Venerated leader of the Erlau Hasidic sect dies at 93
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Venerated leader of the Erlau Hasidic sect dies at 93

A leading halachic authority and scion of a dynasty founded in Hungary, Rabbi Yohanan Sofer immigrated to Israel after surviving Auschwitz

The late Rabbi Yohanan Sofer at his home in Jerusalem on November 11, 2014. (Flash90)
The late Rabbi Yohanan Sofer at his home in Jerusalem on November 11, 2014. (Flash90)

Rabbi Yohanan Sofer died early Sunday morning in Jerusalem from complications of pneumonia at 94.

Sofer, considered a leading halachic authority with enormous influence on Orthodox Judaism, was a Holocaust survivor who led the Erlau (Eger) dynasty, a small Hasidic sect in Israel.

Sofer was born in Hungary, where his father and grandfather served as grand rabbis in his hometown of Erlau.

In 1944, Sofer was deported together with most of his family to Auschwitz, where his father and grandfather were both soon killed.

Sofer survived the Nazi concentration camp and returned to Erlau to lead the handful of Jews from the town who managed to escape the Holocaust.

But the Communist grip on post-war Hungary, and widespread anti-Semitism, prompted Sofer and other members of his community to escape Eastern Europe for Israel in 1950.

In Jerusalem, he continued his family’s legacy by founding a yeshiva in the non-Hasidic Katamon neighborhood and a movement in its name. Sofer continued to establish synagogues, yeshivas and other religious institutions in Israel throughout his life

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday offered his condolences to Sofer’s family, calling the rabbi a “unique figure loved by secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews.” Rivlin also underscored the importance of taking care of Israel’s Holocaust survivors in their last days.

The Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party issued a statement after Sofer’s death, praising his dedication and the compassion he exhibited throughout his leadership.

Earlier this month, Sofer was admitted to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital with an acute case of pneumonia. Days after he was released, Sofer, suffering from a severe infection, was re-admitted to the intensive care unit, where he passed away early Monday morning.

Sofer’s funeral was being held at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot Cemetery on Monday afternoon. The ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Hashabat reported several roads in the capital would be closed during the funeral procession, including Yotam Street, Rachel Imenu Street, Hizkiyahu Hamelech St., Mishmar Ha’am and Ezrat Torah Street.

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