It was the chasunah of a relative. A happy time, a special time, and Reb Anshel was filled with gratitude to be there. A retired businessman with a large and ever-growing family immersed in lives of avodas Hashem, Reb Anshel is known and respected in the Toronto community and beyond. As a guest myself, I was also participating in the beautiful simchah. During the chasan’s tish, waiting for the badeken ceremony to begin, I noticed Reb Anshel coming out of the crowd, toward me.
“Shalom aleichem, Reb Yisroel,” he said to me in his exuberant manner. “I have had a personal project in mind for a while, and I thought you would be the perfect person to ask for help.” “Of course,” I answered. “For you, Reb Anshel, anything!”
“You know,” he continued, “since I retired, aside from my daily learning and our trips to Eretz Yisrael, I have been busy in my home wood-shop. I love building things for our family and friends. But, I thought, it is time now to make something for myself.” With a big smile he passionately continued, “I want to make myself - a shtender! That is my dream. And you, Reb Yisroel, came to mind. As an architect, I thought that perhaps you might have plans of a shtender that I could use to build mine?”
Holding back my surprise and deep emotion at his request, I struggled to regain my composure. “Reb Anshel, as a matter of fact, I do have plans for a shtender ... a very special one!” At this point I must give the reader some background.
Around 35 years ago, Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Toronto was in the process of designing a beautiful new campus. As one of the architects involved in the project, one of my jobs was to design a shtender to be used by the rosh haYeshivah and rebbeim who would all sit on the mizrach vant (eastern wall) of the new beis midrash. Calling Rav Naftali Friedler, zt”l, the rosh haYeshivah at the time, I asked him what specific features the shtender should be designed with. Without a moment’s hesitation, he asked me to come by the yeshivah and speak with one specific boy - Nutie Rosenblum. A top bachur with sterling qualities, the rosh yeshivah felt he could help me design the most perfect shtender for the yeshivah.
Well, I did come by and Nutie and I soon met. He had gathered four prototype shtenders from the old beis midrash. One was a “Telzer” style, one was a “Lakewood” style, and two other classic examples. Sitting together for a while, we discussed and analyzed each one. I instantly understood the rosh yeshivah’s respect for this brilliant young man. We incorporated the best aspects of each shtender into a design that we hoped would be the premier shtender of them all!
With the rosh yeshivah’s approval, more than a dozen of the special shtenders were built. On the opening day of the new campus, in the beautiful new beis midrash, hundreds were in attendance and Nutie and I looked at each other with great appreciation for this wonderful accomplishment. The rebbeim began to learn, teach and daven on these very special shtenders.
Not long after that day, tragedy hit the Ner Yisroel community, Toronto and all of klal Yisrael. On April 17, 1986, Nutie Rosenblum was brutally murdered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on his way home from shul. It was a horrific hate crime perpetrated by an anti-Semitic murderer, who was later convicted and put away for decades. Nutie, his wife, and one-month-old baby had been on a visit to his in-laws for the Yom Tov of Pesach. The family, our community, and beyond, was changed - forever.
Now, many years later, I refocused my thoughts on Reb Anshel and his shtender request. I began to choke up, my emotions getting the better of me. Why? Because, Reb Anshel Rosenblum is the father of Nutie, Hashem yikom damav, the bachur who designed the most perfect shtender so many years earlier for Ner Yisroel! It took a few moments, but finally, I found my voice. “Yes, Reb Anshel, I have a shtender design for you, a very special one, designed by your son!”
He looked at me in disbelief. “Nutie?” he asked, and after the initial shock, a warm glow seemed to encompass him. “Please, Reb Yisroel, could you get me the plans as soon as you can?” Reb Anshel is happily busy as I write this. He is lovingly crafting the shtender which has the spirit and love of his son in every dimension. After many years, Reb Anshel will continue learning Torah in his study, and now, in some way, he will have his son together with him in his learning. The premier shtender will now gain new status, as father and son unite in limud Torah. (By Yisroel Idels, with permission).