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Rabbi Shimon Goldman, 91, Communal Leader Survived World War II in Shanghai

A man of many responsibilities, he stressed kindness, education and charity

By Menachem Posner for Chabad.org

Rabbi Shimon Goldman, who survived the Holocaust living in China and Japan, and who built a large Chabad family in the United States where he had a leadership role in many communal projects, passed away early Monday morning. He was 91 years old.

Born on Jan. 1, 1925, in the Polish shtetl of Shedlitz (Siedlce), Shimon Goldman was the fourth of six children of Shmuel Zanvil and Menucha Kreindel Goldman. A Gerrer Chassid who eked out a living through odd jobs, Shmuel Zanvil would often study Torah for many hours deep into the night in an effort to stave off the hunger pangs that were the family’s constant companions.

While a young boy, before the age of bar mitzvah, Shimon studied in the Novardok yeshivahs in the towns of Levertov and Stashov. As was customary in those days, he would eat his meals with a different family every day of the week. As for sleeping quarters, he and his fellow students were housed in an unused shack in the old Stashov cemetery.

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After his bar mitzvah, he enrolled in the Warsaw yeshivah of the famed Piasetzno Rebbe, who was known by his work, the Aish Kodesh (“Holy Fire”). Shortly thereafter, he transferred to the Lubavitcher yeshivahs in Warsaw and then Kalishin.

When war broke out in September 1939, Goldman returned home to Shedlitz. After enduring bombings—and the sight of friends and family members shamed by the Nazis—he snuck to the Russian-occupied part of Poland and then into Lithuania, where he resumed his studies at the Vilnius Chabad yeshivah.

Throughout this period, he and his fellows were in constant contact with the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory—who was then in Riga, Latvia. The Rebbe urged them to encourage their friends in Poland to leave while it was still possible.

Fled to Safety in Asia

Through the heroic assistance of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania, Goldman and his fellow students left for Japan via the Russian heartland. In Moscow, under the watchful eye of the KGB, they gave the Russian Chassidim messages of hope from the Rebbe, in addition to religious articles, including their own tefillin.

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Upon realizing that they would not be able to leave Japan for America, the group boarded a ship to Shanghai, China, which was then home to thousands of Jewish refugees.

After the war, following five years of relative isolation, Goldman and his peers began to hear of the devastation that the Nazis had brought upon Polish Jewry. He discovered that not a single member of his immediate family was left alive.

A Teacher and Leader

Upon finally immigrating to New York, he joined the local Chabad yeshivah and was ultimately dispatched by the Rebbe to Buffalo, N.Y., to teach at the Chabad-run day school there. During that period, he was introduced to Esther Gordon, whose father was a prominent Chabad Chassid.

After their marriage in 1949, the couple settled in Philadelphia and then in Brooklyn, N.Y., raising four children. Bereft of his family who had been killed in Poland in 1942, he showered attention on children, including his own and his nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A butcher by profession, Goldman was involved in many communal efforts. Taking over from his father-in-law, he ran a free loan society that functioned for decades. He was also an active member of the board of Beth Rivkahschools, the flagship Chabad girl’s school in Brooklyn.

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In the 1980s, he was appointed to the board of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the worldwide umbrella 

organization of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. 

In 2004, he penned From Shedlitz to Safety: A Young Jew’s Story of Survival, in which he chronicled his memories of prewar Poland, the trevails of his escape and the new life he created in America.

He and his wife, who passed away in 2013, were legendary for the open home they maintained, housing and feeding countless visitors. They also took great pride in seeing their children and grandchildren fan out to serve as Chabad emissaries in South Africa, Uruguay, France, Canada, Montana, Florida, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Goldman is survived by his children: Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Kraindy Klein and Shmuly Goldman; and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by daughter Chanchy (Chana Leah) Bruk.