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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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Steve Batogower Plano Texas May 26, 2015

We have lost a best friend who worked so hard to spread Jewish around the world Reply

yaakov miami December 4, 2014

obligation 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? Reply

Sharee Ada, okla., U.S. 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. Reply

Joseph N. Dwyer Ellington, Ct. December 8, 2011

Rabbi Kazen I too look forward to the daily e-mails initiated by this loving man.B"H Reply

Jeanie C. Wolf Manila, Philippines 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... Reply

Mr. Rev.Joseph S. Kolleh,Jr. July 1, 2011

SOORY TO THE BREAVED FAMILY May his soul rest in peace. G-d bless the bereaved family again. Reply

Anonymous Toronto, Canada 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. Reply

Joel Levitz Burbank, CAUSA 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. Reply

Rabbi Avrohom-Yaakov Wachs Cape Coral, Florida 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. Reply

Mordechai Krasnerman Brooklyn, NY October 7, 2009

May his soul merit the ultimate aliya soon He is an inspiration to me with my outreach work Reply

Mrs. Tziporah Whiteman September 21, 2009

condolences May his memory be for good in all of Israel. Reply

shoshana wakser Miami, uburb of Yerushalayim September 15, 2009

Kazen of Having just now written to Ask a Rabbi, being able to read about's founder caught my attention. I was shocked to learn of this young man's death. Thank G-d not only had he such opportunity to be charismatic, but his legacy is thank G-d his children and his courageous wife who - I hope - looks foward to all good for herself as 'mom', a pillar of strength for her children. I know the home of the deceased from 1981. Thank you, G-d, for your mercy for the lives of such grandparents, being guiding lights and lamp-lighters for each one of us fortunate to come to appreciate their greatness.
Please forward this posting to the family if you can.
This minute I am getting up to give 12 pennies - covering the span of ages of the children to the Meir Baal HaNess pushka. Just as the Tzadik helps me find my temporarily-lost items around the house, he will intercede to return to us our souls lost in death. Reply

Anonymous nyc May 16, 2009


so young, what a loss. Reply

robbie brooklyn, ny December 26, 2008

in gratitude i'm just now reading about this dedicated man. i use every day. i'm so grateful to him. i hope his family is doing ok today. Reply

Dovid Portland, OR December 5, 2008

Rabbi Kazen of blessed memory Rabbi Kazen let me in on my heritage - he helped me start to fill in the gaps my bubby couldn't about what it means to be a Jewish man. He encouraged me when I knew nothing and shared my excitement in learning, despite how extraordinarily busy he was at that time. I actually met him at 770 once and he remembered who I was - one Jew out of so many people he touched. Reply

Herbert Schwarz, MD,FACS Santa Ana, USA August 8, 2008

Rabbi Kazen of blessed memory. Through Cyberspace he made Teshuvah a reality and possibility for multitudes. I hope he has a special seat in the Cosmos. Reply

Rev Frantz S.Iago-Peretz Reading, PA November 17, 2007

Barukh Dayan Emet Shalom!
The few times I contacted Rabbi Kazen, z"l, it was always encouraging. I appreciated very much his commitment to use every technological opportunity for the sake of Honouring G-D. It was an honour to dialogue with him.
He was a pioneer in the Internet.
May the Blessings of the Heavens be upon his beloved family.
uvrakha! Reply

Linda Haniford Brooklyn, NY December 8, 2006

Wow. It would be inspiring for women to hear from the Rebbitzen and/or the children talk about their father and their role in helping their father with his activities. Reply

Louis Philip Rotkowitz, MD Albany, NY - USA December 6, 2006

Thank G-d for Rabbi Kazen While a young and foolish student @ the University of Delaware, I got caught up with a group of missionaries. For months I grappled with my religion and teetered on the verge of leaving the faith that I was raised in. Rabbi Kazen reached out to me. Always quick and timely to answer an email, in an age where the Internet was rising. Thank G-d for this man, for I would have been dead! It was G-d's will that I met Rabbi Kazen one weekend in Crown Heights. He came up to me! He had recognized me from a picture of me on my web page. This is the kind of guy he was. Reply

Daniele De Louya-Newman Boca Raton, FL via December 5, 2006

Rabbi Kazen I mourn the passing of Rabbi Kazen, a light has gone out but not without passing it on to others. Our world is better because of his work. He was a light unto our nation and our feet can walk in Derech Hashem following in his magnificent footsteps. May we take refuge in knowing that Hashem has taken back, near, very near the Sechina a great soul. Reply

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