JUST two weeks after moving to Israel due to ill health, following three decades as the spiritual leader of Melbourne’s Adass community, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Beck passed away on Monday at the age of 85.
“Our whole Adass community is devastated and it is difficult for us all,” community president Benjamin Koppel told The AJN.
“Rabbi Beck was a father to all.”
Noting, that “almost the entire community attended a service for him tonight [Tuesday],” Koppel said members knew that Rabbi Beck was unwell, but they had not expected his end to come so quickly.
“People were exceptionally emotional at the airport when Rabbi Beck left and moved to Israel,” he recalled of the rabbi’s departure earlier this month when hundreds of members of the community flocked to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on the day he flew out.
A separate area of the Qantas departure lounge had to be opened so that the crowd could sing songs and farewell their departing leader.
Rabbi Beck was born in 1932 in Hungary, where his father was a prominent member of the local community. After the Holocaust, he studied in Italy before he moved to Israel.
In the 1960s, Rabbi Beck was a community leader in Uruguay’s Jewish community, and then in 1988 he was asked to become the chief rabbi of the Adass community in Melbourne, and he accepted the role.
Rabbi Beck led the community for 30 years; however, his tenure at Adass was marred by the allegations of child sexual abuse against former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer.
While there hasn’t been any suggestion that Rabbi Beck knew about the alleged abuse prior to her removal from the school, many in the wider Jewish community said that as the chief rabbi of the community, he should have been more vocal in helping to bring her to justice.
Child abuse victims advocate Manny Waks said, “In the 10 years that followed, Rabbi Beck failed to address the events which led to Leifer’s escape, failed to issue any consequences to those directly responsible and most importantly, failed to apologise or offer support to victims.”
In his final public address in Melbourne to the community before flying off to Israel, Rabbi Beck asked for the community to continue in the way he had led the congregation – with uncompromising Yiddishkeit based on learning of the Torah.
When writing about Rabbi Beck recently in Hamodia, community member Raizel Fogel referred to him as a “great giant and father figure”.
“Rabbi Beck was very approachable to his congregation on many fronts,” she wrote.
“He would always make the time to be an active listener.
“One never felt rushed or brushed aside and his advice was extremely sound and on target.”