The Life of Rabbi Copperman

We don't all plan what we want engraved on our tombstones. But Rabbi  Dr.Copperman (that's the way the family spelled the name) did. His daughter, Dr. Devorah Rosenwasser, told an audience that gathered at Sharay Tefilla in Lawrence last night what her father stipulated that he wanted the words from Prashas Vayigash 46: 28: "ve'es Yehudah shalach lefanav el Yosef lohoros lefanav" Yaakov sent Yehudah ahead to Yosef in Egypt in order to set up a houe of study.

That's how Rav Copperman, also named Yehudah, saw himself. His role was enabling others to learn Torah. That's what his life was all about, and it was to that end that he founded Michlalah Jerusalem College back in 1964. There's a nice feature article on his life and accomplishments in Jewish Action. It reveals what prompted him to open a teacher's college for women, though Dr. Rosenwasser offered a daughter's insight.

She said that her father said he needed to set up a school for her education. She also gave a few details abou their family that the I never knew. Rabbi Copperman was one of six children, and his father died when he was only eleven years-old. Despite the hardship that would have posed to his mother in Ireland, she still succeeded in raising up her frum family, including a son who saw his mission as the Yehudah who clears the way for Torah learning.

His dedication extended even until the end. Dr. Rosenwasser reports that for the last 6 months of his life, he was too weak to teach. Yet, he still so looked forward to teaching that even the night before his petira, on the 23rd of Teves, he said he was preparing in case the next day he will be able to teach a class.  Of course, he was also learning, too.

 Dr. Rosenwasser said that he made a list a couple of years back of all the things he wanted to get through, including particular parts of TaNaCh with chavruthas. Even what he didn't complete was to be completed by his study partners who have planned a siyum to mark that accomlishment. Speaking of chavruthas, Dr. Rosenwasser said that he kept up a regular learning session for 6 years with a janitor at Miclalah. The boost to the man's self-esteem was immeasurable.

Rabbi Copperman's  respect and consideration for others was among his most salient traits, in his daughter's account. She said that he would read and active engage with any book given to him by the faculty at Michlalah, even on secular subjects. She said that one who authored a physics book remarked that he got the most helpful feedback on his book from Rabbi Copperman.

Beyond the intellectual achievements, he reached out to people to such an extent that everyone came in to be menachem avel started by referring to her (or his) special bond with Rabbi Copperman. Dr. Rosenwasser said that so many people said it, it almost became comical. But they all sincerely felt it, and that is the most amazing part of it.

She doesn't know where he found the time to keep up so many relationships. A number of people told her that he called them every single Friday and that he always was available to those who wanted to talk. Others referred to his helping them out - even financially -- as in the case of covering the dental bill for a woman's child or helping out an aguna. She said she never knew about his role in all that until these people told her.

What was his greaterst accomplishment? In his own words it would seem to be batim. Dr. Rosenwasser recounted that one time a secular man who visited the campus asked if Rabbi Copperman takes pride in the buildings of Miclalah's campus. He responded that he doesn't take account of the binyanim [building] but of the batim [households]  of Torah-centered families that the graduates go on to build.



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