A few weeks ago, Rav Shmuel Wosner, בעהמ”ח שבט הלוי, passed away, after more than a century בעוה”ז.
Many of the reports, commentaries, and eulogies (הספדים) that followed described him outright, or gave the impression, that he was a Chasidic leader. While it is true that Rav Wosner had close connections with the Chasidic world (as well as with the Litvish world, and other frum groups), the reality is actually somewhat different, and more complex.
For those that are not aware, to set the record straight, wearing a shtreimel does not necessarily a Chasid make (cf Rav Elyashiv zt”l). In reality, Rav Wosner was an Oberlander (Austro-Hungarian empire Ashkenaz) Yid from Vienna, aka א וויענער, who davened נוסח אשכנז. Having nusach Ashkenaz as one’s personal נוסח התפלה, and being Chasidic, do not typically go together. While it is clear that Rav Wosner adopted some Chasidic practices, the fact that he davened nusach Ashkenaz speaks volumes, and indicates that he retained his core Oberlander identity.
A few months ago, רבש”ה שליט”א spoke at a gathering for a new MMA affiliated minyan in ירושלים , and, in the course of his remarks, related some interactions with various gedolim over the years, with regard to Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz related activities, small excerpts of which re R. Wosner follow. He stated that Rav Wosner was most supportive and helpful, relating that when MMA opened its first shul in Bnei Brak, a week before Rosh Hashanah 5752, Rav Wosner said ‘this is a great זכות for the ימים נוראים, not just for you, but for all of כלל ישראל, that you are returning these minhogim to Klal Yisroel’…..Over the years he always encouraged us….After he encouraged us to open a Shul that says פיוטים and מערבות, he then began to say them in his own shul, which is נוסח ספרד, as well. He began to say במה מדליקין in his shul, and he says all the piyutim in the tefillah, even when the tzibur isn’t saying it. In the last year he even stopped the תקיעות in the ‘shtille shmoneh esreh’ (תפלת מוסף בלחש) on ראש השנה…I owe Rav Wosner a lot, because he gave us a lot of support.
May the memory of רב וואזנער זצ”ל be for a blessing, and hopefully there will be, of his many followers, admirers, and descendants, those that continue on in his ways of following the traditions of Oberlander Yiddishkeit, including davening nusach Ashkenaz.
יהי זכרו ברוך
Updates: Hespedim for Rav Wosner with maspidim wearing a טלית גדול, have been held in multiple locations: See e.g. Lucerne, Paris (Strasbourg Rav שליט”א being maspid in tallis), London Satmar.