Throughout the years he was continuously involved in the activities of the RCE, asking Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin and Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg to update him on the activities and their expansion through Europe. “What you have done is proof that you can do more,” was his mantra.
Rabbi Garelik was born in the month of Iyar 5692 in the USSR to his parents Meir and Rivka Leah. According to Chabadpedia he was educated in clandestine yeshivot and assisted with financial maintenance of the household. RCE’s Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg told us the following story.
“Many years back, I met him to take care of a financial process. We needed to go together to one of the Israeli banks” Rabbi Goldberg tells, ” Rabbi Garelik was a very busy Shaliach in Italy, and made a date to meet with me in the bank when he would be in Israel. I was very excited and told a few friends about the upcoming meeting with him. One friend of mine said that he is famous for his silence, and true to his word, Rabbi Garelik sat silent in the bank. He handed the required documents to me and did not say a word. His facial expression was pleasant and warm. I felt uncomfortable running the show, but I had no choice.”
When we exited the bank, I expressed my discomfort of taking charge. He was thoughtful and then said: “When I was 11-12 years old I Russia, the financial responsibility fell on my mother OBM. She had swift hands and while multitasking she knitted socks that I would sell and trade for food in the black market of those days. One day I was caught by the cruel NKWD. They led me to an interrogation in their office to find out who gave me the goods. I was seated on a 3-legged chair so I would have to keep my balance or fall and get injured. For four and a half hours the interrogators attacked me with questions and I was silent. I did not utter a word. I knew my mother’s life depended on my silence.”
“While the investigation was going on, a Jew who had connections with the authorities entered the office. He noticed me, immediately realized I had been caught, and began to think about how to release me. He approached the interrogators and asked them about me. They answered him in frustration that they are interrogating me for hours I won’t say a word. “He is the fool of the town.” said the Jew to the investigators. When they heard this, immediately threw me out of the place with a painful kick. I learned a lesson for life”, said Rabbi Garelik to Rabbi Goldberg,” not to talk a lot. If I do not need to speak, I prefer to remain silent.”
After leaving Russia, Rabbi Garelik arrived in Israel and learned in ” Tomchei Temimim” Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and then in ” Tomchei Temimim ” Yeshiva in Lod. At the time, he helped Yemenite immigrants apply to Torah institutions and assist in rescuing them from missionaries.
As Shabbat Mevarchim for the month of Tamuz 5715 approached, he came to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He toiled and studied Torah for several years, then received Rabbinical Smichah from Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Piekarski. On the fourth of Tammuz 5718 he married the Rebbetzin, daughter of Rabbi Shalom Pevsner in 770, and had the privilege of having the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself as the Misader kiddushin. He was extremely close to the Rebbe and was fortunate to stay close throughout the years. Rabbi Garelik was allowed to participate in over 100 personal discussions in the holy Rebbe’s room and received hundreds of letters and telegrams responsa related to his activities in all areas of life.
On Sunday the 11th of Kislev 5719, he was sent on Shlichut to Milan, Italy. The Shabbat prior his Shlichut, it was Parshat Vayeitzei, the 10th of Kislev, and in one of the Hitva’adut the Rebbe expressed the virtue of Shlichut, and the virtue that the Shaliach internalizes as a result of the Shlichut. Amongst other things the Rebbe said: ” You must know that when you are here, you do not absorb the essence of the Rebbe. The essence of the Rebbe you absorb when you are far away. On Sunday Rabbi Garelik gained private entrance to the Rebbe and received instructions and guidance for his Shlichut, and then had the ceremonial “Tzaitchem Leshalom” where many Chassidim came to escort him, (At that point, Rabbi Garelik was from the first Shluchim to depart to distant countries, and it was a new concept.) The Rebbe himself ushered him.
At the Hitva’adut on 19th of Kislev, a few days after arriving in Milan, the Rebbe requested that a relative should come and say “Lechaim ” for him.
After a few months the Rebbe spoke of him in a Hitv’adut and said ” A Russian boy and an American girl did much more than all the elderly people here”. The Rebbe mentioned him at times as the example for ” The Shliach that caused a revolution”.
When he arrived in Milan, he began to serve as the Rabbi for the Ashkenazi community there, and for over 50 years he conducted his congregation with much success. He established the atmosphere of Torah throughout Italy and its surroundings.
Rabbi Garelik carried out many secret Shlichuyot for the Lubavitcher Rebbe .
It must be stated that all these years he never said a word in front of the Rebbe. During one of his private meetings, the Rebbe asked him if he ordered Kosher food for the plane trip. He signaled that there is no need. The Rebbe said that even so, the airlines must know that there is someone in need of kosher food, and that he should move around the food as if eating from it. From then on, he made sure to always order Kosher food, even though he never ate from it due to his stringiest care for kashrut.
His caution for Kashrut was revealed when the Director General of the ‘Rabbinical Centre of Europe’ Rabbi Arie Goldberg flew with him and asked him about ordering Kosher food on the plane. Rabbi Garelik said that her never ate the food provided on the plane, still always ordered kosher food because that was the instructions he had received.
Aftermath, his care for Kosher food became famous. An Orthodox businessman who happened to be in Milan asked to dine at a restaurant that was under his kashrut. Rabbi Garelik said that he prefers to host the guest in his home. After a few years the business man arrived again in Milan. Rabbi Garelik said that he can host him again in his home, but now they can dine in the restaurant that overwent a major change and the Hechsher is now Mehadrin.
“Another unique behavior by him “stated Rabbi Goldberg ” was that he would not let his Tallit and Tefillin leave his side. He would lend anything, but not his Tallit and Tefillin.”
Even though he was a Shliach for decades, he never considered himself tied down. Every Motzei Shabbat he expressed concern that the community would fire him. Perhaps this is why every time he went up to the Torah, he used to mention the names of all the participants in the synagogue and greet them one by one in his name, despite the long time it took. He respected each and every member of the community.”
“Once he told me that you can make a ‘L’chaim” also on water”
During the 30s many Jews left Russia and passed through Ladispoli, Italy. Rabbi Garelik and other Chabad Chassidim worked hard to spread Judaism in the area, and built a synagogue, a mikveh, a kosher restaurant and more. The Lubavitcher Rebbe referred to this I one os his lectures.
Strong relationships, especially in matters of Torah and Halacha, he tied throughout the years of his leadership with hundreds of rabbis all over the world, such as the renowned genius Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, author of “Seridei Aish”, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahneman, Rosh Yeshivat Ponovitz, Rabbi Simcha Elberg, chairman of the ” Agudat Rabbanim”, and all the chief rabbis of Israel (starting from Rabbis Nissim and Rabbi Unterman) visited his house and kept in constant contact with him.
As mentioned, he founded the “Rabbinical Centre of Europe” and was involved in the extensive activities. The RCE’s Director- General, Rabbi Arie Goldberg, said upon learning of the bitter news that “A masterful nobleman and an exemplary personality has departed from us”.