Although I was not living in Baltimore when the world-renowned Torah giant, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, visited, 50 years ago in January, 1968, I can picture the scene. It was a rare and gala event, one that lives in the memories of those fortunate to have experienced it and who graciously shared them with me.
“It seems like just yesterday that our family was preparing for the historic visit by the gadol hador, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l,” reminisces Frank Storch, who was 10 years old, at the time. “I remember the preparations and the tremendous excitement that was building throughout Baltimore. Everyone was grateful that we would be zoche to have the gadol hador in our city.”
Hundreds of community members warmly greeted Rav Moshe when he arrived at Pennsylvania Station on that Sunday afternoon, singing and dancing to Or Zaru’ah Latzadik, before a police escort led the way from the train station to the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. Leo Storch. Frank remembers the ride home in his father’s 1966 Cadillac, with his father, Rav Moshe, and their police escorts.
Among those in the crowd were Mr. Kurt Flamm, and Mr. Jacob Steinharter, of Shearith Israel Congregation. Mr. Flamm’s son, Rabbi Gershom Flamm, heard the story first hand: “My father got a ride down to the train station and had arranged to ride home with Mr. Steinharter after the ceremony,” notes Rabbi Flamm. “He was waiting for Mr. Steinharter, and all of a sudden a car pulled up. Frankie, who was my father’s student in TA, told my father, ‘Mr. Flamm, I have a ride home for you.’ My father accepted the ride. Little did he know that Rav Moshe was already in the car. In the photo I have, my father is sitting right next to Rav Moshe, and you can see by the expression on his face that he was ecstatic.”
Mrs. Hadassah Flamm concurs: “My father-in-law’s dream was to see a gadol. He loved reading books about gedolim, and for him to actually see a gadol made him as excited as a child.”
Other notable Baltimoreans who welcomed Rav Moshe at either the train station or the Storch home included Rabbi Blumenkrantz, Rabbi Dovid Brown, Louis Caplan, Elazar Isbee, Rabbi Nachman Klein, Rabbi Kurland, Reverend Lichtenstein, Shea Liebes, Rabbi Moshe Margareten, Rabbi Shanker, Rabbi Binyomin Steinberg, Chester Siegel, and, ybl”c, Rabbi Shmuel Mann, Rabbi Ari Neuberger, Jay Spivack, and Rabbi Reuven Yudkowsky.
“Rav Moshe stayed in our home for almost a week and our house was buzzing with a steady stream of visitors,” recalls Frank. “Rabbanim and pashuter Yidden were eager to be in Rav Moshe’s presence and were satisfied just to get a glimpse of his face.”
Rabbi Flamm recalls davening with Rav Moshe at the Shacharis minyan at the Storches’ home. “He was very plain; he didn’t make anything of himself,” says Rabbi Flamm. “He took off his kapota in front of me when I asked him a shaila; I was shocked. I remember sitting down with him at the Storches’ breakfast table.”
“It was exciting to host Rav Moshe,” remarks Mrs. Hannah Storch, Frank’s mother. “We had heard so much about him; it was wonderful to have him in our home.” Mrs. Storch also fondly remembers Rav Moshe joining the family, including her mother, Rebbetzin Frieda Hirmes, for breakfast. You would think that you wouldn’t be able to get near a man of his stature, but he was very friendly.”
On Monday morning, Rav Moshe was officially welcomed to the city by Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro III, Mayor William Donald Schaeffer’s predecessor. There was an interesting exchange between them at City Hall: Rav Moshe received the key to the city, and the Mayor received Rav Moshe’s blessing on behalf of the city that was, even then, growing in Yiddishkeit.
Rabbi Reuven Savitz, who now lives in Lakewood, New Jersey, and was the executive administrator at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore when M. Leo Storch was president of the school, remembers, “I was standing off to the side of the Mayor’s desk when Rav Moshe presented the Mayor with a set of his sefarim for the Baltimore City Library.”
Tuesday evening, a reception was held for Rav Moshe in the Storch home to raise funds for his yeshiva, Mesivta Tiferes Jerusalem (MTJ) in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was an overwhelming turnout for this inspiring event. Former University of Baltimore Law School Dean Larry Katz was just one of the prominent local community members who attended this reception. “It was a real zechus and honor to be there and to see him,” notes Dean Katz. “I remember either Mrs. Storch or Leo saying to me, ‘You know, he was up at 5 or 6 in the morning, learning!’”
“I came to the Storches whenever I could, to see Rav Moshe,” mentions Rabbi Flamm. “One night, when I was there for Maariv, all of a sudden, they announced, ‘Rav Moshe, you have a long-distance call from Rabbi Sassoon.’ That was probably from England or Eretz Yisrael. He got phone calls from all over the world – even at that time.” (Rabbi Solomon Sassoon was a member of the wealthy Sassoon family that traces its roots back to Iraq and India. He was the president of Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and director of the worldwide Ozar Hatorah system of Sefardic schools.)
“One incident etched in my mind was the morning that Rav Moshe was headed back to New York,” concludes Frank. “I was sitting in class at Talmudical Academy when I heard my name called over the intercom to come to the office. When I got there, I was given the phone and my father told me that Rav Moshe had wanted to speak with me before he left town. Rav Moshe wanted to make sure he did not leave without thanking me for the efforts I had made during his five-day visit in Baltimore. As a ten-year old, and even now, it’s quite remarkable that a gadol hador would find this minor detail to be a priority. I will always cherish that moment.”
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