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Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, 44
(Lubavitch News Service, December 3, 1998)

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, Director of Chabad Lubavitch in Cyberspace and considered by many the pioneer of Jewish education on the internet, passed away yesterday -- Tuesday, December 2 -- at age 44.

Kazen was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1954 to Rabbi Zalman and Mrs. Shula Kazen, escapees of Stalin's prisons and the Nazi holocaust. The Kazen home was always a center of Jewish activity and Yosef Yitzchak, youngest of seven siblings, grew up helping to resettle Russian immigrants, preparing and delivering meals to the poor, and volunteering for all types of communal activities.

As a young boy Yossi Kazen left home to study in New York, near the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, whom he loved dearly. He was an early volunteer of the now ubiquitous Mitzvah Tanks, the Lubavitch international telephone hook-ups and many other original ideas and programs, and was endeared to many friends.

Related Links
The Soul of Cyberspace

Even before the web, Kazen was one of Lubavitch's technological innovators, and helped develop the systems whereby the Rebbe's talks were broadcast via telephone to far-flung Lubavitch outposts around the globe.

But there was much better to come.

With the advent of computer communication technology, Kazen immediately recognized its potential for reaching an almost limitless audience, particularly people limited by geographic and other constraints.

In 1988, long before the internet was popularized, Kazen reached out to thousands of people on Fidonet, an online discussion network that was distributed on several thousand nodes around the world. So primitive was the technology that it would sometimes take three days for messages to travel from one part of the world to the next. But Kazen was relentless in his determination.

From early morning to late at night Kazen could be found slaving away -- digitizing and entering thousands of documents into what became the world's first virtual Jewish library, and enabling thousands of people to learn about Judaism for the first time.

As soon as the news spread on the internet yesterday the tributes began pouring in from all around the Jewish world.

A. Engler Anderson, Editor of Shamash--The Jewish Internet Consortium which is based at Boston's Hebrew College, said that Kazen "was a pioneer of the use of the internet for religious study and dissemination of religious materials. The title 'visionary' is definitely applicable to him. He saw it when most others did not."

Anderson further pointed out that Kazen also created the first and largest virtual congregation. "He had people from every part of the world who considered him their rabbi," Anderson said. "He never automated his responses, choosing to meticulously answer tens of thousands of emails directly himself."

The Jewish Theological Seminary's Michael Starr said that Kazen's site became the standard bearer for the Jewish internet world. "[His] site was the one by which all the others were judged."

Kazen's exploits in helping to set up a Passover service on a boat off Antarctica, providing information for a Jewish defense officer in Saudi Arabia, and teaching an Irish minister about Judaism earned him prominent coverage in media outlets like the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, Good Morning America, and many others who were fascinated by this man's vision in helping to educate through the internet.

His outreach is immortalized in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History collections exhibit about the internet. Many books, including the popular The Soul of Cyberspace, feature his ideas on internet education as well.

In mid-1998 Kazen was diagnosed with lymphoma but refused to notify his thousands of internet admirers. In fact, between painful treatments at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center he would dial up and respond to emails on his laptop.

Rabbi Kazen was interred at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, in proximity to the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbes.

He leaves behind his wife, Rochel, and six children ages 5-18, in Brooklyn; his parents, Rabbi Zalman and Rebbetzin Shifra Shula Kazen of Cleveland, Ohio; and six sisters and their families who are representatives of Lubavitch around the world.

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Discussion (25)
May 26, 2015
We have lost a best friend who worked so hard to spread Jewish around the world
Steve Batogower
Plano Texas
December 4, 2014
I am amazed how Rabbi Kazen could have accomplished so much in such a short lifespan. His foresight and selfless dedication and love of all Jews, like the Rebbe, has driven him to apply all means and resources available to connect our brothers and sisters to our Father in heaven. He is an amazing inspiration to ask ourselves how we can do our part to adapt and impart our wealthy heritage to our generation?
February 10, 2012
the loss
I just learned of the loss, will pray for your family to be comforted by G-d. This is only temporary for the resurrection is not far away, death is hard but soon tears for our loved ones will be replaced with great joy knowing the promises of our G-d and His power.
Ada, okla., U.S.
December 8, 2011
Rabbi Kazen
I too look forward to the daily e-mails initiated by this loving man.B"H
Joseph N. Dwyer
Ellington, Ct.
July 5, 2011
Remembering the great soul
I've been reading, learning and has been inspired about TORAH and Judaism because of My heart was enhanced by the extraordinary lessons of life and chassidut and it reminded me about the values of my heritage...

I am including them in my prayers for blessings be upon Rabbi Kazen's family and followers to do more good deeds in the world...
Jeanie C. Wolf
Manila, Philippines
July 1, 2011
May his soul rest in peace. G-d bless the bereaved family again.
Mr. Rev.Joseph S. Kolleh,Jr.
September 5, 2010
Rabbi Kazen
May his soul be bound with all the Jewish souls and may his memory comfort those that feel this great loss.
Toronto, Canada
May 16, 2010
Thank You Chabad
Even though I grew up in a community with a vibrant Orthodox shul (most Jewish residents were Reform/Conservative however), I am frankly dismayed and shocked at knowing how many of my fellow Jewish classmates have either converted, assimilated to a fault, or intermarried (children not being raised Jewish). This is a tragedy for our people and is unacceptable. We who have returned to our faith (or never really left it), along with Chabad, must devote more of our efforts at bringing our fellow Jews back to our beliefs, traditions, holidays, and core values. I thank Chabad for their positive influence. I have been approached many times by Messianic Jews and others. My response is the Torah, our laws. Therefore, no thank you.
Joel Levitz
Burbank, CAUSA
November 30, 2009
Save one life;save the world.
When a person such as was the case for Rabbi Kazen, chose to honor the words of our sages and focused on by all of our great Rebbes; the results speak for themselves. How many Jewish souls were saved?, how many lost Jews, returned back to reap the rewards of a Torah life? Only G-d knows. May Rabbi Kazen's vision and work continue to inspire us and future generations of the Chassidic World.
Rabbi Avrohom-Yaakov Wachs
Cape Coral, Florida
October 7, 2009
May his soul merit the ultimate aliya soon
He is an inspiration to me with my outreach work
Mordechai Krasnerman
Brooklyn, NY
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