Herschel Schacter was a prominent Modern Orthodox American rabbi and one of the first rabbis to enter a concentration camp after Allied liberation.
Schacter (born October 10, 1917; died March 21, 2013) was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of 10 children to immigrant parents from Poland. His father, Pinchus, was a seventh-generation shochet (Jewish ritual slaughterer) and his mother, Miriam, worked as a real estate agent.
Schacter was educated at Yeshiva University for both his bachelor’s and rabbinical degrees. He studied under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who helped found the Modern Orthodox movement. After nearly a year serving as a congregational rabbi in Stamford, Connecticut, Rabbi Schacter enlisted in the U.S. Army as a chaplain in 1942.
After the Allies liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Rabbi Schacter distributed matzah, led Shavuot holiday services, as well as Shabbat prayers every Friday night. Rabbi Schacter encountered approximately one thousand orphaned children in the concentration camps following the end of the Holocaust, inclduing a boy who went by the name Lulek who would later change his name to Israel Meir Lau and eventually serve as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993 until 2003.
In 1956, Rabbi Schacter traveled to the former Soviet Union with an American rabbinic delegation to advocate for the rights of Soviet Jews. He also advised President Richard Nixon on related matters.
Rabbi Schacter passed away on March 27, 2013. He is survived by his wife, Pnina, his son Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, his daughter Miriam Schacter, four grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.