By Shimshi Goldstein
Shimon Zelig Laufer was born in Podguz, Krakow, on March 21, 1923 to Shulim and Mindel. Shimon attended the Bobover cheder in Pudguz.
At a young age, Shimon went to work to support his family buying and selling used canvas bags. I often asked my father, Moshe Goldstein, z’l, Shimon’s cousin, what the reason was for his great success. He related to me that Shimon fulfilled kibud av v’eim to the highest degree. Whatever he earned, every grosh, he gave to his father, not expecting anything in return. Who in today’s era does something like this? There are those that support their parents, but to give everything? Fittingly, the Torah rewarded him with its blessing, “V’tov lach kol hayamim”—that blessing followed him throughout his life.
During the war, in the ghetto, he once got hold of grenades and dynamite. Together with two other friends, with those grenades, they destroyed a bar where the Nazis drank. It resulted in heavy Nazi casualties. It was not long before Shimon and his two friends were caught. The SS police incarcerated them in the famous jail Montelope, a place which no one was ever released from. A few days later, Shimon was released; however, tragically, his two friends were killed. He lived in the ghetto together with the previous Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Halberstam, zt’l, and they were close throughout this time and throughout the rest of their lives.
After the war, Shimon met his wife, Fran (Frimet) Fuchsbrumer, in Bergen-Belsen. He fell in love with her immediately, but she was a little hesitant. He promised her that if she married him, then one day there would be a butler and a doorman at her beck and call. Baruch Hashem, all of that came to fruition. After arriving in America, Shimon went into business. He always helped others in developing their own businesses as well. Whatever he touched turned to gold. I, too, was in the garment business like Reb Shimon and would often buy merchandise from him. He always gave items to me at a good price, so that I could make a nice profit. He was loyal and would refer small customers to me.
He was a master negotiator and arbitrator. The late Bobover Rebbe once called him for a big donation. He agreed to give the money for the entrance to the grand Beis Medrash on Fifteenth Avenue in Boro Park. When the chassidim asked the Rebbe what Shimon had agreed to give, they immediately told the Rebbe to call back and say it was too little. The Rebbe called back Shimon and at the end of the conversation, Shimon ended up with the two entrances—albeit for just a bit more than the original amount! I had the privilege to sit in his office watching him conduct his business. No college education could have taught me what I learned from him. When he reached for the red phone on his desk, you immediately knew a deal was being done. Sometimes the best deal and price was of the utmost importance, but, on some occasions, there were other more important factors that swayed his judgment. Once I was in his office when Fran wanted to rent a showroom in the “Designers Building.” Shimon was negotiating with the landlord—then Fran called Shimon on his hotline and said that she wanted it now. Shimon put down the phone and immediately called the landlord and said, “I’ll take it as is, no more hondling (bargaining).” This taught me an important lesson in shalom bayis, how to treat a wife, because he would give her whatever she wanted, even if it was against his style.
I once brought a problem to Shimon that I was having with a close friend and business associate in a business deal. Shimon called me and told me not to ever close an open door in business or otherwise—since once you close it, it’s difficult to ever reopen. I was called into his office and that very business associate with whom I was having trouble was there. He negotiated a settlement that gave me all the rights; yet my associate was all smiles. In short, both sides were happy at his settlement. This is the kind of thing that Shimon was able to for people all the time.
Reb Shimon was always happy to help and volunteer in any holy endeavor. In addition to the Bobover Rebbe, zt’l, he was highly regarded among many other rabbanim and Rebbes of all persuasions. He was close to Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Amshinover Rebbe. Likewise, he was a confidante to Rabbi Sholem Kowolsky and was instrumental in his shul’s success at the Young Israel of Hillcrest. He led davening in Hillcrest, as well as the 5th Avenue Synagogue. He would lead the minyan with his warm tefillos and niggunim. I recall that in his last days, when he was in the hospital, he only wanted to hear the Bobover niggunim that he grew up with. The day he passed on into the Olam HaEmes, I had a dream that he called to me to come to him for one last time. When I arrived at the hospital, he had just died. I had another dream after his petirah, where he asked that his children should cut up and set aside a piece of challah for him on every Shabbos and yom tov—saying that if his children remembered him, he will remember them. I, along with some of his grandchildren, observe this practice in Reb Shimon’s honor to this day. He passed away on the fourth day of Chodesh Av—the same day as the Kedushas Zion of Bobov and just four days after the yahrzeit of the previous Bobover Rebbe, R’ Shlomo Halberstam, zt’l.
He lived with Bobov in his heart and died with Bobov in his heart. Tehei nishmaso tzrurah b’tzror hachayim. May his life and his neshamah serve as an eternal merit to his entire family and to all of Klal Yisrael. v