Remembering R’ Yossi Basker

July 11, 2024

The Ultimate Achrayus

M. Brejt

Lakewood lost one of its hidden gems last week when R’ Yossi Basker, a teacher in many yeshivos, most recently in Orchos Chaim and Rabbi Witty’s yeshivah, was niftar on 24 Sivan.

Yossi was a husband, a father, a friend, a teacher, and a neighbor, but those titles don’t do him justice. Without any fancy jobs or labels, Yossi’s whole life was devoted to helping others and performing his roles beyond any expectation. He was malei chessed, the most dedicated son and father, the nicest neighbor, the person everyone turned to whenever they needed something.

The communal obligation

Yossi exemplified “B’makom she’ein anashim, hishtadel lihiyos ish—In a place where there’s no man, be a man.”

Every person who knew him could tell you about his tremendous sense of achrayus. Whatever needed to be done, he did without looking for applause or waiting to be asked.

The scope of activities he was involved in is dizzying.

He ran the Pirchei group in his neighborhood on Shabbos afternoons, shepherding little boys from their home to shul and giving parents a much-needed break. Freezing rain and blinding heat never deterred him.

One parent on the block recalls the time his three-year-old begged to go. “I said, ‘No way, he’s too little, too hard to bring along,’ [but Yossi] insisted on having them come. Making something harder never deterred him.”

He invested time and energy into his program, visiting Bagel Nosh after closing every Friday for years to pick up the leftover donuts.

He also ran the Mishnayos program TMBC in shul for years. When the funding ran out, he took on the responsibility to bring in the money for the incentives himself. He arranged Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzaddik for the shul each year and took care of kimcha d’Pischa. He ran the Avos Ubanim. On Rosh Hashanah, he would blow shofar for anyone who couldn’t come to shul.

Although he officially davened in Rabbi Rosenblatt’s yeshivah, where he served as gabbai, two other shuls claimed him as a member due to his involvement in their programs. He ran the Mishnayos program at Rabbi Danziger’s shul and learned in a morning kollel at Rabbi Schwartz’s.

There was no eiruv on Yossi’s block, although the blocks on either side had one. Most people were aware of this, but there were a few who got confused. One day, Yossi saw a few people walking by on Shabbos, unaware that there was no eiruv, and he decided it was a necessary project. It wasn’t an easy job, requiring both funding and tremendous effort, but Yossi made sure it happened. He laid out the money with the mindset that if he got paid back, great, but if not, this was what needed to happen now.

He did it all so naturally, without fanfare. He plugged in all the holes. No one even realized just how much they relied on him, how much of a gap he would leave.

For the person

He took achrayus on a communal level and on a personal level.

He was available for anyone who needed him. He helped make shidduchim, and people came to him when they were struggling with shalom bayis.

Each person who came to him felt heard, welcomed, and warmed.

“He was an understanding person,” one friend said. “He had this way of being very empathetic, of making people feel understood and not judged, but at the same time, he got things done.”

“People warned me about moving to America, saying that I would never get my kids into schools,” another friend remembers. “Most people just warned me without lifting a finger, but Yossi was 100 percent there for me. He went down to the schools, spoke to principals, put his name on the line, and did everything he could to help me. I was a relative stranger to him, but he treated me like a brother. I once called him when my car was broken, and he came right over and fixed the engine.”

When anyone needed something, they went to Yossi. Yet whenever Yossi turned to anyone else for assistance in one of the chassadim he was involved in, he was understanding and gentle, asking just once so as not to put any pressure on anyone.

Before every Yom Tov, he would send checks to people who needed it. If he didn’t manage to send it before Yom Tov, he would send it afterward. He would lend money to people privately with no return date, telling them he would call when he needed it.

He drew people to him with warmth, care, and insight, helping the tzibbur while never losing sight of the individual.

Connecting to each one

Yossi was a beloved teacher, and countless students can attest to his devotion and care. He had the unique ability to reach many students whom others were unable to reach.

He saw the needs of each student. He would wake up at 6 a.m. each morning to learn with a boy who needed it. In another yeshivah, he would literally pull bachurim out of bed at 10 a.m. and learn with them. He had the ability to connect and explain concepts to his students in a way that they could understand. He was in tune with the fact that his students were teenagers and gave them the patience they required.

Everything he taught was interesting and current. A younger teacher reported that Yossi’s advice to him was to just love and adore the students—his way of connecting with the boys. He genuinely loved each student, and his students felt that love and loved him back. They saw his belief in them, and they returned it.

Proactive Patients

Yossi’s keen understanding of people, ability to connect with doctors, and vast medical knowledge prompted him to seek ways to provide more assistance for patients in complicated medical situations.

He found that patients would hear a diagnosis from one doctor, travel to another doctor, hear the same thing, and give up, when really, there might be other options out there. He felt that if someone really believes that they can find the refuah and make something happen, Hashem put someone in the briah to be the conduit. He saw that there was a need for more avenues to reach out to when dealing with a medical situation.

Slowly, he built up his own organization, Proactive Patients, becoming an expert in medical referrals. Some people who made use of his expertise paid him; many did not. He didn’t just recommend options; he was there every step of the way. He went to the doctors, followed up with patients, and pulled strings. For him, there was no such concept as nine to five. He dealt with life and death emergencies, and people called him at all hours.

One tremendous issue patients from Eretz Yisrael face when they come to America for surgery is dealing with insurance. Since they aren’t American citizens, they don’t qualify for insurance, and the expenses pile up. While on a personal trip to Eretz Yisrael, he devoted time to work out the legalities and consult with gedolim to see if anything could be done. While there, he didn’t sleep at all. During the day, he helped the tzibbur on behalf of the Israelis, and at night, he was on the phone with the Americans.

He gave chizuk to others, believing that every child can reach his potential. He fought to show that no one is limited and gave that message to others.

Building his home

Yossi and his wife Shulamis created a home that was full of simchah. Although they dealt with challenges, they viewed each one with an ayin tovah, keeping the atmosphere at home calm and happy. Yossi was there for his children, attentive to every detail in their upbringing. His kibbud av v’eim was exceptional. In the last few years his parents’ health was failing, and Yossi and his sister took over the responsibility for them. His mother passed away just under a year ago and, responsible to the very end, Yossi finished saying Kaddish for her just days before he was niftar.

Creating a fire

Despite his myriad responsibilities, Yossi was a diligent talmid chacham, squeezing chavrusas into every available crevice.

“He taught me to become more serious,” one chavrusa reports. “He created a fire within me. I had never learned the sugya we did before, and he bought me sefarim and did everything he could to help me.”

He learned late hours and early in the morning and worked to facilitate Torah. One of his chavrusas was an older man, a talmid of Rav Aharon, and Yossi became extremely close with him, picking him up from his house.

“Yossi was an adam hashaleim,” his brother-in-law says. “He excelled in every area. He was there for the klal, he was there for his family, and he was a talmid chacham and a ba’al middos. He built people with every interaction.”

The impact he had on his neighborhood and on Lakewood isn’t something that can be described. The community lost something tremendous with his petirah.

Yehi zichro baruch.



Letter from a Colleague

To the Basker family,

I teach English at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim. It is very difficult to come to grips with the great loss that we all suffered. Nevertheless, I will try to share some thoughts with you.

Rabbi Basker held a special place among the staff at YOC. He was always levelheaded (not easy when teaching English) and in control. Because of this, there was a certain level of respect that everyone had for him, an appreciation for his views and his input. He was always balanced, reasonable, and thought-out. He was able to stay this way while at the same time remaining fully involved in dealing with the issues and problems that came up, an ability that was unique to him. He also had a very clear manner of expression and was able to explain things very well.

He was very easy to talk to about anything, and he was full of chiyus. If someone mentioned that he didn’t understand a certain concept, Rabbi Basker would jump up, grab a marker, and explain the idea on the board in the rebbis’ room (which is generally used for announcements and such).

During the levayah, I was thinking that there wasn’t any middah tovah that one could say that he possessed and it wouldn’t be true. He had shaychus to every fine middah and quality that a Yid should have. As his family, you have much to take pride in.

His middos, his insight, his viewpoints, his willing ear, his knowledge (which he readily shared), and his smile will be sorely missed. May he be a meilitz yosher.

Hamakom yenacheim eschem b’soch she’ar aveilei Tziyon v’Yerushalayim.

P.S. I would like to mention that after hearing the difficult news, I was quite shaken up. This feeling remained until I heard the hesped of his father-in-law at the levayah. His words inspired me greatly and gave me clarity and chizuk.