Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, head of the Agudath Israel of America, passed away Tuesday morning. He was 89 years old.

“We are devastated and broken-hearted to report the petirah of the Novominsker Rebbe, Harav Yaakov Perlow,” said a release from the Agudath. His loss to the Jewish community is “incalculable.”

More commonly known as the Novominsker Rebbe, he was the rosh or “head” of Agudath Israel for the last 2o years and a member of the Council of Torah Sages for decades. The Novominsker Rebbe was reportedly suffering from COVID-19, and because of the coronavirus the funeral was limited to family members only.

While he may have been based in Brooklyn, N.Y., his impact was felt across the United States and beyond.

“The passing of the Novominsker Rebbe is an enormous loss for the Jewish community, in particular as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rabbi Elazar Muskin, senior rabbi of Young Israel of Century City in Los Angeles and immediate past president of the Rabbinical Council of America. “The Rebbe was not only a respected Torah scholar; he was a compassionate and caring leader whose love for all Jews directed everything he did.

“My older brother had him as his Talmud teacher when he was a rebbe at the Hebrew Theological College, Beis Medrash L’Torah, and shared with me his fond memories of his inspiring commitment to all of his students,” continued Muskin. “He personified a true Torah scholar whose passing will leave a void hard to fill.”

In a statement, Rabbi Ariel Shoshan from Ahavas Torah: The Scottsdale Torah Center, said “while he was a direct teacher over the years to the communities of Brooklyn [N.Y.], Washington Heights [N.Y.] and Chicago, his impact on your lives is not merely spiritual and unidentifiable. He was an eloquent spokesman for Jewish values to leaders and decision-makers, and he selflessly took responsibility to carry the burdens of people’s needs, whether macro or micro.”

Shoshan continued, saying “Agudath Israel’s mantra has always been to care for the needs of klal Yisrael or Reb Yisrael—the nation as a whole and the individual as a prince. The Novominsker Rebbe sacrificed so much of his own time, his family’s time, and his own yeshivah and community’s time to serve the needs of the Jewish people, whatever they would be.”

Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, noted in a release that the Rebbe sought to build bridges with other Jews.

“The Rebbe sought achdus (‘unity’) among Jews and made great effort to achieve that lofty goal,” said Bane. “He was a visionary who thought not only about his own community, but also loved and cared deeply about the broader Jewish community, both around the country and the world.”

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