Jacob Yosef Herman Is an Orthodox Jewish Pioneer in the United States
In the year 1880, in the city of Slusk, Russia, Yaakov Yosef Herman was born to his delighted parents Yitzchok Isaac and Minna Rivka. Their firstborn son that gave them so much pride and joy.
In those days, it was very difficult to earn a living in Russia. Figuring it would be easier to make a livelihood in America, in 1888, when Yaakov Yosef was only 8 years old, the family immigrated to the U.S. It was not long before the they realized their mistake. Yaakov Yosef’s father simply could not find a job that gave off on shabbos.
Not willing to desecrate the holy day, Yitzchok Isaac was left without a job. After 5 years, the family decided to move back to Russia. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough money to pay for the whole family’s tickets, so they were forced to leave Yaakov Yosef with distant unfriendly relatives in NYC, for a price of course, until they would have enough money, to pay for his return as well.
Yaakov Yosef was forced to become a man, at only 8 years of age. He began working in a fur shop and earned $1.25 a week. A few days later, after his parents traveled back to Russia, his cousins raised the rent to $1.25, leaving the poor boy with no money to spend for himself. Yaakov Yosef was sad and hurt and ran away from their home. He kept running until he reached a park.
Having no place to go, with the drop of food he managed to get, and in the freezing cold, he had no choice, but to spend a lonely shabbos in the park. It was there and then when he decided, and promised, that he will always have guests at his shabbos and Yom tov meals, and that he would even go look to find lonely and hungry people in the park to invite to his meal. It was after shabbos when he found a new place to live.
Though Yaakov Yosef had no educator or anyone to reprimand him, he was very stringent about keeping all the mitzvos and davening every tefilla daily. After a while, he became very successful in his trade and even had enough money to pay for his whole family to join him in America with lots of extra money to spare.
When he was 21 he began looking for a shidduch. He then got married to Aidel Andron, who was the daughter of the famous Talmid chacham, Reb Shmuel Yitzchok Andron. Their house was always welcoming guests of all kinds, rebbes, as well as the simple folk, whom no one wished to have over.
They had a “hachnasas orchim business” they were a wealthy family and used their money to make their guests stay as comfortable as possible. He would also be very careful with Halacha and especially in being mechaneich his 5 children: Esther, Freida, Nochum Dovid, Bessie, and Ruchoma. Although he was very strict, he also had that caring and concern for his children. (For example..)
In 1929, when the stock-market crashed, Yaakov Yosef went into great debt. However, he didn’t despair because he knew the money he had went to the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim and in the merit of the mitzvah he knew that Hashem wouldn’t let him down. At first he stopped having guests, but not long after he started again.
At that time in America, the Jews were very lax about keeping Torah and mitzvos and Yaakov Yosef Herman instilled a responsibility about following the holy Torah and mitzvos. His favorite expression was, “I am a soldier of the Boss, and I obey His commands.” And he would often repeat this statement to the people around him. He would encourage Jews to keep mitzvos by publicly speaking about men and women dancing separately, making sure people made brochos, checked for shatnetz.
He would also teach many Jews the way of Torah by being a rebbi and would often be giving public speeches about the way of Torah. He was known as “the chofetz chaim of America” because he uplifted so many Jews there.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s Yaakov Yosef sent many Jewish young men to study in yeshivos in Europe. Then, in August 1939, Yaakov Yosef and his wife made an Aliyah to Israel, arriving on September 1st, just a day before World War II broke out, on the last ship leaving America before the war. In Israel, he continued to spread hashem’s name by delivering lecturers and the like.
When his wife died in 1946, he remarried to a widow named Mirel who had two married children. He then opened a store in mea shaarim selling holy obejects like Torah’s, mezzuzos and tefillin. He also headed a gemach and chessed fund.
In 1964, both he and his wife became ill and on July 24th (17th of Tammuz 5727) at the age of 87 he died of pneumonia. But although he passed away, his legacy continues to live on. He affected so many Jews by teaching them the right path, and uplifted Judaism in New York, and everywhere.
I can take a lesson from how he was so strict in Halacha, in keeping all the mitzvos, and how much hachnosos orchim and care he had even though that wasn’t the trend. Yaakov Yosef Herman managed to affect and inspire so many Jews through his amazing deeds and he is forever remembered for it.