Rabbi Lipa Dubrawsky, scholar and educator of thousands, passed away suddenly at the age of 56. A beloved rabbi and the educational director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Vancouver, Canada, he touched the lives of many people through his classes, optimistic attitude and personal warmth.
“When he spoke to you,” says Vivian Claman, “it was as if nothing else mattered at that moment. Everything he said was carefully deliberated and thoughtfully expressed. I always felt relaxed and comfortable in his presence because I knew that he always judged people favorably.”
Born in 1956, Eliezer Lipman (“Lipa”) was the third child in the prominent Dubrawsky family. He learned as a teen in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and then in Melbourne, Australia, where he influenced many and worked hard to assist struggling students with their lessons.
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“The home was always occupied by guests we never knew,” recalled his brother, Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Dallas, Texas, about how he and his siblings grew up. “Conversations in the home were frequently about how to assist this or that person, or another guest who was coming soon to our home.”
His father, Rabbi Yehoshua Dubrawsky, was a prolific writer whose work appeared in, among other publications, the Yiddish Forward and Algemeiner Journal newspapers. He also wrote and edited for the Jewish Woman’s Journal and Di Yiddishe Heim, and transcribed the public talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
“What we observed in our home was our father’s dedication to Jewish teachings, especially the teachings of Chabad,” said Dubrawsky. “Both of our parents were the only survivors of their families, yet they educated us about giving to others, and with the anticipation that we would dedicate our lives as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries away from our hometown of Brooklyn.”
But it was their father’s modest and unassuming view of his work that affected the younger Dubrawsky. “Our father would toil away,” says Rabbi Yoseph Dubrawsky, executive director of Chabad of Curitiba, Brazil, “on transcribing the talks of the Rebbe, and in his fashion of humbleness would say, ‘I am not important enough to write the Rebbe’s talks.’”
In 1981, Rabbi Lipa Dubrawsky married Dina Blitzintzky. Soon after, he worked on several scholarly volumes for Kehot Publications, the publishing arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He also received extensive training in rabbinic law from the eminent Rabbi Zalman Shimon Dworkin, who also worked with him on how to recognize differences in individual learning, to be sensitive to that fact, and how to respond to their varied questions about Jewish law. This sensitivity he practiced his entire life.
In 1983, the couple moved to head the Chabad Yeshivah school in Caracas, Venezuela. After several years, they moved back to New York, where Dubrawsky worked in the central Lubavitch library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, one of the world’s largest private Judaica libraries.
In the summer of 1988, the couple moved to Vancouver, where the rabbi took the position of educational director.
A Love of People and Books
Dubrawsky gave a class almost every day, at times even twice a day, and through his teaching influenced thousands of people.
“He was a wonderful person,” says Jeff Blicker, a local ophthalmologist who attended two classes given by Dubrawsky for more than 20 years, and “influenced so many through his classes on Jewish teachings.”
Dan Rusen says he was significantly removed from Judaism when he met the educator back in 1991. “A friend told me that he attended a class by Rabbi Dubrawsky—he told me that he was fascinated, that he never heard anyone speak with such clarity and passion.”
Rusen began attending one of the many weekly classes. “I never met anybody who could describe to me the connection between us and G‑d the way Rabbi Dubrawsky was able to; he brought it to life. He approached it in a totally fresh and exciting way. For me, it was a new way of understanding Judaism.”
A Torah scholar, Dubrawsky relished time to study. “His greatest pleasure,” says his son Meir, was to find a new volume of Jewish study and learn it. He would often tell his children that the greatest compliment one can receive in Chabad circles is to be considered a pnimi, which he explained is a “person who is in a situation and fully there.”
Those who knew him say he personified that ideal.
Blicker adds that it was not only the rabbi’s teaching that influenced so many to make small steps in adding in their Jewish observance; “it was by example, by the way he lived, the way he acted. He was a kind and loving person; he never got upset. He showed us how to live our lives.”
The Dubrawskys would invite people into their home, especially for Shabbat and holidays. For guests, it was a place where you could for hours and bask in Jewish learning, and Chassidic stories and melodies.
“His house was warm,” recalls Blicker. “Sitting at his table was always an uplifting experience. He would teach and share Chassidic stories, and enrich everyone lucky enough to know and be touched by him.”
“He smiled and had patience for every person,” says his son Sendy. “He was always pleasant, and knew how to listen.”
“He was a towering mentor,” says Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, co-director of Chabad of Richmond, British Columbia, “an incredible friend to people, thus influencing many on a deep level.”