By Menachem Posner
Rabbi Zalman I. Posner, the translator and author of popular Chassidic works and the Chabad rabbi in Nashville, Tenn. for 53 years, died April 23. He was 87.
The eldest of six children, Posner was born in British Mandate Palestine in 1927. His parents, Sholom and Chaya, had fled the oppression of the Soviet Union and made their home in Rishon Letzion, where Sholom was a shochet (ritual slaughterer). When Posner was 10, he was sent to New York, where he attended Toras Emes and Torah Vodaath yeshivahs in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1940, he became one of the first students of the Central Lubavitcher Yeshivah in New York.
In 1948, together with fellow student Mendel Baumgarten, Posner was dispatched to Europe to serve the needs of Holocaust survivors and refugees from Stalinist oppression living in displaced-persons camps in France, Austria, Germany and Holland. In 1949, he became spiritual leader of Congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville, Tenn. Shortly thereafter, he married Risya Kazarnovsky, the daughter of a prominent Chabad activist, Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Kazarnovsky of Brooklyn. Almost immediately, they began inviting Vanderbilt University students to their home — creating a model that would become the basis for future Chabad on Campus centers all across the world.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Rabbi Posner began traveling regularly to New York, where he was the featured speaker at the “Encounter with Chabad” weekends held in Brooklyn. He traveled widely, often speaking in South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom. As a leading member of the Rabbinical Council of America (the rabbinic arm of the Orthodox Union), and the Central Committee of Chabad Lubavitch Rabbis in the United States and Canada, he would often speak at organizational conventions and contribute to their publications.
In addition to regular articles, Posner translated many important Chassidic texts, including two sections of the Tanya, the primary guide to spiritual life written by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. His first book, Reflections on the Sedra, was published in the 1950s and featured succinct thoughts on the weekly Torah portion.
“I was looking through some school reports from the late ’80s,” says his daughter Vivi Deren of Stamford, who together with her husband is director of Chabad Lubavitch of Fairfield County, “and the comments he wrote about the students were just amazing. It was so interesting to see how he knew each child so well. Even while pointing out an area where they needed improvement, he would put it in a way that the child and the parents would feel good. He was a very engaging teacher.”
Rabbi Posner is survived by six children and several siblings. He was predeceased by his wife, Risya, in 2007.
This article is reprinted from Chabad.org