Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Chabad Leader, Passes Away at 74

Posted Thursday, Jun 6th, 2024

Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Kotlarsky, a key leader in the Chabad community, passed away on June 4 after a long battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.

Kotlarsky was the vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, which is the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. There, he grew Chabad around the globe and worked with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, before his passing in 1994. Kotlarsky carried on the Rebbe’s legacy by establishing thousands of Chabad outposts.

Born in Crown Heights, Kotlarsky continued the work of his father, Rabbi Hershel, a Holocaust survivor who established Chabad communities in New York and Montreal. He was married to Rivka Kazen, the daughter of one of the Rebbe’s first emissaries, and together they had nine children, whom they raised in Crown Heights. The Rebbe appointed him for a job at Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch Chabad Headquarters, and in 1968, he began traveling around the world, helping young emissaries set up centers in different communities in the former Soviet Union, the Caribbean and the Far East, to name a few.

Kotlarsky also served as chair of the International Kinus Hashluchim, the annual convention of Chabad emissaries, which hosts thousands of emissaries in Crown Heights every year. As vice chairman of Merkos, he led Chabad on Campus International, which is on 230 college campuses worldwide, as well as the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, known as the JLI, which is the largest provider of Jewish education for adults. He founded Merkos 203, which his son Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky runs; it launched programs like Chabad Young Professionals, CTeen: Chabad Teen Network, Mitzvah Society networks and CKids.

Even though Kotlarsky was extremely busy in his roles as a dedicated father and Chabad leader, he also found time to assist anyone in need, often answering requests at all hours of the night and ensuring that countless people received emergency financial and medical assistance. In the past few years, as he battled cancer, he oversaw the establishment of hundreds of new Jewish libraries, mikvahs, Chabad centers and Hebrew schools.

“Rabbi Kotlarsky’s passing leaves an enormous, aching void,” said George Rohr, president of NCH Capital and chairman of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. “I was so blessed to work together with him for over 40 years. It is hard to fathom the Jewish world without him, his love and endless care for the Rebbe’s shluchim and his powerful, relentless drive to build Yiddishkeit worldwide.”

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