Rabbi Shlomo Merzel, 79

Long-time Jerusalem principal and Aliyah activist passed away in Jerusalem. Son: "Now I see that everyone knew he was a tzaddik!"

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 12:17

Rabbi Shlomo Merzel, one of the earliest Aliyah activists and a Jerusalem educator for nearly 40 years, has passed away at the age of 79.

He is survived by his wife Rivka, four daughters, and son, Land of Israel activist Baruch Marzel of Hevron, parliamentary aide to MK Michael Ben-Ari. 

Rabbi Merzel headed a large Torah-Zionist core group in Chicago in the 1950’s, and worked together with future Israeli-American shakers Rabbis David Fox, who eulogized him, Meir Kahane, Tzvi Kleiman, and Shalom Horowitz, and Miriam Levinger (wife of Hevron's Rabbi Meir  Levinger).  Spiritual leadership was provided by Rabbi Chaim Kreizworth, who later became the Chief Rabbi of Belgium.

“This group led to the Aliyah of hundreds of religious American families in the late 50’s and early 60’s,” Rabbi Merzel’s son told Israel National News, “despite the difficult conditions of that time and despite the easy lives they could have had in America. They made an important mark here, and established several very important institutions.”

Rabbi Merzel became the administrator of the prestigious Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem shortly after he arrived in Israel in 1958. After eight years on the job, he took on the position with which he was most associated: Principal of the Horev Girls’ High School. After 15 years, he became the General Director of the entire Horev educational network in Jerusalem, including elementary, junior high, ulpena and yeshiva high schools.

He later received the Jerusalem Admired Citizen Prize in Education, and served on the boards of Machon Lev, Eretz Hemdah, Mivhar and Yad Sarah. 

Sima, Rabbi Merzel’s secretary of 35 years, said he never once showed anger towards her. “He simply did not know how to get angry,” she said.

Rachel Sylvetsky, INN editor, was hired by Rabbi Merzel to teach math when she moved to Jerusalem in 1972. "He guided me gently, caringly and with true educational wisdom," she said, "in my adjustment to Israel and Israeli students. He knew every student, every grade and every teacher's needs.  I will never forget him advising me that when a student's grade is borderline, to always give the higher of the two possibilities, as a student will work hard to retain a higher grade while the lower one will reduce motivation. I listened to him instead of being strict about that and he was right."

Everyone Knows
“He was beloved by all,” Baruch said. “I always knew, when I was growing up, that my father was a tzaddik [righteous person] – but I thought he was a tzaddik nistar [one whose righteousness is concealed from the public]. But now, after hearing from so many people during this week of shiva [mourning], I realize that he was not nistar; everyone knew he was a tzaddik!”