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The news of the tragic untimely passing of Reb Naftoli Smolyansky

The news of the tragic untimely passing of Reb Naftoli Smolyansky of Los Angeles hit people around the world as a shock.

Naftoli SmolyanskyThe news of the tragic untimely passing of Reb Naftoli Smolyansky of Los Angeles hit people around the world as a shock.

It is difficult to say about such a lively person that he is alive no more. His optimism was contagious to all, he radiated joie de vivre. Whoever knew him, was close to him, feels that Naftoli did not die, did not leave, did not disappear... G-d took him, as He takes the righteous before their time.

He was a successful businessman, but more so, he was a successful Jew who kept G-d’s commandments, learned Torah, respected Rabbis. He was a man of lovingkindness, one of those who “pursue” good deeds. According to the testimonies of many people, it is difficult to find among us a man who so passionately desired to bring Jews closer to G-d. There are few parents who dedicate so much time and effort to educating their children, few husbands who are so considerate of their wives.

One of the kindest and most righteous Jews has left us, leaving a deep void in our hearts. May his memory be blessed.

Rav Asher Kushnir remembers:

It is told that he immediately went to save his daughter, without thinking! There is hardly anyone else of whom it can be said that he gave his soul to his children... in every respect.

All our rare meetings and many Telefone conversations were dedicated to two topics – how to bring Russian Jews closer to Torah and questions about educating children.

His thoughts were constantly occupied with searching ways to the hearts of our brethren who were deprived of any connection with their Jewish roots.

He always spoke with inspiration about his children, going into minute details of their behavior, making sure once more and once more how it would be better to behave in this or that situation. He was especially interested in an education in the spirit of Torah. How to bring them up as true religious Jews in our difficult times. This was his main worry.

He will remain in my memory as a kind and responsible Jewish father who cares with all his heart for his family and the entire Jewish people.

Nechama Farber remembers:

We would like to write a few lines about our family friend Naftoli Smolyansky. We met Naftoli in Los Angeles a few years ago, at the wedding of a mutual friend from the Machon Shlomo yeshiva, where both Naftoli and my husband, David, learned, but in different time periods. On the same day that we met, Naftoli invited us to his home for Shabbos, and since this was before Rosh Hashanah, he invited us to stay with them for this time. We accepted his invitation and spent Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with his family. We were greeted with great joy by his wife Leah and their children. As long as we lived in the USA, we kept in close touch with them, and in the last two years, David and Naftoli prayed together in the kollel of Los Angeles, where Naftoli bought us seats for the holidays. We also spent several Shabbosim in the company of his family, he always joked, always spoke about Torah and his family.

From our first meeting, he suggested that we listen to the CD about marital bliss. This is how we began learning with toldot.ru, and I still learn Mesilas Yesharim every week – all of this is in the merit of Naftoli ben Alexander.

The last time we were in Los Angeles, Naftoli lent us his car for over a week so that my husband and I could see the beautiful places in California.

When we saw him, we always discussed Rabbi Kushnir’s classes, he studied his lectures with great love, and, as he told us himself: “I listen to his lectures bit by bit, I will listen for a few minutes and then turn off the CD and think about what I just heard, then listen again for a minute or two and try to understand it more deeply.” He once said that after he listened to the lecture “The Secret of Life”, he was depressed for a week, that’s how much it affected him.

We remember him as a very open, kind person, always smiling and happy. It is very painful for our family that he is gone, we mourn and cry for him and pray that his soul should get an aliyah and be among the tzaddikim in Olam haba.

David Farber remembers:

Naftoli was a special person. Whoever knew him was close to him. Our first meeting with Naftoli was unplanned and short. Still, Naftoli managed to invite us to spend Shabbos in his home, give us recordings of Rabbi Kushnir’s classes and win our trust to such a degree that we began listening to Rabbi Kushnir’s lectures literally immediately after our meeting. It is difficult now to imagine our life without the influence of Torah as Rabbi Kushnir teaches it so wonderfully to Russian Jews!

It is not surprising that Naftoli always supported Toldos Yeshurun generously, and especially Rabbi Kushnir’s programs. In Los Angeles, Naftoli was an active paying member in the shul of Rabbi Bess and in the Los Angeles kollel. Thanks to Naftoli’s generosity, we had the zechus to daven in the magnificent Los Angeles kollel for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we were there. Now we clearly understand that it was a zechus simply knowing Naftoli and learning from him.

Naftoli’s big heart was open for everyone who had the potential to return to a true Jewish life. The awareness that he was able to help people return to G-d, to come closer to the Alm-ghty, inspired Naftoli very much and multiplied his strength and possibility to help. He was sincerely happy to see Jews, often joked with them, but his attention was always focused on his obligations as a Jew and on making a Kiddush Hashem.

Baruch Hashem, Naftoli’s last deed in this world was a big Kiddush Hashem. With this, Hashem showed His kindness and love for our friend before He took Naftoli to Him!

R’ Levi Gedalevich remembers:

He told this story that happened about fifteen years ago, at the Shabbos table. I remember it word for word. “As it is usually done by us in Los Angeles”, said Naftoli, “people drive to shul on Shabbos, park the car around the corner, get out of the car, put on their yarmulka and enter the shul. When everything is over, they leave, take off their yarmulka, get into the car and drive home.

One day, I decided I can’t go on like this: Either I will pray at home or walk. This was on Rosh Hashanah. I came out of the shul... overflowing… the prayers… the niggunim… I walk. A person who walks looks funny in Los Angeles, maybe he’s a sportsman. I walk, thinking about what I heard in shul. I approach the immigrants’ neighborhood. I really should take off my yarmulka, they will laugh about me. I decide not to take it off. I continue walking and decide: Now I’ll come home wearing the yarmulka, let’s see what they will say.

I walk and walk, suddenly I feel: I walked into something. I lower my eyes and see: I did not walk into something, something walked into me. Two guys. They are holding two guns – one up to my forehead, the other to my stomach: “Money!Money!” I say: “We are Jews, we have a holiday today, we don’t carry money on holidays, you can check” and begin to turn my pockets inside out. They did not check my pockets. The shorter one stood on his toes, touched the yarmulka on my head: “He really is a Jew, let him go.”


R’ Yehuda Avrech remembers:

… I remember how we met – later I understood how this was very characteristic of him. Rav Ben Tzion Zilber was giving a class in Los Angeles, and Naftoli ran in at the end of the class for half a minute and gave a check through somebody (we did not know him and had not asked for a donation, and the check was over a large sum!)

Later I was told that it would be good for us to meet with him and get to know him, but it turned out that this was very difficult – he was always terribly busy. The only way is to ask him for help “begufo”, so I asked him to drive us to the airport. He immediately agreed and did not part from us until he made sure that we knew where and how to board.

Another important thing: Usually, the best time to catch an American businessman on the phone is sunday. But at his request, I called him anytime but on sundays: “I can interrupt my work – that’s business, but on sunday, I’M WITH THE KIDS.”

We ask everyone who knew R’ Naftoly Smolyansky z“l to send us their memories of him.

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