There is a TaZ in Hilchos Aveilus that states that one can lie a little bit when one is eulogizing a deceased individual. The TaZ explains that it is permitted to do so, because it could be true. There is no need to do so here. If anything, we are dealing with a man – who not enough could be said about.
To say that Rabbi Amos Bunim zt”l was an Askan for Klal Yisroel would be an understatement. He lived and breathed doing for Klal Yisroel. His exuberance and energy infused and enlivened each and every project that he touched. The world would have been a different place without him. And the world will now be a vastly different place without him.
Reb Amos had a remarkable sense of right and wrong, combined with a Temimus – a gentleness combined with compassion and concern. He possessed a moral clarity – rare among people. Yidden loved him. Goyim loved him. Politicians and businessmen knew that here was a man who was sincere and passionate in his beliefs. A man whose unimpeachable honesty was genuine and indisputably authentic. Reb Amos’ moral convictions and determination to face and confront evil and apathy was legendary.
It was also inspiring.
Which is probably how he got others to do things with him. Somehow, one never felt alone when Reb Amos was standing with you on a project. He also made everyone else feel good about what they did.
He would write letters to the editor, passionate and forceful ones – well into his eighties. His respect for Daas Torah, for halacha and for Talmidei Chachomim was well-known and celebrated.
He hosted a parlor meeting for Yeshiva Gavoha of Lakewood for many, many decades in his home in Far Rockaway, and later when he moved to Lawrence, New York.
He was one of the founders of Torah Academy for Girls in Far Rockaway. He was one of the founders of the Sh’or Yoshiv Yeshiva in Far Rockaway, and now in Lawrence. He literally and figuratively built the Far Rockaway and Five Towns Jewish community – and beyond.
His father was the legendary Irving Bunim, head of the Vaad Hatzolah, lay leader of the Young Israel movement, and Talmid Chochom. Like Yoseph HaTzaddik, Reb Amos always had the visage of his father before his eyes. Reb Amos was his father’s right hand man – helping him in all his projects. Rav Aharon Kotler zatzal relied on Reb Irving Bunim z”l for almost everything. And Reb Irving relied upon his dedicated son, Reb Amos. Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal, also perceived the remarkable capabilities of this remarkable duo and often utilized him for delicate assignments.
After Reb Irving passed away, it was Reb Amos that took up his father’s role. He dutifully flew to Washington on a moment’s notice to tend to some important topic or issue.
Reb Amos’ Kivud Av v’Aim was also beyond description. He spent years of his life, researching, documenting, his father’s exploits and accomplishments. His book “A Fire in His Soul” is a veritable history book of the American Jewish experience. He also commissioned a documentary entitled “Profiles in Courage and Mesiras Nefesh – Irving Bunim and the Rescue of European Jewry.” In this documentary, he spoke forcefully and passionately about what Gedolim did to rescue their brethren from the Nazi abyss. His eyes would tear up wistfully whenever he spoke about his father.
He helped countless Mosdos. Whether it was Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Queens, BMG in Lakewood, TAG or Sh’or Yoshiv or dozens and dozens of Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, all could count on him for support and advice.
He helped numerous people with their parnassah. He would start them off in business. He would give them ideas and advise them how to proceed. I was his next door neighbor for many years. When my father, z”l took ill and I stood by his bedside in a hospital thousands of miles from home without a parnassah – he commissioned me to do work for him.
He was a Talmid Chachom too – who delivered a Gemorah shiur in his house to Baal HaBattim each week. Those who attended were in awe at his clarity and knowledge. He imparted his wisdom with remarkable humility too.
He had numerous stories and interactions with Gedolim. He was careful never to boast not to discuss the numerous Mitzvos that he accomplished or performed. He helped Yesomas, poor people, almanos, and numerous people down on their “luck.” He did so not only with money, with joint partnership ventures, but also with kind words. Much of this will, unfortunately, never ever be known.
His respect for Rav Yosha Ber Soloveitchik, knew no bounds, and he was tremendously hurt when others mischaracterized him as supportive of modern innovations in Torah tradition. He would often explain that he was present when Rav Soloveitchik explained a certain point and those who characterized his view as left wing modern orthodox were grossly in error.
When his loving wife, Mrs. Sara Bunim a”h passed away, he was crushed. He would often burst in tears thinking of her. Later he dedicated the auditorium in TAG in her memory. Eventually, he remarried, and he and his wife the former Mrs. Lottie Wallerstein, still accomplished remarkable things. He continued his shiurim, his support of mosdos,his parlor meetings, and his business of askanus for Klal Yisroel. He took enormous pride in the accomplishments of her son, Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, whose Ohr Naavah Institution in Brooklyn has made remarkable inroads in Kiruv and Chinuch.
He had two daughters, Rivkah Winter married to Rabbi Kalman Winter of Silver Spring Maryland and Mrs. Mina Glick, married to Reb Shimmy Glick. Both daughters were by his bedside at Mount Sinai Hospital throughout his illness.
The levaya is scheduled to begin in BMG of Lakewood at 9:15 AM and will be held at the Sh’or Yoshiv Yeshiva at 1:45 PM. The Kevurah will be in Eretz Yisroel in Har Hazeisim.
The author can be reached at [email protected]