It is with a broken heart that YWN informs you of the petirah of Reb Yanky (Jack) Meyer Z”L, the founder of Misaskim and one of the leading askanim in Klal Yisroel. He was 58.
Yanky suffered from a terrible illness in recent months and his condition severely deteriorated in the weeks prior to his tragic petirah.
Yanky was an incredible human being, a person whose magnanimity and selflessness may never truly be understood, and someone whose relentless drive to help others deprived him of every basic worldly pleasure. He was simply too busy devoting his life to helping console those in pain and providing support to anyone he could possibly help, to enjoy even a single night of uninterrupted sleep.
Yanky was a devoted member of Boro Park Hatzolah for around 35 years, a position in which he was fondly known as “B-41.” He also volunteered for Tomchei Shabbos of Boro Park, spending each Thursday night delivering food to dozens of families who didn’t have the means to buy what they needed.
Yanky was a chaplain in multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Port Authority Police, NJ Transit Police, the Office of the Medical Examiner of NYC, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, and was a senior NYPD Clergy Liaison, as well.
Yanky was trusted by all, including every NYC mayor and NYPD commissioner since the days of Rudy Giuliani, as well as high-ranking officials in the NYPD, FDNY, and many other agencies. In a world often in turmoil, Yanky was a voice of reason, calm, and respect, and all admired him for that.
Yanky used his vast connections and contacts to prevent thousands of autopsies over the years and assist in bringing Jews to Kevuras Yisroel in a timely manner. In times of tragedy, Yanky z”l was always leading the restoration of stability, and he had a unique knack for informing families of the sudden loss of a loved one with care and sensitivity, somehow managing to provide a measure of comfort even when people were in their deepest pain.
Yanky was a living “Rolodex” who used his network of contacts to navigate his way through thousands of tragedies over the years, giving a helping hand, hope, and consolation to an untold number of people.
Approximately 25 years ago, Yanky recognized the need for an organization that would help those sitting shiva. Taking the heavy responsibility of creating such an organization upon himself, Yanky founded Misaskim, now a household name and a critical piece of every frum community in the tri-state area. When a family loses a loved one, the first call is to Misaskim. Once that call is made, the family is assured that their needs will be met – from small chairs for the aveilim, chairs for those being menachem avel, siddurim, sifrei torah, air conditioners, and anything else one could imagine needing in the trying shiva period.
Under Yanky’s leadership and direction, Misaskim exploded in growth, and has since expanded to Baltimore, Los Angeles and even overseas, including in communities in Manchester and London in the United Kingdom.
Just to give a snippet of an idea of the level of chesed Misaskim is involved with: on one motzei yom tov last year, Misaskim delivered shiva-related materials to over 100 homes, providing their services to well over 500 aveilim in a single night.
Yanky went on to launch Misaskim’s most closely guarded for over a decade: Project Yedid. When Yanky noticed that many almanos and yesomim struggle mightily after the week of shiva and much of their support has gone back to their regular lives, Project Yedid came to life, providing the support, care, and concern to the almanos and yesomim who still needed someone to rely on.
Project Yedid now has over 800 families on its roster and provides a variety of services throughout the year, including Chanukah distributions, in which families receive boxes of exciting toys, envelopes stuffed with cash, and gebentched Chanukah gelt are delivered to each home.
Under Yanky’s leadership, Project Yedid also arranges for each family to receive a large box of school supplies for each yasom at home. There is a Yom Tov paper goods delivery in which each family receives more than a dozen cases of paper goods, from bowls to plastic tablecloths, to cups and cutlery.
There is a Sukkos package with a Sukkah poster and an assortment of toys, books, and games. There has been a full-day Chol Hamoed trip for these families for many years, and almost nobody knows about it. Each Sukkos, there is a massive Simchas Bais Hashoeva with singing superstars like Avraham Fried, MBD and others, and a 3,000-foot sukkah with delicious food for the thousands of family members of yesomim and almanos.
For the past 30 years, Yanky arranged a worldwide annual Aseres Yemei Teshuva asifa, where thousands of boys gathered at the Bobover Bais Medrash in Boro Park, and, joined by a whopping 30,000 additional children via live stream, they recite Tehillim to send a torrent of tefillos to sha’arei shamayim beseeching Hashem on behalf of cholei yisroel and others facing terrible troubles.
The number of things Yanky accomplished in his relatively short life is practically endless – even a book couldn’t do justice in describing the level of chesed this selfless Tzadik reached.
This writer spoke to Yanky on a daily basis and we were extremely close. Despite being extremely ill in recent months, I never once heard him complain. When his illness came up in conversation, his constant refrain was simply, “This is just another bump in the road.”
Just over a week ago, Yanky managed to travel to Eretz Yisroel with his wife and son, and he was overtaken with joy at his opportunity to daven at kivrei tzadikim and visit gedolim he was close to. But something was bothering him.
“I feel horrible,” Yanky texted me while sitting on the plane as he prepared to return to the United States.
“What’s wrong?,” I replied, concerned that his condition had significantly deteriorated during his trip.
But that wasn’t what was troubling Yanky.
“I just met Rav Elya Brudny,” he wrote me. “He is on my flight. I broke his heart when he saw me. I feel horrible that I gave him pain.”
That’s what was concerning Yanky barely a week before his petirah. Not his own personal pain and dire situation, but rather the tzaar someone else had seeing him in pain.
This was the same Yanky who texted me at 4 PM on the day of my son’s wedding a few months ago, “Sorry I can’t make it tonight. I am a bit under the weather.”
Yanky wasn’t simply “a bit under the weather.” He had an illness ravaging his body and he didn’t want me to see him in his physically broken state.
The next day, I asked Yanky about his apology.
“Jack, we are best friends,” I said. “Why couldn’t you just come to the chasunah?” I asked.
“I didn’t want to ruin your Simcha” was his reply.
That was his only concern. That my simcha should be affected by his physical state. This is not even a morsel of who Yanky was, and it doesn’t even graze the tip of the iceberg of how great a man he became.
Yanky Meyer was, and will always be, a legend. It would take dozens of people to fill his shoes. He had no day and no night; when he was needed somewhere, he would show up, somehow always managing to be in a fresh shirt and pants, even at 3 AM.
Yanky was remarkably close to dozens of gedolim. One of those gedolim was HaRav Don Segal, with whom Yanky forged a relationship when he was the mashgiach at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, where Yanky was learning as a bochur. Rav Don had instructed Yanky not to talk to anyone about his illness, and we respected that directive. In fact, Yanky made it clear to me that he did not want any Tehillim requests on his behalf posted on YWN.
I would like to take this opportunity to address Yanky publicly on this forum. Yanky, you were always there for me, and I can never, ever repay you. I ask you for mechilah publicly for anything I have ever done to hurt you, and for not giving you the level of respect you deserved, but never wanted.
Yanky, you are going to shamayim with more zechusim than anyone I have ever known. Please beseech the Borei Olam to bring Moshiach soon, and may you be a Meilitz Yosher for your wife, children, family and friends, and all of Klal Yisroel.
The Levaya will be held on Friday morning at 10:30AM at 1123 57 Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. The Kevura will be in Woodbridge, NJ
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