July 21, 2019

Chabad of Century City Rabbi Tzemach Cunin, 43

Asked what it was like to grow up with Rabbi Tzemach Yehoshua Cunin, who died suddenly on July 5, his brother Rabbi Chaim Cunin told the Journal, “He was the youngest of our brothers but he was the biggest younger brother I could ever have. He was a complete angel in physical form.”

Tzemach, 43, the founder and co-director of Chabad of Century City, was an easily recognizable figure in the neighborhood, where he could be seen walking and “spreading the light of Torah mitzvot,” his brother said. It was a role that came naturally to Tzemach. His father, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, and his mother, Miriam, were among the first to bring Chabad to the West Coast, and his brothers also joined the Rabbinate. 

Tzemach was a man of grand vision, able to handle large projects for the Chabad Center, which he established in 1999, and he built Beis Chaya Mushka, a Chabad-Lubavitch school for girls in Los Angeles.

 He was equally adept at dealing with his congregation’s members on a one-to-one basis. Chaim said the family has been overwhelmed by the stories that were told during shivah for Tzemach. 

Tzemach recently discovered that a family had fallen behind on its day school tuition and personally paid the $4,000 owed. Asked how he could afford to do this, Tzemach said, “We’ll figure all that out later. This child needs to be back at a Jewish school.”

The day before he died, Tzemach was scheduled to appear at an event marking the 25th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He called his brother to tell him he wasn’t feeling well and might be late. Even so, Chaim said Tzemach spent the next few hours texting and making phone calls, reminding others to attend. 

But no matter how busy he was, Tzemach’s family always came first. If one of his children needed him, he was there. “No matter how small the event,” Chaim said, “it was the most important thing in the world to him.”

Tzemach is survived by his parents; his wife, Ada; his five children, Mendel, 17, Goldie, 16, Levi, 13, Chaya Mushka, 6, and Chana Bluma, 5; four brothers and seven sisters. A fund has been established to help the family.