Meyer F. Zywica, 85, Orthodox rabbi

March 13, 2006

Rabbi Meyer F. Zywica, who as a rabbinical student escaped wartime Poland, completed his studies in Shanghai, China, and subsequently was a spiritual leader in Connecticut for more than three decades, died of pneumonia March 6 at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. The Baltimore resident was 85.

Rabbi Zywica was born in 1919 in a small town near Bialystok, Poland. He began attending the noted Kletzk Yeshiva, but left the country in 1941 in the middle of his studies. After securing a visa from a Japanese diplomat, Rabbi Zywica took a train and then a boat to Japan. When the Japanese wouldn't let him enter the country, he went on to China.

Living in a small Jewish community in Shanghai, he completed his rabbinical studies at Mir Yeshiva. At the end of the war, Rabbi Zywica learned that his entire family had been killed by the Nazis.

In 1947, he moved to the United States to start life anew. He became a rabbi of a congregation in Colchester, Conn., and then at a Hartford, Conn., synagogue for 34 years. Rabbi Zywica was a Talmudic scholar and dedicated teacher.

"He wanted everybody to embrace the religion and love it as much as he did," said his wife, the former Frances Friedlander. They first met when he visited her father, a Baltimore rabbi, and they married in 1950.

"He was always helping people," she said. "People could call him at 2 a.m., and he would run and go and do and help."

Rabbi Zywica retired in 1984 and moved to Baltimore, where he became an active member of Agudath Israel Congregation.

Services were Tuesday.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Gloria Krieger, and a son, Rabbi Moshe Zywica, both of New York; 12 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Elie Zywica.

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