Rabbi Meir Roness—a longtime resident of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., who dedicated his life to the dissemination of Chassidic teachings—passed away on Jan. 13, just one day after celebrating his 74th birthday.

Born in 1941 to Rabbi Avraham and Gittel Roness in Montreal, where his father was a respected educator, young Meir continued his studies at the Central Chabad Yeshivah at 770 Eastern Parkway, the world headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Crown Heights.

In the 1950s and early `60s, he served as rotating substitute counselor at Camp Gan Israel in the Catskill Mountains. Campers still remember how he would lead them in song before playing sports and bring Chassidic joy to every activity.

As the children grew into young men, many of them wanted to have classes in Chabad chassidus in the yeshivahs were they studied. Working with Rabbi Dovid Raskin, chairman of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, Roness threw himself into organizing and sustaining classes throughout the tri-state area.

The efforts were a direct response to the pioneering call of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—to advance the welfare of Jews everywhere, not only physically but spiritually.

Roness and his fellow yeshivah students took the Rebbe’s message seriously, traveling near and far to give classes and talks, and to organize study groups. While many of his friends joined in the effort, it would be hard to find someone who surpassed the good-heartedness and single-mindedness with which Roness dedicated himself to his mission.

Late one night, for example, he was desperately looking for a ride from the Catskills to Brooklyn, where he needed to be to arrange classes. The person who took him mentioned it to the Rebbe. The Rebbe replied, “praiseworthy is his lot, and great is his merit.”

In 1967, he married Sara Beigel. The couple made their home in Crown Heights.

Rabbi Meir Roness surrounded by his wife and children in the early 1990s.
Rabbi Meir Roness surrounded by his wife and children in the early 1990s.

At one point, there was talk about Roness moving out to serve as a Chabad emissary, but the Rebbe insisted that he remain in Brooklyn, where he was accomplishing great things.

“He was persistent,” recalls Rabbi Avrohom Bluming of Brooklyn, who would often receive calls from Roness at the payphones, camps and yeshivahs he attended, encouraging him to start Tanya classes. “There are thousands of people who’ve learned chassidus thanks to him. Everything was done with simplicity and joy. You just couldn’t say no to him.”

Bluming says his uncle became a Chabad chassid because of an actual class Roness arranged, and that both he and his brother were active in giving classes at his behest. Each one required substantial arranging by Roness, involving recruiting students, a presenter and sometimes a driver, as well as raising money for car fare.

Youthfully Exuberant

More than 50 years later, he continued his efforts uninterrupted. Though he aged physically, his spirit remained youthfully exuberant, and he continued to work diligently on behalf of Lubavitch Youth Organization. Roness considered his work to be a privilege, and he made it his mission to share that privilege with others, inviting everyone he encountered to make a small donation towards Lubavitch Youth Organization’s ongoing programs.

With a wad of bills in his hand and a pocket full of change, he could be seen making his rounds in the Crown Heights neighborhood, approaching one person after another with warm greetings and an uplifting word. In the mornings, he circulated in the synagogues; in the evenings, he made a brief stop at every engagement and wedding celebration in town, energetically congratulating the celebrants and encouraging their generosity.

Roness often invoked the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that “disseminating the wellsprings” of Chassidic teachings would lead to the ultimate redemption.

Within the Crown Heights community, he was a familiar and beloved presence. An individual of unsurpassed warmth, sincerity and devotion, everyone knew that it was Roness who was being generous; he was not there to seek aid, but to enable an individual to participate in a greater good.

In his quiet and humble way—and over the course of more than half a century—Roness helped introduce Chassidic teachings to tens of thousands of individuals.

“Like everyone else, I was surprised to learn that Reb Meir was 74,” says Bluming. “He was the kind of person who was friendly with everyone, no matter their age. That was a big part of his success. He viewed every person as a friend—and a potential teacher or student of chassidus.”

Rabbi Meir Roness was predeceased by his first wife, Sara, in 1995. He is survived by his wife, Devorah, and by his children: Chanie Abramowitz (New Haven, Conn.); Dini Gottlieb (Toronto); Dvorie Botnick (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Mushky Roness (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Yossi Roness; Shumi Roness; Zevi Roness (Brooklyn, N.Y.); and Mendy Roness (Brooklyn, N.Y.).