Reb Yanky, We Hardly Knew Ye..


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Reb Yanky was a man that everyone knew, and that no one knew.  Everyone knew and was affected by his extraordinary chessed.  But few knew the width, breadth, depth, relentlessness, and all-encompassing extent and nature of that chessed.  And all five of those adjectives are absolutely true.

Rav Chatzkel Levenstein zt”l explains the three words we are all so familiar with in the shmoneh esreh differently than others do.  Mechalkel chaim b’chessed – Hashem sustains life with chessed.  What do these words mean?  Some have it that through Hashem’s middah of chessed – He sustains life. Others have it as Hashem could sustain life in many ways – but He does so with extras – with steak instead of with macaroni.  Rav Chatzlel zatzal explained it differently – He explained that it is the acts and the performance of Chessed which is the life-sustaining, life-giving force that sustains and gives purpose and direction to life and to the universe itself.

Rav Chatzkel explained this, and it was Reb Yanky Meyer who lived it and breathed it.  This concept was the blood that coursed through his veins and the thoughts that permeated his brain every waking moment. Indeed, every sleeping moment as well – if he every truly slept.

There is something very special about a tzaddik that everyone seems to notice.. to see.. a special aura that surrounds him that science perhaps will never detect, but can be detected by the neshama that lies deep within the souls of others.

Everyone could detect it in Reb Yanky, and that perhaps can partially explain why everyone loved him.  Chassid, Litvak, secular Jew, Christian, Muslim, prisoner, or law enforcement officer – all had a deep and profound love and respect for Reb Yanky Meyer.  Upstate. Downstate or across the tri-state area, the name Yanky Meyer instigated smiles, love and trust.

Indeed, just to know that Reb Yanky Meyer was working hard to help resolve the situation was a source of tremendous comfort to anyone in need.

Who was he? He was a yekky. He was a Chassid. He was Stolin.  He was Mir. He was BMG – all wrapped into one – a product of all of Klal Yisroel.  Beloved by all.  Loved by all.

He was the face of Boro Park Hatzolah – B-41, his well-known roshei teivos, and “Jack” as he was known to his non-Jewish contacts.  He had a depth of wisdom brought on about by Torah, by wisom, and by years of experience.  He was the ultimate police liaison, caring deeply about the frum officers, and as seen on numerous occasions about all those who protect us.  He was the founder – repeat founder, of the much-needed Misaskim.  Tomchei Shabbos?  He volunteered, and if ever someone needed something – he was there for the tweak.  Kavod HaMais – autopsies?  Reb Yanky was a trailblazer.  His genteel soul, was such that everyone understood his explanation of Torah values, and they helped.

It is difficult to “upteich” a tzaddik, but perhaps the best way to do so is in the way he fulfilled the Gemorah in Shabbos about emulating Hashem – just as He is merciful so should you be merciful. Just as He is full of grace so should you be full of grace..

Where did such extraordinary chessed come from?

I met him in the mid-eighties. A typical Boro Park building where we shared family members.  Reb Yanky’s grandmother lived there.  The kavod, the respect, that he and the entire family held for their Bubby, was so visible and palpable, one could readily tell that this extraordinary family was raised to do for others – that’s it.  That was the over-arching theme of the Meyer family values.

This translated into so many ways.  I remember, one time he was involved in a life-saving aspect for the Klal – a major endeavor, and yet at the very same time, he also took the time to help find a specific exhaust piping for an elderly lady, calling three different places to ensure that one of them had it.  Extraordinary chessed from big grand Pikuach Nefesh to a little detail was ignored by everyone but meant a world to one elderly lady.  That was Yanky Meyer zatzal.

He calmed.  He soothed.  He consoled.  The very antithesis of a “hothead,” his very presence and involvement sent the message “cooler heads must prevail.”

His accomplishments were vast and beyond description. Misaskim can often service thousands of aveilim a month, r”l.  At the onset of the recent pandemic, when COVID first hit and no one knew what was happening, he arranged for disinfecting all that was loaned out.  Even the air conditioners that Misaskim now loans out.  Misaskim is not only a national organization – including Los Angeles, Baltimore, and other places – but is now international as well.  He took it to another level as well.  He looked after the yesomim and almanos of Misaskim clientele as well.

And not just them, of course, but hundreds of yesomim and almanos.  His Project Yedid gives yesomim school supplies, money for yom tov, Sukkos and Pesach packages, plastic goods, chol hamoed trips, concerts with superstars just for them, chanukah gifts, chanukah gelt and so much more.

What has been mentioned here is a mere tip of the iceberg.  There was so much more to him that will undoubtedly be revealed in part in the next weeks and months.  And even then – it will not be all.

Reb Yanky, we hardly knew you. Your very life and existence provided new depth into the notion of, “Mi ka’amcha Yisroel.”  Your legacy is not just the chessed and the chessed facts on the ground that you created in your short life here on earth, it is also in the thousands and thousands of people that you had inspired toward leading a life of chessed as well – a chessed of tznius, of humility, a chessed of “chessed shebetoch chessed.”

We have lost today, not just a remarkable baal chessed, but also an unparalleled neshama – a mailitz yosher here on earth with a kind and warm down-to-earth quality that few others have ever seen.  May he continue to be a mailetz yosher for all of klal Yisroel in the olam ha’Emes.

The author can be reached at [email protected]