Rabbi Zishe Blum grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1930s, where he absorbed age-old traditions from elder Jewish residents from Europe that helped mold his values and character. He passed away on April 11 after contracting COVID-19.

Blum was born to Chanoch Henoch and Bina Rochel. His formative years were spent in the legendary “Poilisher Shtiebel” in Williamsburg, where he developed a relationship with the Torah pioneers of the day, among them many Chassidic rebbes who survived World War II and the Holocaust. He studied at Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, one of the early yeshivahs in America.

He wore many hats, starting out as a congregational rabbi in Babylon on Long Island, N.Y., a position he held until the 1970s, then taught at a public school in Elmont, N.Y., and Yeshivah Ketana of Queens, as well as several other institutions.

Blum was known for his creative teaching methods and his passion. When teaching at Yeshivah Ketana of Queens, he would bring chicken eggs to the classroom, counting the days with his young charges until tiny chicks would emerge. After Sukkot, this rabbi with a green thumb would plant etrog seeds with his class—a notoriously difficult undertaking.

He was highly regarded by his colleagues and students as an empathetic, devoted and caring teacher. Blum had a knack for making students feel good and boosting their self-esteem. “Look at that smile!” one former student recalled Blum often exclaiming as the young boy walked past him in the hallway.

The Blum home was an open one, always welcome to guests, with the rabbi happiest to be with others and his family.

For nearly five decades, Blum was the shofar-blower at Khal Degel Israel in Flushing, N.Y., a skill he taught himself after seeing many a shofar-blower struggle with the often difficult task.

He was predeceased by his son, Rabbi Matis Blum, who passed away just days before his father.

He is survived by his wife, Rhoda, and their children: Moshe Blum, Avi Blum and Miriam Finestone; as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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