• Jonathan Burns

MTA, RIETS, YU Mourn the Loss of Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dovid Tendler zt’l

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dovid Tendler, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS (Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon) and professor at Yeshiva University, passed away Tuesday, September 28 on the first day of Shemini Atzeres. He was 95.

Rabbi Tendler was born in New York in 1926 and received an early education at Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva. In 1939, he came to RIETS’ high school, the Talmudical Academy (as it was called back then. The school was renamed the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy only in 1980). In his nine years as a student at MTA and subsequently RIETS, Rabbi Tendler learned under Rabbis Moshe Aharon Poleyeff, Samuel Belkin, and Joseph B. Soloveitchik. During his time in RIETS, Rabbi Tendler attended NYU and majored in biology, graduating in 1947. Rabbi Tendler continued his education, receiving a masters degree and later a PhD in microbiology from Columbia in 1957.

Rabbi Tendler was the son-in-law of Rav Moshe Feinstein, world-renowned posek and Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim in the Lower East Side. Some of Rav Moshe’s halachic responsa in his sefer Igros Moshe are addressed to Rabbi Tendler. Rabbi Tendler was an expert in Jewish medical ethics and is well known for advocating the position that brain death constitutes death in halacha, allowing for the Orthodox Jews to donate and receive organ transplants. He published numerous books and articles on the topics of organ donation, bris milah, and stem cell research, including co-authoring Practical Medical Halacha, a work on halachic responses to medical issues.

Rabbi Tendler featured in MTA’s Elchanite yearbook of 1961 among the members of the Talmud faculty.

Rabbi Tendler’s long teaching career at YU began even before receiving smicha. His first role was as a ninth grade Rebbe at MTA. Rav Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS mentioned at Rabbi Tendler’s funeral that Rabbi Tendler was his first Rebbe, being in his ninth grade shiur at the age of 13. Rav Schechter mentioned that they learned 40 blatt in Meseches Bava Kamma, skipping only a few Tosfosin. Rav Tendler became an instructor of biology at YU, later serving as chair of the biology department. His other roles would be chairman of the religious guidance committee, instructor of medical ethics, assistant dean of Yeshiva College, and Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS.

Rabbi Tendler was also the Rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Monsey where he served since 1967. Rabbi Tendler’s career at YU spanned 80 years, learning, teaching, and giving shiur up until last year. His funeral was on Thursday, September 30.


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