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Reb Shimen Iczkovits, z”l – To Mark the Sheloshim

TRE_0149In our short journey in this world, we can choose to exist or to live, to be normal or extraordinary.

Reb Shimen Iczkovits, z”l, Robbie, Deda or Uncle Shimen as he was affectionately known by so many, chose to live. His hours were full and his days were long, filled with a tremendous love and appreciation for the beautiful world that Hashem gave us and tremendous ahavas habriyos.

Reb Shimen was extraordinary.  He was unique in so many different ways, but what exemplified him was his living by the moral virtue of “what meaning is there to our lives if our lives have no meaning to others?” His ability to connect to everyone he met, no matter their age, status or religious level. He enveloped them in his infectious positive attitude, putting a smile on their face, giving them a sincere compliment, a jovial reprimand or a thoughtful gift, but above all an appreciation and love for Yiddishkeit and pride at being a Jew.

His father Reb Avraham Iczkovits, z”l, came from an illustrious ehrlicher family. His mother was the daughter of Reb Meir Shraga Klein, z”l, who was the President of the Chevrah Shas in Budapest.

During the War, Reb Avraham managed to garner a few seats on the infamous Kastner Transport for his wife and two children, and after a few months in Bergen Belsen, his wife, daughter and older son arrived in Zurich where they settled, becoming proud members of the IRG community.

Reb Shimen was born a few years later on 5th Iyar 5708/1948. As a young boy, he soon showed his independence and free spirit, going skiing by himself aged 13 when a wrong turn off the beaten track caused him to fall and break his leg.  Whilst freezing and in pain, he davened for Hashem to save him and, b”H, his tefillos were answered.

Aseh lecha rav u’kneh lecha chaver

He attended Yeshiva in Montreux where he became very close to Rav Rakow, zt”l, who later became the Gateshead Rav and would accompany him daily from yeshiva to his home. He then joined Yeshivas Beer Yaakov, the place that would shape him and make him a yeshiva man and ben aliya. This development came under the guidance, warmth and care of  Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt”l. He was drawn to the Mashgiach’s sincerity, depth, his emes and yashrus.  These became the core values from which he never wavered. The Mashgiach taught him not to be a stereotype or copycat but to realize his own potential, unique qualities and embrace his individuality.

Sadly his reverie in Beer Yaakov was interrupted by first the untimely death of his older sister, followed a year later by his father and twoyears later by his mother. The Mashgiach was maspid by the open kever of his mother and demanded of him not to despair or to wallow in self-pity, not to be complacent but to go out and find himself a wife and set up a life of his own.  So, eight months later, whilst still an avel, Reb Shimen made an Aufruf in Beer Yaakov, matzeva schtellen for his mother and his chasunah in Eretz Yisrael where he settled with his wife for a few years living in Bnei Brak and in Kfar Chasidim. Beer Yaakov had become his home, Reb Shlomo Wolbe and the Rebbetzin, lbc”l, his parents; the Wolbe children and the Beer Yaakov chaveirim, his brothers. So attached was Reb Shimen to his beloved Beer Yaakov that when he moved back to chutz la’aretz, he desperately wanted to keep a tangible sheychus to Beer Yaakov so he purchased an extra seat on the plane and took home with him a shtender from the Bais Medrash.

The young couple then moved to Manchester where the frum, warm community combined with the exemplary chinuch options made it an ideal home base. Never forgetting the Mashgiach’s teachings, he constantly strove and demanded more of himself.  Tefillah b’tzibbur was paramount, nothing got in the way of his chavrusa schedule, he attended Daf Hayomi, and mussar sedarim.

When the avreichim minyan was founded he was delighted to join the young Bnei Yeshiva where he felt young and was accepted with warmth. There was no such thing as a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal without a dvar Torah, usually from his Beer Yaakov notebooks. He loved to hear a geshmacker vort, a good shiur, a nice reyd on davening or a chap on the parshah. This was his chiyus.

V’hevi mekabel kola dam be’sever panim yafos

There were always guests in his home and around his table: bachurim or sem girls, meshulachim or rabbanim, business travellers, locals and foreigners, they were all drawn to the open house and the warm and sincere hospitality. Rabbi Moshe Ahron Stern, zt”l, Rabbi Yankel Galinsky, zt”l, and, lbc”l, Rabbi Yitzchok Grodzinsky, frequented our home.

None of this could have been accomplished without his partner in chesed his wife Lya, lbc”l, who catered, fed and hosted the many guests.

Reb Shimen led by example; he was a doer, he never cut corners, nor did he shy away from doing the right thing, or taking care of what needed to be done.

Honesty and integrity were his trademark. His watch was stolen and he found it by accident in a pawn broker’s window. He had a hard time with insurance to take back the money which he had already claimed. When he had the choice of closing down his business and wiping out large amounts of debt to non-Jewish suppliers he didn’t think twice, and took personal money to pay them back so as to avoid a chilul Hashem.

Living his life al kiddush Hashem and displaying simchah shel mitzvah coupled with his non-judgmental acceptance and love for all Jews, caused a ripple effect that will continue for generations. There are countless stories of people whose pintele Yid was ignited just because of the example that he set. Many of them went on to establish frum families of their own, and are involved in spreading Yiddishkeit around the world. He was involved with Hillel House, Bayit Lepleitos, Yaldei Teiman, Hungarian and Russian children, travelling to their countries, inspiring them with his warmth, believing in their potential, building relationships and maintaining the kesher. His bikur cholim was such that even when he himself was sick and weak in hospital during his illness he would shlep around with his IV pole to visit other cholim, giving them chizuk and brightening up their day.

Elderly family members or friends who were housebound would often receive surprise visits from  R Shimen who often travelled hours out of his way to pop in to say hello and cheer  them up.

He made it a point to attend every Kiddush, shalom zachor or chasuna because he felt it was his duty to mesameach others and share in their simchah.


His hakoras hatov was unparalled.  If you ever did him the smallest of favours he would never forget, he was eternally grateful  to his children’s teachers and rabbeim.

He was infamous for sending personalized gifts or mishloach manos, an original postcard with a picture from a memorable occasion or a place with their name on it, a meaningful thank you, a visit or a phone call always thoughtfully intended and to the point.

He never complained about his illness but accepted it beahava as part of Hashem’s master plan. It is difficult to be sad when thinking about Reb Shimen who epitomized simchah.

The Sadigera Rav said, it says in Av Harachamim   “[they were] beloved and pleasant in their life  and in their death they will not depart.”

The “forgetting” that is promised does not apply to those who were dear and beloved, in death they will never be forgotten.  Reb Shimen will live on through his children and grandchildren (who he adored) and are continuing on his path and through all the people who are now keeping Shabbos, kashrus, Torah and mitzvos in his zechus.

The family has been greatly comforted by the continuous nichum aveilim, the many phone calls, emails and letters, the hundreds of people who showed up at 2am for his kevurah in Har Hamenuchos and the many who came to his levayos in Manchester and London.

Ashreichem to all those who travelled from near and far and went out of their way to share their stories and to repay the kindness that our father, z”l, showed to them.

Yehi zichro baruch

(The Family – YWN) 



3 Responses

  1. How many people would think of writing a ‘thank you’ to be placed in the Hamodia, to those who ‘touched my heart during my lifetime’, while on their deathbed?
    I never knew him personally, but based on what others have told me, I wish I did!
    Yehi Zichro Boruch

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