passed away. But his real excellence came with children who were termed “problems” or “rebels”. Armed with love, humility, scholarship, respect and care, “Kirshy” as his many former students still lovingly refer to him, won them all over. Few, if any, could stand up to an assault by this man’s humanity.
Rabbi Mendel Kirschenblatt z"l passed away in 2002 at the age of 99.