community members gathered in and outside of the Magen David Synagogue on
67th Street this past Thursday morning in Brooklyn to mourn the passing of
Chacham Baruch Ben Haim, a great and beloved rabbi who was a soldier of
growth to the community and its development over the past 54 years.The
niftar was then taken past the Magen David Yeshivah and Shaare Zion
Born on November 18th, 1921, Chacham Baruch arrived in the Brooklyn
community in January 1950, from Eretz Yisroel. At that time, he was
already considered a full-fledged and respected talmid chacham, a shining
star amongst his peers, with a tremendous foundation of yediot haTorah,
and was close with Chacham Ovadia Yosef.
In May of 1950, Chacham Baruch married his wife Charlotte, who is the
daughter of the late Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Jacob Kassin. Chacham
Baruch lived a selfless life of never ending dedication, always looking to
the welfare of the community and its future.
Chacham Baruch’s passing marks a tremendous loss to the community. This
was a man whose entire life was sacrifice. His loss touches upon every
family and individual in the Sephardic community. Chacham Baruch seemed to
be a fixture at every bris, bar mitzvah, and wedding, sometimes attending
four or more of these celebrations in one day. This continued even
recently, with his condition worsening, and his legs causing him problems
His time was never his own, with a constant schedule of visiting those who
were not well, attending funerals, memorials, and grieving families. He
was willing to provide his wisdom to any situation that required him, from
settling business issues, to dealing with family problems, to giving
guidance to the community’s other rabbis and institutions.
Having officiated at many thousands of weddings and other occasions,
everyone in the community had the honor of enjoying their own special and
personal closeness with Chacham Baruch. His warmth, caring, and the
comfortable way with which he conducted himself was able to put many
chatanim, kallahs, new fathers, and bar mitzvah boys and their parents at
ease, adding joy, happiness, and fond memories to those most special of
Chacham Baruch’s fluidity of knowledge exuded itself so naturally from
him that we came to take it for granted. His ability to quote pages from
the Gemara, from the weekly parsha, etc., - all by heart, and all with
such ease - was both uncanny and amazing. He always had the answers,
whether it was in learning, regarding cherished minhagim, or the best
course of action for our community. And he was always ready and able to
assist any individual who would reach out for his advice.
This irreplaceable resource of information and community service never
demanded honor, yet conducted himself like royalty with absolute
consistency. He took positions, sometimes strong ones, but always in the
spirit of community unity, and this universal appeal was well evidenced by
the masses of people who stood throughout the streets during the levaya.
Some very observant, some less observant, all there in an effort to show
thanks and appreciation to a man who can never be fully repaid for his
decades of sacrifice and commitment to the people of his community, - a
job which became more challenging and more difficult each year, as the
community continued to grow.
Chacham Baruch is survived by his wife Charlotte,
and his four sons, Rabbi Eli Ben Haim (of the Lawrence Avenue Synagogue),
Rabbi Yaacov Ben Haim (of Shaare Zion), Yehuda, and David and their
May his legacy of community unity and love of Torah and mitzvot be with
all of us, in his memory, and in elevating his neshama. We pray that
Chacham Baruch continues to pray on behalf of our community as he did in
his lifetime, and may Hashem bring the geulah soon in our days.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.