Yossie wasn’t just a “Regular Joe,” he was special!

By: Chaim Neuhoff, PhD

For 14 years, I was privileged to live next door to Yossi. When I first met him, he seemed like a typical regular Flatbush guy, and he was. But he was much more! He was a fascinating and an unusual multifaceted person. I always enjoyed conversing with and observing Yossi because he was a real person with an expansive neshama.

He came across like a regular Joe, but he wasn’t. One of our favorite moments on Purim was when Yossi and Layla would come to join us. We ate sushi together and schmoozed, but Yossi’s true joy was not in that. He always shared a good shtickel Torah, beginning with a thought from one of his many Rabbeim and then adding something of his own. He would continue talking unbound by time because this is what he lived. This treat of a complex blend of Torah was what I merited to hear almost every time that I met him.

He went on vacations and trips like all of us, but his were spiritual adventures. Visits to the Baba Sali’s descendants, a tisch at Skver, and a meeting with this Rebbe was what gave him the respite that he needed. He would return and share his experiences with us on the block, thereby transporting us to holy spiritual places.

He came across like a Flatbush guy who was into his home, car, and garden, but he was much more. One of my favorite block memories was when the Satmar Rebbe from Williamsburg graced our block and participated in a peiros tish in Yossi’s home. He addressed all of us, gave Yossi and family a special bracha, and shared genuine chassidish warmth with our block and neighborhood.

Yossi merited to walk 3 of his children down to the chuppa. Externally, these were ordinary joyous chassunas with nothing particularly remarkable about them. But they were. His guest list was as diverse as they come. Dancing in his circle were many regular Flatbush people; chassidim; kids at risk; Rabbonim; and baal habatim. This circle was a true reflection of Yossi’s neshama!

We visited Yossi’s sukka every year and he visited ours. From the outside, his sukka had a strange color but otherwise didn’t come across as remarkable. But it was! The walls were full of pictures and creations and experiences. Him with Sefardi chachamim, chassidishe Rebbes, Gedolei Yisroel, and so many other creative pieces. What a beautiful sight!

I was once very bothered by a certain trend that I noticed in my practice and mentioned it to Yossi as I did to many others. Most people listen, sympathize, and move on, but not Yossi; he was a man of action. He organized an entire meeting to discuss and a few weeks later I was sitting in a boardroom in Manhattan in a meeting with Mendy Klein a”h along with his colleagues to discuss this phenomenon. This was all brought about through Yossi’s care and energy.

Yossi moved last summer and this is my final memory of him. During the months of Corona, we connected during Friday night davening when I sat on my porch while he sat by his window near the porch. The background was one of sirens and sad news, but we both sang our uplifting Lecho Dodi, connecting in our individual ways to Hashem. This was Yossi! Despite the sorrow and noise around him, Yossi focused on what was meaningful and important. This is his legacy that will remain with us.

 

Chaim Neuhoff, PhD

Psychologist, Gesher Yehuda

Adjunct Clinical Supervisor, Ferkauf Graduate School

Private Practice

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