HaRav Yosef Babad
Translated by Deborah Schultz
After the death, in the year 1910, of Rav [rabbi] Yitskhak Babad, the seat of the rabbinate in Kalush was vacant; he was the scion of a line of rabbis, and husband of the granddaughter of Rabbi Ya'akov Melisa. The place of the Rav was filled by the Rosh Beit-Din [head of the Jewish religious court], Rabbi Elkunah Rat (Rabbi Kunyah, Rabbi Ayzikl's). In the year 1910, Rabbi Yosef Babad, grandson of Rabbi Yitskhak, was appointed as Rav of Kalush.
Rabbi Yosef Babad was born in the year 1875, in the small town of Gologory [now Holohory, Ukraine], next to Zloczow [now Zolochiv, Ukraine]; his father, Rabbi Ya'akov, preferred the business of trade to the seat of the rabbinate. Rabbi Ya'akov moved with his family to Lwow [now Lviv, Ukraine]. There, his son Yosef studied Torah from the mouth of his maternal grandfather, Rav Alexander Shmuel Halperin, who served as a member of the beit-din [Jewish religious court] of the Jewish community of Lwow. Much later, he studied with the Rosh Beit-Din in Lwow, HaGaon Rabbi Yitskhak Schmelkes, who was among the greatest of Torah [scholars] of his generation. While still a youth, Yosef Babad revealed a quick and deep understanding, and diligence, in the study of the Torah. His skill in Torah, his scholarship, and his degree of excellence, brought him after the death of his grandfather into the role of member of the beit-din in Lwow, in his grandfather's place. He served in this role until the year 1910.
In the years of his term of service as member of the beit-din of Lwow, Rav Babad did not deal only in matters directly tied to his role. He also delved into the study of Torah, and published articles in the important monthly [journal], Ha-Shilo'ah, whose editor was Ahad Ha'am. Rav Babad was a devoutly Orthodox rabbi, who blended in his studies his great skill in the Talmud and in Halakhah [Jewish law and tradition], with the systematic approach of a man of science. He dedicated his interest especially to the science of mishpat ivri [Jewish law]; his articles, which he signed with different aliases, like Yehoshua [Joshua] Bin-Nun, the Bavli, and the Tosephist, concerned the philosophy of mishpat ivri, the minhag [custom] in mishpat ivri, etc. Likewise, he wrote about the Rambam [Maimonides] as the master of Halakhah, about the spiritual character of Rashi, and so on. His Hebrew language was clear and his style was precise.
In the year 1910, as stated, Rav Yosef Babad found himself in the position of Rav of Kalush. In contrast to Lwow, Kalush was a small town. However, in his eyes, to be Rav of Kalush the city in which rabbis like his own grandfather Rabbi Yitskhak, as well as HaGaon Melisa, had held office was a greater honor than the role of member of the beit-din in Lwow.
As Rav of Kalush, Rav Yosef Babad demonstrated that he saw his position as a sacred vocation. He was devoted to his role, and knew how to walk around with his flock in his pasture, in ways that gave him honor and admiration from every side among the Jews of Kalush. Nevertheless, he also knew how to firmly admonish them and their manner of behavior when it was required.
After his arrival in Kalush, Rav Babad had ceased to publish his research in Ha-Shilo'ah, perhaps because he knew that the Orthodox would not look kindly on it. Nevertheless, he was a friend to Zionism; when, in the year 1929, the Jewish Agency was established in the Land of Israel, he was elected as one of its representatives among the Jews of Galicia. He permitted his daughters to study at the University of Lwow; two of them joined Hashomer Hatsair [a Zionist youth organization], when a branch was started in Kalush.
Also in the year 1929, after the Haredi Rav HaKehilah [rabbi of the community] of Vienna, Rabbi Meir Meyerson, arrived at retirement age, Rav Yosef Babad was appointed to fill his position. However, Rav Meyerson did not complete his retirement, and sued Rav Babad for encroachment. A din ha-Torah [legal case or arbitration hearing before a beit-din] took place before the great rabbis of Poland, and the matter awoke great interest. It was more than a year later that the argument ended with a compromise: Rav Meyerson remained in his position, and Rav Babad began to serve in the role of Haredi Rav and Rosh Beit-Din of the community.
From the year 1931 until the year 1939, Rav Babad served in his role in the Jewish community of Vienna, and gained respect from all sides. The assimilationists and the Zionists also esteemed him because of his greatness in Torah, his devotion to his role, and the grace of his manners. After Germany's annexation of Austria in March 1938, difficult days came upon the Jews of Austria; Rav Babad stood to help the persecuted with advice and action. However, because of the danger he was in, he left Vienna with his family in March 1939. First, he moved to Holland; from there, before the entrance of the Germans to that country, he managed to move to Manchester [England].
Until his death in the year 1943, Rav Babad continued to study and study.
by Khayim H.
Translated by Deborah Schultz
David Haber, the only photographer in town, was devoted to the Zionist matter in heart and soul; he was especially known for his work for the sake of the K. K. L. [Keren Kayemet L'Israel, or the Jewish National Fund, J. N. F.]. As a man he was shy by his very nature; he did his community work with modesty and great tact. For many years, he served as chairman of the Committee for the Sake of the K. K. L. in Kalush. I sat on the committee in the specific role of representative of the Gordoniyah [Gordonist Zionist] movement. I was a young man, and also like me were a majority of the committee members; Haber was the elder among us. When the Left insisted that the chairman of the committee must be from among their ranks, I was afraid that Haber, who represented the general Zionists in the committee, would be insulted and would resign, especially when his stated substitute was to be a young man whose years were half the years of Haber. To my surprise, Haber accepted the change without objection, and continued to sit on the committee, and to fill in it the role of treasurer in his usual devotion to the matter [of Zionism] as if nothing had happened. I am sure that he was very insulted, and only his warm relationship with the Zionist youth, in which he saw hope for the fulfillment of Zionism, enabled him to continue in his work. I know that in the coming years, David Haber was again elected as chairman of the Committee for the Sake of the K. K. L. in Kalush, and he filled this role until the outbreak of the war.
I esteemed very much the man, his devotion, his modesty, and the quiet and the tact that was revealed in his relationships with people. Only one time I saw him very moved. He had arrived until the verge of despair because of the many departures of the youth [from] the Zionist camp, and the joining of many of us to the Communist ranks. This was in the year 1929, after the closing of [legal] immigration to the Land of Israel. He told me of his desperation, with tears in his eyes, when I returned to Kalush from training [vocational training before immigration to the Land of Israel]. I, too, was upset about the situation, but I tried to encourage him; certainly he was not this way because of me. Yet the truth is that David Haber remained faithful to his Zionist consciousness and recognition, and worked for the sake of Zionism until his last days.
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