Rabbi Aharon Serebryanski, known to everyone as Reb Arel, passed away at age 86 on April 13, 2019. He was the father of Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski of Chabad of South Denver.
“He never led a congregation and he spoke English with a thick Russian-Yiddish accent, but Rev Arel left an outsized imprint on dozens of communities and thousands of hearts across Australia and beyond,” wrote Menachem Posner for ChabadNews.org.
Reb Arel was born in Kharkov, then part of the USSR, to Rabbi Zalman and Bracha Serebryanski, devoted Chasidim who were active in the Chabad underground network of Jewish institutions.
Along with his brother Chaim, Arel studied Torah in the illegal Holocaust-era yeshiva in Samarkand, which their father was instrumental in founding.
When the Iron Curtain cracked open briefly in 1946, the Serebryanski family escaped to the West, where the boys continued their studies in DP camps in Pocking, Germany, and then in Brunoy outside Paris.
In 1949, the family was dispatched by the sixth Lubaviter Rebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn to Australia to bolster Jewish life. They arrived just prior to Rosh Hashanah and founded a yeshiva with the two Serebryanski teenagers and a third student in the farm community of Shepperton.
Despite the young man’s desire to leave Australia for New York, Schneersohn encouraged him to remain in Australia to impact Jewish lives.
Schneersohn encouraged Arel to learn enough English to converse with his contemporaries, most of who did not speak Yiddish. In addition to the yeshiva, he organized summer camps and other programs for Jewish youth.
He married Zlata Skolnik in the US and took up a position as an elementary school Judaic studies teacher at the Chabad school in the Bronx, where the couple lived until the 1960s.
Then they relocated to Melbourne, where Reb Arel became Australia’s representative of the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.
He founded a free loan fund for people in need of immediate relief, raised funds for and oversaw the construction of a number of mikvehs across Australia, founded the Cheder Levi Yitzchok School of Melbourne and supervised the printing of a revised bilingual edition of Tanya.
“I was introduced to Reb Arel when I was a 27-year-old looking to explore Judaism,” recalls Robert Epstein, now a retired businessman in Melbourne. “Having observed him for 40 years, he was entirely consistent — always learning, always involved in furthering Judaism. Inside and outside, he was exactly the same.”
Rabbi Aharon Serebryanski is survived by his wife Zlata Serebryanski; children Zev Serebryanski, Levi Serebryanski, Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski, Rochel Leah Lipskier, Rabbi Mendel Serebryanski and Rabbi Hendel Serebryanski; sister Mrs. Nechama Werdiger; and many grandchildren.