Rabbi Majrim (Meir) Hillel Rappaport, the Bialystoker Maggid, (1870?-1963)
Rabbi Majrim (Meir) Hillel Rappaport, the Bialystoker Maggid, was born in Brisk and received semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Rav Soloveitchik of Brisk. He moved to Bialystok, where he was the official preacher the Bialystoker Shtot-Maggid, for fourteen years. Family members report that when the Bialystoker Maggid visited Warsaw to speak, all the Jewish stores closed in order to enable everyone to hear him.
Rabbi Rappaport arrived in America in 1928. He served as the first rabbi of the Beth HaMedrosh HaGadol in New Haven, CT, and then moved to Washington Heights, New York, where he was the rabbi of the Bais HaMedrosh HaGadol of Washington Heights for many years. He was best known by his title, the Bialystoker Maggid, and was popularly known as the king of darshanim (preachers), in the tradition of the great preachers of yore. He delivered his sermons in the manner of the Eastern European maggid, characterized by its niggun: its melody, rhythm, cadence, and emotional, intense, chanting. The language of the speeches was Yiddish, mixed with traditional Hebrew phrases and Biblical quotations. He “gave” musar, moral instruction, and exhorted his audiences to repent and strive for greater religious observance. His speeches included anecdotes and parables laced with humor and spiritual insight. He became well known to the public through his radio appeals for yeshivas and other charitable institutions on New York radio stations. It is estimated that he gave thousands of speeches for a million Jews over the course of his life. He was also a masterful shaliach tsibur (prayer leader); synagogues and hotels drew crowds when he led prayers on the Sabbath and holidays.
Rabbi Rappaport moved to the Bialystoker Home for the Aged on the Lower East Side, after he was severely injured in a car accident. He died on May 5, 1963, at age 94. He was eulogized by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, among others, at a large funeral.
This speech was probably delivered at a wedding or sheva brachot between 1945 and 1948. Rabbi Rappaport praises the parents of the newlywed couple for giving their children a Jewish education. He criticizes American Jews who do not provide their children with a Jewish education, since they believe that this will prevent their children from succeeding in American society. He mentions the concentration camps and stresses the need for a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel, and concludes with the need for the Messiah.
We wish to thank Ronald Finegold, donor of the recording, and Sally Kirsch and Blossom Scheinfeld, granddaughters of Rabbi Rappaport, who provided biographical information and photographs.
- Alpert, Zalman. Review and summary of recording.
- Bialystok: photo album of a renowned city and its Jews the world over. Compiled and edited by David Sohn. New York, 1951.
- The Bialystoker Memorial Book. New York: Bialystoker Center, 1982.
- "Der Bialystoker Shtot-Magid, H.R.M.H. Rappaport, avek in der eybikayt" fun Aharon Hayat, Bialystoker Shtime, September 1963, p. 32.
- http://kevarim.com/rabbi-miyrom-hillel-rappaport/#more-3262 – information on Rabbi Miyrom Hillel Rappaport.