Zev Matisyahu Deutsch survived World War II and the Holocaust, eventually making his way to the United States, where he settled in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, where he served as gabbai of the Kozlov synagogue for more than 50 years. He passed away on April 28 as a result of complications due to COVID-19.

Deutsch was born in Veitzen, Hungary (Vác in Hungarian), to his parents, Avraham Aharon and Malka (Lieberman) Deutsch. Veitzen was a non-Chassidic community, where Jewish residents followed Ashkenaz custom. Deutsch’s maternal grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yekusiel Lieberman, was a shochet—a ritual kosher slaughterer—and a student of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, renowned as the “Ksav Sofer” (or “Ketav Sofer”), the leading rabbinic authority in 19th-century Hungary.

Veitzen was a simple town, where many locals raised chickens and cows for a livelihood, and Avraham Aharon made a living as a cheesemaker.

In an interview with Professor Dovid Katz, a Yiddish-language scholar, Deutsch recalled growing up in a pre-war Hungary shtetl. “The rabbi was Rabbi Yeshaye Zilberstein, who wrote Maasei Lamelech ... , ” recalled Deutsch. Maasei Lamelech is a commentary on Maimonides’ laws of the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem), an uncommon area of study, and was written at the dawn of World War I. In his introduction, Zilberstein explained that the subject matter was especially pertinent for they were “ ... the laws of Moshiach; for during this period—a time of grace—the ‘footsteps’ of Moshiach are already here.”

Deutsch would likewise remember his childhood rabbi repeating the teachings of the great Chasam Sofer, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839), the pre-eminent Hungarian Jewish leader.

Recording his old-style Hungarian Jewish accent for posterity, Deutsch recited a chapter a Psalms and the Kaddish prayer in the traditional Ashkenazi pre-war Hungarian enunciation of Hebrew, an accent now seldom heard.

Paying tribute to their beloved grandfather, one of Deutsch’s grandchildren wrote, “ ... It was an incredible zechus [‘merit’] to have you in our lives. You taught us what it meant to be b’simcha [‘joyous’] and to live our lives appreciating everything we have. You lost everything, and came back from the ashes and built up a strong Yiddish [Jewish] home. Then the Eibershter [G‑d] took two sons from you and you still pushed through, always with a glint in your eyes and smile on your face.

“You came to America with nothing, and left with children and grandchildren who are ovdei Hashem [‘serve G‑d’] and bnei Torah [‘Torah scholars’]. Your derech [‘ways’] will live on forever, and we thank you for that.”

Deutsch is survived by his son and daughter, and numerous descendants.

He was predeceased by his wife and their other two sons.

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