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Shloshim Observance for Rabbi Max N Schreier, A”H


It is difficult to recap, in a few minutes, 50 years of Shul history and decades of a wonderful relationship with the Schreier family, but I will try my best.

At the levaya, it was mentioned, several times, that Rabbi Schreier was a “Rabbi’s Rabbi” and that is certainly true.  I would like to add that he was also a “Yid’s Yid”, a Jew’s Jew. His love for his fellow Jew was boundless, whether the person was observant or not.  He knew that every one of our brethren has a Jewish Neshomo, a Jewish soul, and that Neshomo needs to be respected and cultivated. He understood that every Jew can contribute, in different ways, to Am Yisroel, to the Jewish people. It didn’t matter if the person was a member of the Shul or lived in another U.S. state, or resided in Israel, or behind the Iron Curtain, or anywhere else… to Rabbi Schreier a Jew was a Jew. And beyond the Jewish world, he treated all people with respect as long as that respect was reciprocated.

He had a special place in his heart for survivors of the Shoah, like my parents. It was very important to him that the Shul have a meaningful, annual Yom Hashoah observance… to remember those we lost, and to honor the survivors.

In the early days of his tenure as Rabbi, when not everyone in the Shul was totally observant and many in the neighborhood were not frum, I believe that he did influence people to become more observant, even if they did not go all the way. The Rabbi did that in two ways: First, he was not judgmental – he accepted people as they were. He showed respect to each and every member of the Shul and the community.  Secondly, many of the congregants realized that Rabbi Schreier is observant and is learned in Torah and, yet, he is a baseball fan and meets often with non-Jewish government officials.  They thought: “Maybe I can become more observant and still be worldly…  In many cases, it worked!

Rabbi Schreier was neither as outgoing nor as social as many other Rabbis.  He was very, very reserved. Yet, those of us who knew him for a long time, understood exactly what he was thinking and what was in his heart. He led by example, emphasized honesty and sincerity, and left a lasting impression on all whose lives he touched.

What did we love about Rabbi Schreier? Oh, there are so many things but let me name just two:

  1. We loved his leading the services, davening for the Amud, during the year, but especially, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  He was not a Chazan. He was an excellent Baal Tefillah. His inspiring voice, his traditional nusach, his beautiful melodies, his kavanah.  It was so, so obvious that he understood every word he was saying… As a child, I always pictured his words going straight up to Shamayim, to heaven… just flowing upward… and I felt the same way as I grew older…  My parents would often comment “Azoi vi in der alter heim”. That is, he davens, the way we heard people daven in our respective hometowns in Poland pre-war…
  2. We loved his weekly Shabbos droshos, his sermons. Each and every sermon contained some reference to a current event.  I remember that Dov mentioned, at the levaya, that it was easier for his father to include current events in his sermons than it was for other Rabbis because he could always say “I had an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel on Monday” or “I spoke to Senator so and so this week” or “I recently met with the Bushes in Washington D.C.” and he would include references to those meetings in his speech on Shabbos.  It is true, that in his capacity, as head of various Jewish organizations, he met a dignitary or two, each and every week, but, I believe that there was more to it than that.  He had an unusual talent for taking a current event item and weaving it seamlessly and unobtrusively into his drosho on the Parsha.  It made the Parshiot come alive and it ensured that he would never repeat a sermon… because current events do change from week to week…

I should note that, in those days, I and many of the other children and teenagers in the Shul stayed for the Rabbi’s speech, rather than playing or schmoozing in the hallway. First of all, our parents insisted on our giving kovod, respect, to the Rabbi.  Secondly, we wanted to hear what he had to say and whom he had encountered that week… Personally, I truly believe, that I honed my English skills by listening to a great orator like Rabbi Schreier each and every Shabbos for many, many years.

The Rabbi had a long and illustrious career at the Avenue N Jewish Center. He was a talented and well-liked Rabbi but part of his success could be attributed to his “darling” Toby.  That is what he called his dear wife, A”H. As is always the case, misunderstandings and issues arise in a Shul.  A congregant might feel slighted or be under the impression that he or she had not received the attention or kovod that was due.  Rebbetzin Toby, using her talents as “the great negotiator”, was able to make peace between the parties in no time.  One of many things she did, on a regular basis, was to sit outside in the hallway, right there, after davening on Shabbos, and greet each and every person coming out of Shul with a smile, a heartfelt good Shabbos, and, sometimes, a handshake.  She greeted every individual as if he or she was the only person that mattered. Soon, issues and misunderstandings melted away… Her chair, with her name on it, still stands in the hallway. Her name was added after she was nifter…


Today is Flag Day so I should mention that Rabbi Schreier, although born in Germany, was a very patriotic American citizen. He was grateful to the United States for the opportunities afforded to Jewish people in this country. He often referred to the U.S. as a “Malchus Shel Chesed”, a “kingdom of loving kindness”. He was also grateful to the United States for its support of Israel, even though we were often seeking more support than was offered.


That said, he was well aware of the challenges we face in American society.  On several occasions, he mentioned that if a Jew works in a non-Jewish environment, be it in corporate America, or in a governmental position, or in a public school or college, and if that person continues to observe Shabbos and Yom Tov, and continues to strictly adhere to the laws of Kashrus, that Jew will have a very special place in Gan Eden.  He understood that work schedules often conflict with Shabbos and that non-kosher food abounds in work settings.  Every time that I walked out of an important meeting, at 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon, on a short Friday, indicating that I was going home, and faced quizzical looks or, sometimes, hostile stares, I walked out of that conference room with pride. I was thinking about what Rabbi Schreier had said and felt “Yes!” one step closer to Gan Eden.


The Schreier family had a beautiful home… Not a fancy or luxurious home but a beautiful home… Children and teenagers from the Shul, friends of their children, and others, were welcomed to the house every Shabbos afternoon.  Rebbetzin Toby would keep them entertained with games, jokes, and conversations. My brother, Itchie, was one of the young people who frequented the Schreier home.


I have so many wonderful memories and stories about Rabbi Max N. Schreier, Rebbetzin Toby, and the family, but since we have a limited amount of time, this morning, let me just end by saying, that Rabbi Schreier was a Rabbi’s Rabbi and a Jew’s Jew. He was an amazing person. He loved his Mishpocho and treasured his Shul family. I hope that his memory will continue to inspire us, that his legacy will continue to live on in the Shul, and that his family’s good deeds and nachas from his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will result in continuous Aliot for his Neshomo. 


May his memory be blessed.

Written by: Helen Goldfinger


Sun, May 19 2024 11 Iyyar 5784