Stories & Memories of Rabbi Chaim Meir Lieberman

By: Chaya Sarah (Hallie) Cantor December 14

Man of Truth, Man of Warmth & Wisdom

I got to know Rabbi Lieberman personally, when I began working at Stern College for Women (Yeshiva University), Hedi Steinberg Library, over 25 years ago as an acquisitions associate. It was a job I stepped into literally one day after my predecessor took sudden sick leave and never returned. In the meantime I had to learn, all by myself, not only how to work a computer but how to place orders from the various book vendors.

Choice of vendors depended on the book's content, secular or Judaica. Whenever I needed to order a sefer, I was told by the head librarian, "Call up Lieberman. Call up Lieberman." At the time he owned a bookstore, Gur Aryeh, in Boro Park. We would chat over the phone. He sounded warm, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable. Whatever he didn't have in his store, he would make a special effort to get.

For me, it was an education on not only the latest publications but the various scholarly authors. It was also a nice complement to my other job in Jewish publishing, as an editor and writer for Mayer Bendet, a"h, who also passed away this secular year. (We hate you, 2020!)

One day in Boro Park, going to the subway after the hairdresser, I passed by Gur Aryeh (located on New Utrecht) and decided to drop in and introduce myself.

Rabbi Lieberman looked familiar to me. He even looked more familiar when he told me he lived in Crown Heights. Then I realized -- he was married to Sara Lieberman, one of my teachers from Machon Chana! Whenever I ran into Sara, she would urge me to come for Shabbos. At the time I lived right behind their home, where there was constant activity. On Sukkot I even saw a pulley, with food being brought down from the kitchen 2 stories above.

I finally took up Sara's invitation. I became a regular of sorts, coming often to the Lieberman household for Shabbos and holidays. It was even a personal "minhag" to go there for Hoshana Rabba (by then, they had built a sukkah on their porch.) I later introduced them to friends, including a roommate, who was later honored with a Sheva Brochas the Liebermans made for her and her chassan.

Rabbi and Sara Lieberman made a wonderful pair -- she thoughtful and brilliant (and a wonderful cook); he straightforward. Rabbi Lieberman spoke his mind; he had an opinion on everything and observed -- sometimes affectionately, sometimes critically -- all the goings-on in the community. At times he and I were verbal sparring partners, and I enjoyed our arguments. Rabbi Lieberman was very much an "Old World" style Chassid -- even Polishe, I might say. He was in fact related to the Bobover Rebbe. He was also well-connected, knowing a number of scholars and librarians I worked with.

To say it was an honor to know Rabbi Lieberman is an understatement. It was a blessing. As I write this, I am still in shock and grief over his untimely passing. When I heard, ten days earlier, that he had been rushed to the hospital, I prayed constantly, along with others, for a speedy recovery. Sadly, Hashem had other plans. I can only pray now that Rabbi Chaim Meir Lieberman be a malitz yosher for klal Yisroel and help bring us out of galus in these dark times. I pray that Sara and their children be comforted and carry good memories into the coming years.