On Sunday evening, November 24, a large crowd gathered for a memorial for Mr. Nissan Yakubov a”h. Mr. Yakuov was a dearly beloved member of the Beth Gavriel community who had a tremendous impact on so many people in the community. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 50 from a type of leukemia.
Rabbi Israel Ishakov, rav of the youth minyan at Beth Gavriel, spoke first about Mr. Yakubov. “He taught us to be good Jews and to do what Hashem wants us to do.” He taught a special class called “The Titanic,” where he asked class participants a thought-provoking question: What would you do in the last moments of your life? He made everyone think and he changed their lives. “Two brothers came to that class and it changed their lives. They said the class had to be recorded. Today they have the biggest online Torah organization, TorahAnytime.”
Next, Mr. Shimon Kolyakov, Founder of TorahAnytime, spoke about his friend, Mr. Yakubov. He shared how The Titanic class made everyone think about what legacy he would leave behind.” He woke everyone up, and this was an amazing gift that he had.” Later, he hosted another event on the Twin Towers. “Those events changed so many lives, and mine, too.” He shared with emotion how they were so close and their families often got together throughout the years. Mr. Kolyakov shared that Mr. Yakubov gave a lot of chizuk for TorahAnytime. “He was a big part of it and he was so proud that it was from our community. He was so smart. He was amazed by the incredible depth of Torah, and he came up with amazing chidushim.” He used to compliment us so sincerely. He was very genuine and he made a big deal of people’s accomplishments.
“It was a gift to spend time with him.” He noted that Mr. Yakubov did kiruv through comedy. “We all have our mission here. Nissan did it in such a big way. He left such an impact on this community.”
Mr. Kolyakov shared how it was so hard to be comforted for the loss of this friend; but the night before the memorial, Mr. Yakubov came to him in a dream and hugged him. He shared that TorahAnytime is dedicating their new daily dose of Torah to Nissan Yakubov’s memory. He exhorted everyone to do mitzvos in his name and do a little extra.
Next, Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Founder and Director of Chazaq, shared that Mr. Yakubov was the master of ceremonies for the first Chazaq dinner and for the Chazaq Big Event. “He knew how to put a smile on your face.” Even when he was so ill and suffering, he didn’t make you feel sad. He always gave a d’var Torah. “Nissan was so excited at the big Chazaq Event. He marveled, ‘So many people came to shiurim!’ He felt he had to recite She’hecheyanu.” Rabbi Ilan shared that it’s hard for us to accept that such a young man is gone. Life is full of challenges and ups and downs and frustrations. Sometimes we see the reason right away, and sometimes we won’t see until we’re in the next world, after 120 years.
He shared the story that Rav David Yosef shared at a Chazaq event the night before Mr. Yakubov passed away. The story was told in detail in a previous article in the Queens Jewish Link. Briefly, it was about a time in Germany when only Reform Jewish institutions were permitted, and the Orthodox community sent Rabbi Dr. Marcus (Meir) Lehmann to see the Chancellor at that time to ask him to change the law. In that story, it was clear that Hashem protected Rabbi Dr. Lehmann from death. At exactly the time he needed to leave, in order to make the train to Berlin, an elderly man came to the door with a question, and this man’s need to speak with the rabbi caused Rabbi Lehmann to miss the train. It appeared the Orthodox Jewish community would not be able to build their shuls and schools, all because he missed the appointment with the Chancellor. In this case, something seemed so terrible and frustrating; but in reality, it was that very frustration that saved the rabbi’s life and enabled the Orthodox Jewish community to continue at that time. The train was in a head-on collision and the rabbi’s life was spared because he missed the train. The Chancellor recognized that our G-d must love us, since he saved the rabbis from that crash and he changed the law so they could build Orthodox synagogues and institutions. Rabbi Ilan pointed out the message that was so clear in this story. Hashem runs the world. What may seem terrible can in reality be good. We don’t see the full picture. “Sometimes you don’t understand.”
A student of the Ramban had died at a very young age, and the Ramban was upset. This student came to the Ramban in a dream and said, “Up here there are no questions.”
Rabbi Ilan continued, “It hurts because Nissan made everyone feel loved.” Rabbi Ilan imparted the following wise idea: “This world is beautiful but very fragile. We have to learn to appreciate our lives. Nissan was all about appreciating the beauty in Hashem’s world. We should not take anyone in our life for granted. The community and his family should know no more tzaar.”
Next, Mr. Isaac Abraham, a good friend of Mr. Yakubov, spoke. “My heart was instantly broken when I heard he was niftar.” He shared how this memorial event gave him comfort. It demonstrates the power of achdus of the Beth Gavriel family. “I started here. I grew with them. I’m a product of this community. My heart is here.”
He shared how Nissan was close with his brother and him. “I’ve known him half my life. He respected and loved me. He made me feel wanted. He had a magnetic personality.”
He pointed out that Nissan was a man of integrity. At the age of 21 he attended Aish HaTorah. He came from a secular family. His father was a pilot in the Russian army. “Once he found the emes, he was glued to it.”
He shared that Nissan was a man on a mission, and he stayed focused. He was always searching for truth and he brought that energy to the community. Rav Noach Weinberg and Rav Tuvia Singer as well as teachings of Rebbe Nachman were very important in his life. He shared stories of how Nissan was able to totally stop missionaries by quoting from Tanach and showing that they were wrong. He loved learning Zohar. He was a very deep man. He loved nature and he loved watching the sunset over the ocean. He understood that studying nature will bring you closer to Hashem.
He would never charge for a shiur. “He was real with G-d.”
After this, Rabbi Akiva Ruttenberg, Emet Director, shared that Mr. Yakubov’s essence was to bring joy to another person.” He shared a fascinating story. Mr. Yakubov was very talented at performing comedy to the point that he was offered to do a test run on Saturday Night Live. They had offered to pay him $25,000. He thought this could be an opportunity to do a big kiddush Hashem. He asked Rabbi Noach Weinberg if he should do it. Rav Noach said he should not do it. Rabbi Ruttenberg imparted that Mr. Yakubov had simchah on his face when he said he couldn’t do it because his rebbe said no. He didn’t follow his own logic but he followed his rebbe’s logic.
He brought happiness into all different situations. He accomplished so much in his life. We can learn from him to always find ways to look for simchah in difficult times and to look for ways to be appreciative. We wish a person arichas yamim, meaning long days. Why don’t we wish them long years? “A long life is not necessarily the amount of years we lived. It’s what we did with our days that filled those years.” Rabbi Ruttenberg concluded, “His life was short in years, but long in days.”
Following this, Ruben Kolyakov of TorahAnytime spoke. “Nissan was a pro at making events and bringing people together. I don’t think anyone knows what we lost.” He changed this community so much. I can’t put into words how we all felt. It was such a loss. Mr. Kolyakov worked with Nissan for six years. They were both doing technical support at Touro College. People were always calling with problems. Even if he couldn’t solve a technical problem, he would still leave the other person feeling good. His happiness was contagious.
Rabbi Emanuel Shimonov, who led the main minyan in Beth Gavriel for over two decades, spoke about Nissan’s exemplary character. Mr. Ephraim Moshkabnov and Mr. Emanuel Isanov also spoke.
Mr. Yakubov is survived by his wife Sarah and six children. There is an online fundraiser to help the family: www.thechesedfund.com/yakubovskids/for-future-of-the-nisan-yakubovs-kids.
By Susie Garber