Herschel Schacter

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Not to be confused with Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
American chaplain Rabbi Hershel Schacter conducts religious services at the liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.

Herschel Schacter (October 10, 1917 - March 21, 2013) was a chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,[1][2] and a prominent student of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.[3]

Personal[edit]

Schacter was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn and the youngest of 10 children. His parents came from Poland. His father, Pincus, was a seventh-generation shochet, or ritual slaughterer; his mother, the former Miriam Schimmelman, was a real estate manager.

Schacter earned a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University in New York in 1938 and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1941. He spent about a year as a pulpit rabbi in Stamford, Connecticut before enlisting in the Army in 1942.

During World War II, he was a chaplain in the Third Army's VIII Corps.[4] and was the first US Army Chaplain to enter and participate in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945, barely an hour after it had been liberated by Gen. George Patton's troops. Rabbi Schacter remained at Buchenwald for months, tending to survivors and leading religious services. One of the children who he personally rescued from the camp was then 7-year old Yisrael Meir Lau, who grew up to become the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. Later he aided in the resettlement of displaced persons, one of whom was teenaged Elie Wiesel, one of some thousand Jewish orphans liberated that day. He was discharged from the Army with the rank of captain.[5]

Schacter was the Rabbi of the Mosholu Jewish Center in the Bronx from 1947 till it closed in 1999.[6]

In 1956, he went to the Soviet Union with an American rabbinic delegation as advocate for the rights of Soviet Jews and an adviser on the subject to President Richard Nixon.[7]

Death[edit]

Schacter lived in the Riverdale, Bronx and died March 21, 2013. He was 95 and is survived by his wife, the former Pnina Gewirtz, whom he married in 1948; a son, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, the former director of the Soloveitchik Institute;[1] a daughter, Miriam Schacter; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.[7]

References[edit]