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Watching An Extraordinary Rebbetzin Build Lives


It was a test that led the Rebbetzin to create Hineni, the outreach organization she founded and leads. When she was yet a child, after suffering through Auschwitz, her family made its way to America. Her parents settled in a secular Jewish community where the observances, dress and general conduct of the family were objects of derision rather than admiration.

Had the family lived in a chassidic neighborhood they would have blended in and there would have been no test. In their secular neighborhood Esther Jungreis’s parents urged her to bring her classmates home from school to experience Shabbat and Yom Tov. She began right then to explain to the uninitiated the beauty of Judaism, of Torah, the Sabbath, festivals and prayer. That was the beginning her lifelong occupation: building lives.

Her beloved husband, Rabbi Meshulem Ha-Levi Jungreis, z”l, had the most extraordinary relationship with his wife. Their one area of disagreement, she confesses, was his penchant for collecting papers, notes, speeches, articles and all kinds of written memorabilia. After his passing, she went through his papers and discovered among the many gems the following: “A long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.”

Her latest book, like everything else she does in life, demonstrates that she is truly living a long life.

About the Author: Rabbi Haskel Lookstein is spiritual leader of Cong. Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.


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A few years ago at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, we held a Friday night dinner for Beginners, a monthly activity that usually draws about 150 people. On that particular night there were 250 people who packed our Heyman Auditorium. The reason was that Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis joined us for dinner.

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