Rabbi Yosef Goldberg, a respected member of the Chabad-Lubavitch community in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, N.Y., who served Jews young and old for many decades—first as a beloved schoolteacher and then with the New York City Department of Aging—passed away on 11 Sivan (May 31). He was just shy of his 93rd birthday.

Born in Brooklyn in 1930 to Menachem and Rochel Goldberg at Israel Zion Hospital (the forerunner of Maimonides Medical Center), Yosef Goldberg was the eldest of five children. His father was the principal of yeshivah Toras Emes in Brooklyn during the war years and often sought the advice of the Sixth RebbeRabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. In one yechidus (private audience), the Sixth Rebbe asked the senior Goldberg to consider transferring Toras Emes to Chabad’s nascent yeshivah network, Rabbi Goldberg recalled in a 2015 interview with “My Encounter With the Rebbe,” the oral history project of Jewish Educational Media (JEM).

The principal responded that he would have to discuss the matter with the yeshivah board and would return soon with an answer. He never did: That Shabbat, he had a fatal heart attack, leaving behind a widow and five children (Rochel, his wife, passed away a decade later). When word reached the Sixth Rebbe, he was heard to have been “very upset.”

“He called in my uncle [Rabbi Yitzchak Ushpal] and took out five $5 bills,” recalled Goldberg. “Give these to the children; as long as they hold onto this money, they will never lack money, ” the Rebbe instructed.

Goldberg held on to that $5 bill for the rest of his life.

He went on to have several private audiences with the Sixth Rebbe before his passing in 1950, and had the merit of having an audience with him on the last Thursday night that the Rebbe held audiences before his passing the following Shabbat. Rabbi Goldberg later became a dedicated Chassid of the Rebbe. In the early 1950s, the young rabbi purchased a car, and someone asked him if he would give driving lessons to the Rebbe’s wife, the Rebbetzin. He happily agreed and took the Rebbetzin driving every day that summer in a lot in Canarsie.

“I remember one day I was getting out of the car, and my hat flew away. In those days, we wore gray hats, and it got filthy dirty.” The Rebbetzin wasn’t pleased to see his hat looking so disheveled and told him, “I am going home. My husband has many hats, and I’ll give you one.” Rabbi Goldberg demurred, saying the Rebbe’s hats would be too large on his head, a decision he would later regret.

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg - Photo courtesy Goldberg family
Rabbi Yosef Goldberg
Photo courtesy Goldberg family

In another memorable story he shared with “My Encounter,” he recalled how his grandfather—by then well into his 90s—fell ill and needed to be operated on. The next day while driving with the Rebbetzin, he asked her for a favor: Could she mention his grandfather’s name to the Rebbe for the Rebbe’s blessing? “Normally, I don’t mix into my husband’s business,” she told the young man, “but for you, I’ll do it.”

“The very next day when they took my grandfather to the hospital and they laid him down on the operating table, the doctor said it doesn’t need to be operated on. Whatever it was was not there.”

‘I Know What the Rebbe Wants You to Do’

Rabbi Goldberg once recalled how his grandfather, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Kellowitz, a well-known rabbi, was once asked to bless a young man who had fallen into a coma. It was Shabbat, and he turned to the young Goldberg and asked him to go to the Rebbe after Shabbat and get the Rebbe’s blessing. Goldberg went to 770, and the Rebbe was upstairs, reciting Havdalah for his mother-in-law and his wife. When the Rebbe came down, he saw him and took him into his office. The Rebbe told him to go to the hospital and yell the young man’s name and mother’s name into his ear, and then the Rebbe’s name and mother’s name. “Which Rebbe?” Goldberg asked, to confirm that the Rebbe was referring to his father-in-law. The Rebbe waved his hand, and Goldberg understood that it was the Sixth Rebbe.

He went and followed the Rebbe’s instructions, and sure enough, the young man visibly reacted. He reported to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe gave him more instructions and asked for a daily report. Each day, he’d visit and do something different at the Rebbe’s request. One day, it was putting up a mezuzah, the other day it was placing a book of Chassidic teachings under the patient’s pillow.

Eventually, the man recovered, and contrary to the doctors’ dire predictions regained full mental function.

Between 1950 and 1960, Goldberg taught in a Jewish day school in Boston, marrying Tzuppie Lasker in 1955. After several years working with his brother, Levi, at the latter’s auto rental business, he was unemployed for some time when he recalled the Sixth Rebbe’s blessing and $5 bill. At the time his brother was holding on to the bills, and at his wife’s suggestion, he went to his brother and took home his bill. The next morning, he received a call with a job offer that he would hold for the next three decades working for the Department of Aging from 1970 until 2000. He then ran a program for seniors at the synagogue of his brother-in-law, Rabbi J.J. Hecht in East Flatbush, where he would study Torah with the men and serve a hot lunch.

After a fall in 2010, he retired. “He stayed home, and now had the time to do everything he wanted to do—he sat and studied Torah all day,” said his son, Yehudah Goldberg.

In addition to his wife, Rabbi Yosef Goldberg is survived by their children: Menachem Goldberg of Boro Park, N.Y.; Rochel Bukiet of Chicago; Bassie Spalter of Toronto; Devorah Munitz of Monsey, N.Y.; Shmulie Goldberg of Scranton, Pa.; Yehudah Goldberg of Monsey, N.Y.; as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He is also survived by siblings Yaspa Werner of Boro Park, N.Y.; Dora Markovitch of Mexico; and Levi Goldberg of Boro Park, N.Y. He was predeceased by his brother, Feivel Goldberg.

After a fall in 2010, Rabbi Goldberg retired. “He stayed home and now had the time to do everything he wanted to do—he sat and studied Torah all day,” said his son. - Photo courtesy Goldberg family
After a fall in 2010, Rabbi Goldberg retired. “He stayed home and now had the time to do everything he wanted to do—he sat and studied Torah all day,” said his son.
Photo courtesy Goldberg family