Yisroel Avrohom Portugal

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Rabbi Israel Abraham Portugal lighting Hanukkah lights (Zev Weinbaum, one of his assistants, is seen on the right) Skulen2.JPG
Rabbi Israel Abraham Portugal lighting Hanukkah lights (Zev Weinbaum, one of his assistants, is seen on the right)

Yisroel Avrohom Portugal (or Israel Abraham Portugal) (June 2, 1923 April 1, 2019) son of Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal and his first wife, Sheina Rachel, was the Rebbe (Grand Rabbi) of Skulen in Brooklyn, New York. [1] He was the last Holocaust era Rebbe to lead a Hasidic sect. [2]

In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism's written and oral laws. The first sage for whom the Mishnah uses the title of rabbi was Yohanan ben Zakkai, active in the early-to-mid first century CE. In more recent centuries, the duties of a rabbi became increasingly influenced by the duties of the Protestant Christian minister, hence the title "pulpit rabbis", and in 19th-century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including sermons, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance.

Eliezer Zusia Portugal, the first Skulener Rebbe, was revered by his followers in Russia, Romania, Israel, and the United States for his personal warmth and his care for hundreds of Jewish youth and war orphans, whom he personally adopted as his own children. He established the Skulener dynasty in America in the 1960s. His only biological son, Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, succeeded him as Rebbe.

Rebbe Orthodox rabbinic title, especially in Hasidism

Rebbe is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word rabbi, which means "master", "teacher", or "mentor". Like the title rabbi, it refers to teachers of Torah or leaders of Judaism.


Early years, education, and World War II

In his youth, he studied in Vizhnitz under the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Hager. Before World War II began Portugal and his father left their hometown of Sculeni in Moldova (the town from which derives the name of the Hasidic sect that they led) and went to Chernowitz in Ukraine, where they spent the Second World War. [2]

Vyzhnytsia City in Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine

Vyzhnytsia is a town located in the historical region of Bukovina, on the Cheremosh River in Chernivtsi Oblast of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of Vyzhnytsia Raion. Population: 4,068 (2015 est.)

Vizhnitz (Hasidic dynasty)

Vizhnitz is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager. Vizhnitz is the Yiddish name of Vyzhnytsia, a town in present-day Ukraine.

Sculeni Commune in Ungheni District, Moldova

Sculeni is a commune in Ungheni District, Moldova. It is composed of four villages: Blindești, Floreni, Gherman and Sculeni.

Soviet occupation

After the war father and son went to Bucharest, Romania. The senior Portugal was arrested several times by the Soviets, who ruled Romania until 1968. In April 1959 the pair were arrested and accused of treason. After a big outcry and through the work of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Rabbi Eliezer Silver of Ohio and other world Jewish figures, United Nations officials facilitated their release. [3] [4] They were released in September 1959, and arrived in the U.S. in August 1960 after the U.S State Department offered them U.S. citizenship. [2]

Bucharest Capital of Romania

Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. It is located in the southeast of the country, at 44°25′57″N26°06′14″E, on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, less than 60 km (37.3 mi) north of the Danube River and the Bulgarian border.

Romania Sovereign state in Europe

Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the southeast, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 sq mi), Romania is the 12th largest country and also the 7th most populous member state of the European Union, having almost 20 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, and other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, and Brașov.

Menachem Mendel Schneerson Seventh Chabad Rebbe

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (April 18, 1902 OS – June 12, 1994 / AM 11 Nissan 5662 – 3 Tammuz 5754, Hebrew: מנחם מענדל שניאורסאהן‎, known to many as the Lubavitcher Rebbe or simply as the Rebbe, was a Russian Empire–born American Orthodox Jewish rabbi, and the last rebbe of the Lubavitcher Hasidic dynasty. He is considered one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.


Rabbi Portugal lived primarily in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn but spent some time including about half of the Jewish holidays in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where his father lived. He was widely sought after for his blessings and advice. He deprived himself of bodily pleasures by sleeping very little, not sleeping in a bed and eating no more than one meal a day. He was also known for his battles against modernities such as watching television and use of internet.

Borough Park, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Borough Park is a neighborhood in the southwestern part of the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City, United States. The neighborhood is bordered by Bensonhurst to the south, Bay Ridge to the southwest, Sunset Park to the west, Kensington and Green-Wood Cemetery to the northeast, Flatbush to the east, and Midwood to the southeast.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordered by Greenpoint to the north; Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south; Bushwick and East Williamsburg to the east; and the East River to the west. As of the 2010 United States Census, the neighborhood's population is 32,926.

He encouraged shaving the scalp except for boys under three and unmarried girls.

He was a composer of Hasidic songs. He always (except on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays) carried with him a small tape recorder to record any new tune that would come to his mind. He composed thousands of songs. Most of them were forgotten after they were recorded, but many of them were sung at his tishen, and a handful of them have become classics in the Hasidic community.

A nigun or niggun is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as "Bim-Bim-Bam", "Lai-Lai-Lai", "Yai-Yai-Yai" or "Ai-Ai-Ai" instead of formal lyrics. Sometimes, Bible verses or quotes from other classical Jewish texts are sung repetitively to form a nigun. Some nigunim are sung as prayers of lament, while others may be joyous or victorious.

Shabbat Jewish day of rest; Jewish Sabbath

Shabbat or Shabbos, or the Sabbath is Judaism's day of rest and seventh day of the week, on which religious Jews, Samaritans and certain Christians remember the Biblical creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and the Exodus of the Hebrews, and look forward to a future Messianic Age. Shabbat observance entails refraining from work activities, often with great rigor, and engaging in restful activities to honor the day. Judaism's traditional position is that unbroken seventh-day Shabbat originated among the Jewish people, as their first and most sacred institution, though some suggest other origins. Variations upon Shabbat are widespread in Judaism and, with adaptations, throughout the Abrahamic and many other religions.

Tape recorder analog audio storage device using magnetic tape

An audio tape recorder, tape deck, or tape machine is a sound recording and reproduction device that records and plays back sounds usually using magnetic tape for storage. In its present-day form, it records a fluctuating signal by moving the tape across a tape head that polarizes the magnetic domains in the tape in proportion to the audio signal. Tape-recording devices include the reel-to-reel tape deck and the cassette deck, which uses a cassette for storage.

Rabbi Portugal had close ties with many Hasidic rebbes. He headed the ''Chesed L'Avraham'' charity organization in Israel founded by his father, and was actively involved - traveling worldwide - in fundraising for it.

Tzedakah religious obligation in Judaism to do what is right and just

Tzedakah[tsedaˈka] or Ṣ'daqah[sˤəðaːˈqaː] in Classical Hebrew, is a Hebrew word literally meaning "justice" or "righteousness", but commonly used to signify charity Notably, this concept of "charity" is different from the modern Western understanding of "charity", which is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity, as tzedakah is rather an ethical obligation. In Judaism, tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, which Judaism emphasizes is an important part of living a spiritual life. Thus, unlike voluntary philanthropy, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation that must be performed regardless of one's financial standing, and is considered mandatory even for those of limited financial means. More broadly, tzedakah is considered to be one of the three main acts that can positively influence an unfavorable heavenly decree.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Following the death of his wife, Reizel (daughter of Rabbi Menachem Ze'ev Stern of Oberwischau), in 2005, he changed some of his practices, including traveling less and wearing his peyos hanging down rather than tied around his ears.


Portugal's wife, Reizel, died in 2005. [2] Portugal had five sons and three daughters.




Rebbe Portugal died on April 1, 2019 at about 5:45 PM in Johns Hopkins Hospital surrounded by his family. His funeral the following day as prescibed by Jewish law took place in Brooklyn was attended by over a hundred thousand people. The funeary proceedings were marked by a duo of incidents which each caused injury to a NYPD officer; the first in which an officer slipped and had his ankle broken by a hearse which ran over his leg and another where an out of fuel drone crashed down upon a police officer's head. [5] He was buried next to his father at the Viznitz Cemetery in Monsey, New York. The Rebbe was 95.

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  1. Bobker, Joe (2008-08-30). Can I Play Chess on Shabbas. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. pp. 70–. ISBN   978-965-229-422-7 . Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Nathan-Kazis, Josh. "The Last Holocaust-Era Rebbe Dies, And A Neighborhood Shuts Down To Mourn". The Forward. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  3. "Famed Rabbi Permitted to Leave Rumania; Had Been Arrested". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 1960-04-01. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  4. "The-full-story-of-release-of-Skulener-Rebbe" . Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  5. "1 NYPD Cop Run Over, 1 Hit With Drone at Huge Rabbi Funeral". NBC New York. Retrieved 2019-04-03.