Rabbi Binyomin Wolff, 43, Spiritual Leader in Hanover, Germany
Rabbi Binyomin Wolff, the Chabad rabbi in Hanover, Germany, died on April 24. He arrived in Hanover 15 years ago, and helped to reshape the Jewish landscape there.
He was the sole rabbi for the 5,000 Jews in the city.
His brother-in-law Zushe Greenberg, the head of Solon Chabad in Solon, Ohio, said, “He revived the Jewish community there. He took what were remnants and brought life to the place. He created a community.”
“He had a Hebrew School, a pre-school, a synagogue. He did weddings. He did everything,” said Greenberg.
He added, “Rabbi Wolff was a scholar but more than anything, he was a kind soul. Being in his presence, one was inspired to be better.”
Chabad of Germany released a statement saying, “His passing is a terrible loss for German Jewry at large and the Jews of Hanover in particular.”
He was buried on Sunday with roughly 15,000 watching by Zoom video online. “He was the first rabbi to be buried in Hanover since World War II,” said Rabbi Greenberg. He said his widowed sister made the commitment that they would be staying in Hanover forever.
He was born in Israel and studied at Chabad yeshivas there. He continued studies in New York, Milan and Houston.
In a Chabad.org obituary, friends noted how easily Wolff got along with everyone.
Shortly after the wedding to his wife Shterna in 2000, Wolff and she were stationed in Odessa. They learned Russian there.
This would come in handy in 2005 when he and his young family went to Hanover, a city that had a lot of Russian-speaking Jews as immigrants.
Hanover was an important railroad and road juncture that made it a target for Allied bombing during World War II. In excess of 90% of its city center was decimated in raids.
Its highway connects both the east-west through Berlin/Dusseldorf/Cologne and north-south through Hamburg/Frankfurt/Stuttgart/Munich. It is the capital of Lower Saxony.
Wolff is survived by his wife Shterna (nee Greenberg) and eight children. He is also survived by his parents, Rabbi Menny and Feiga Wolff.
“It’s not just a loss to the family. He was like a parent to many in the community. One friend said it was like losing a second father,” said Rabbi Greenberg.
Wolff’s youngest child is four and the eldest is 19. “The tragedy is unthinkable,” said Rabbi Greenberg. Chabad has started a charity campaign in his memory.
“More than anything, I was amazed by his kindness,” said Greenberg.