Last Friday, 28 Cheshvan, Chana Rochel (Flam) Preschel wife of the late writer and bibliographer, Rabbi Tovia Preschel passed away in Lakewood. She was the daughter of Rabbi and Rebbetzin David Flam of Montreal. Born in Bobrik Poland in 1923, she came to Canada with her parents while still a baby. Her father established a Chassidish shul in what was truly a spiritual desert. Her mother’s father, the renown Strettiner Rebbe of Toronto, Rabbi Moshe Langner ZTL had also immigrated to Canada from Eastern Europe.
Chana Rochel was named after her great grandmother, Chana Rochel Rokeach, Flam a daughter of the oldest son of the Sar Sholom, the founder of the Belz dynasty. From her mother’s side she was descended from the Kaliv, Zidichoiv and Strettiner dynasties.
Rabbi David Flam’s shul was once visited by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the founder of the Yeshiva in Lublin, who served as the sandek for her brother Rabbi Yisroel Flam Zl of Monsey. Rabbi Shapiro claimed that Rabbi David Flam’s home was truly a piece of the old country in the new world. Chana Rochel would take two trams shlepping two pails to bring home milk that was cholov Yisroel Her father would always check the shochet’s knife himself to insure its sharpness. She was raised on only chicken and no meat.
When Chana Rachel was a small girl, she remembers her grandmother hiding Cholov Yisroel milk near the latter’s bed in Toronto because it was so precious.
Rabbi Pinchos Hirschsprung, the late Chief Rabbi of Montreal came to her father’s shul when he immigrated to Canada in 1941
Mrs. Preschel was the oldest of seven children, born after a baby named Pearl who had passed away from crib death.
When Chana Rochel was twelve years old, her mother became sick and was unable to take care of Chana Rochel and her siblings. Chana Rochel helped her father raise her five younger brothers and a little sister, nine years her junior.
Her father Rabbi David Flam, as a Chassidishe Rebbe, was visited by many people, congregants as well as Jews from all over who would seek his advice with their personal problems and come for brochos. As a child, Chana Rochel would stand outside the closed door of the dining room where her father would be speaking to people and eavesdrop. She would learn much about people’s problems and how her very wise father, a Rebbe would advise them.
Years later, when her youngest child turned eight, and was in school all day, she became employed at Maimonides Hospital as a secretary to a psychiatrist in the Mental Health Center. Her job was to listen to the doctor’s assessment of patients and type them for the record. One time, she decided that instead of typing what the doctor had assessed and recorded for her on a tape, she would type her own assessment of the patient as she did not agree with what the doctor had assessed..
When she was called in by the psychiatrist and another member of the staff of Maimonides, she was certain she was going to be fired for her impudence. She was asked who dictated to her the assessment that was not that of the psychiatrist. She admitted that no one dictated it to her, it was her own assessment. She was then informed that what she had typed was so intuitive that the hospital decided that they would pay for her to go to school so that she could enhance her education and be of service to the hospital.
She received her B.A., became a psychiatric nurse, and was awarded a Master’s degree in counseling as well as a license in nuclear medicine. She did much studying while raising four children who were attending elementary and high school.
Among the many patients she dealt with in the Mental Health Centers of Maimonides and Beth Israel Hospital, were Yiddish speaking patients, a number of whom she talked out of committing suicide
She was an Ezer Kenegdo to her husband, who was a great Talmid Chochom and very often immersed in his own world.
When her daughter Pearl, was a young child she once asked her mother, why her father didn’t drive a car like all her friends’ fathers did, she responded “It is dangerous enough when Abba crosses, the street, he doesn’t notice where he is going, it would be much too dangerous for him to drive a car.”
People would come to her with Sholom Bayis problems or confide that they were feeling depressed and she would lift their burdens.
She loved life and was full of simcha. Her greatest joy was attending a Rebbishe Chasuneh and sitting on the dais with her cousin Rebbetzin Trane Twerksy, the mother of the present Rebbe of Skver and her sister-in law Rebbetzin Baila Flam, the wife of her late brother, Rabbi Sholom Flam, the Strettiner Rebbe .
She is survived by her sister Mrs. Laya Nemetsky of Brooklyn, her brother Reb Shlomah Flam of Rechovot, thee sons, Yochanan Preschel,M.D. Shmuel Aaron Preschel, M.D. and HaRav Chaggai Preschel, author of BeChagvei HaSelah, and her daughter Pearl Herzog, Ph.d.
My she be a melitzas Yashar for her family and the rest of Klal Yisroel
Yehi Zichra Baruch