August 26, 2021
He was a clean shaven, American born, public school educated, successful businessman. And he was also the architect of American Orthodoxy and a leading rescue activist during the dark years of the Holocaust. Mike Tress (1909-1967) grew up as an orphan in Williamsburg. Joining the nascent Zeirei Agudas Yisroel organization, he soon emerged as its leader, giving it a sense of mission and purpose. Spearheading shabbos campaigns, activating Pirchei and Bnos chapters, and founding Camp Agudah in the midst of a world war and rescue work, are just some of the projects which he initiated to promote Orthodoxy in the United States. His encounter with Rav Elchonon Wasserman during the latter's trip to the country in 1938 defined his life mission, and reverence for Torah leaders became part of his essence which he then imparted to his young charges.
Perhaps the most fateful chapter of his storied career was his endless attempts at rescue work in the years preceding, during and following the war. Obtaining visas for refugees, raising funds for rescue and complete devotion to rebuilding both physically and spiritually following liberation, while personally commiserating with every individual and feeling their pain. Having sold his business and used all of his assets for communal work, he was truly an individual who lived his life to help others.
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