Rabbi Nachum Ber Presman, the humble and beloved Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the Jewish community of Potsdam, Germany, and regional rabbi of the state of Brandenburg, passed away on Tuesday, March 8 (5 Adar II, 5782), three months after suffering a debilitating stroke. He was 50 years old.

Presman was born in Tashkent, then part of the USSR, where his family were members of the clandestine Chassidic community that called the city home.

When he was three months old, his family immigrated to Israel and settled in Nachlat Har Chabad in the city of Kiryat Malachi, which was built to be a home for Jews then leaving the Soviet Union.


In 1996, after his marriage to Michal Bostomski, the couple traveled to Potsdam, Germany, where they opened a Chabad center serving local Jews, as well as those immigrating from the former Soviet Union.

In time, the seeds they planted grew, and a cluster of Jewish institutions, from a preschool to Torah classes for pensioners, sprung up in the German city.

Below, his childhood friend, Rabbi Eli Wolff, shares a touching tribute:

There are some childhood memories that are so vivid and so real that you remember every detail, as if they had just happened.

It was the winter of 1984. He was 12 and I was 13, having just celebrated my bar mitzvah. We were sitting in the large synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway in New York, in the shadow of the platform where the Rebbe would sit and address world Jewry.

I had come to celebrate my bar mitzvah in the Rebbe’s presence. And it just so “happened” that my school friend Nachum had also come to 770 with his father, R. Levik Presman.

We decided to learn the daily Torah portion, the first segment of Mishpatim, where we learn the laws of the “Hebrew servant.”

Even though we were native speakers of Modern Hebrew, in our childish enthusiasm, we decided to translate the Hebrew text and Rashi’s commentary into Yiddish, just as we had seen our fathers and grandfathers do.

We came to the second verse: “When you will purchase a Hebrew servant. I did not know how to translate “servant” (eved in Hebrew) into Yiddish. But Nachum knew the word: knecht.

Presman and his wife, Michal, center, host a Purim party.
Presman and his wife, Michal, center, host a Purim party.

It was a new word for me, and I said it again and again, until I could pronounce it perfectly. From then on, whenever I hear the word knecht, I am transported back to that moment, learning the daily Torah portion with my friend Nachum Presman.

Nachum was a knecht, a servant, but he was a “Hebrew servant,” who breathed Jewish joy and enthusiasm into whatever he did. His only purpose was to do the will of his Master, not with dry servility, but with charm, sweetness, and heartfelt joy.

For the majority of his 50 years, Nachum was a soldier in the Rebbe’s army, devoted to building Jewish life in Potsdam, where he so recently celebrated the groundbreaking for a new Jewish center.

And so we walked behind Nachum’s bier, with broken hearts, crying, hurting.

As we walked, I recalled another memory that is seared into my memory: The bitter day two years ago when we learned of the passing of my dear brother Benny, his fellow Chabad emissary to Germany.

Nachum oversaw the funeral arrangements in the cemetery of Hanover, where my brother lived and died. He sent us a video of himself next to Benny’s coffin, crying like a baby. In a futile attempt to bring us some comfort—or perhaps to console himself—he told us that the taharah had been carried out in the best possible way.

The tears were flowing, but he was standing strong, a knecht, a soldier, valiantly doing his best to assuage our aching hearts.

From that day, Nachum and his family supported my sister-in-law and the bereaved Jews of Hanover whatever they had.

Presman was the beloved Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the Jewish community of Potsdam, Germany, and regional rabbi of the state of Brandenburg,
Presman was the beloved Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the Jewish community of Potsdam, Germany, and regional rabbi of the state of Brandenburg,

Besides his giant, warm heart, Nachum did not have much in the way of worldly possessions. But that warm heart, and the care and love that it conveyed, gave them so much more than the gifts they received from around the world.

They spent many Shabbats in Nanover, they were there for the community, and there for our family, giving whatever they had—and more!

This summer, we celebrated Shabbat together in Hanover. It was a long summer Shabbat afternoon, and we talked about so many things. At times, we did not see eye to eye, but he even knew how to disagree with sweetness and charm.

The Chabad emissaries have a monthly Zoom Torah class in Benny’s memory. I prepared the subject materials, and Nachum was responsible for setting the time, reminding everyone and making sure that the technical details were in place.

Sometimes, there were 20 of us on the conference, and sometimes, it was just us two. But he was never discouraged. He was a servant, who never forgot his mandate.

Building Jewish life in Germany was not easy. Nachum and his wife overcame many hardships, or perhaps “challenges” is a better world. But they persevered, never breaking and never retreating. They knew what was needed, and they were ready to serve with joy.

There is so much more to write, but there is even more to be done.

Nachum and his family devoted their lives for their community, and now it’s our turn to be there for them. In three months, his youngest son, Avraham, will celebrate his bar mitzvah. Let’s make sure it will be a joyous celebration—a proper send-off as he embarks on his journey into Jewish adulthood, one that will take him to becoming a joyous knecht of the Jewish people.

Nachum opened his heart for the Jewish people. Now let’s be there for him.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their children: Menachem Mendel Presman, Miriam Sudak, Avraham Presman and Chaya Muskha Presman, as well as a grandchild. He is also survived by siblings Avraham Presman, Yitzchak Presman, Yaffa Lipsker, Batya Raskin, Esther Raskin and Yehudit Feldman.

Rabbi Nochum Ber Presman.
Rabbi Nochum Ber Presman.