I was about 11 years old and crying on the front steps of the Bluzhever Rebbe’s house. It was the late 40s, and the Rebbe had recently arrived. He miraculously survived the Nazi inferno, but lost his wife and children.
On the first Friday night after his arrival, he led a tish in our house – and when he established his shul we davened there. My grandfather was a Bluzhever chassid in Poland, and came to take my father, z”l, to the Rebbe and to his father.
That’s how I came to sit and cry on his front steps on Taylor Street in Williamsburg. The rebbetzin saw me and asked, “Vos iz mein kind – what is your problem?” Being shy and full of awe, I finally blurted out my request. (The rebbetzin always told this story to the ladies whenever I came to the shul years later. She said I was instrumental in the first din Torah the Rebbe presided over in America.)
We were refugees from Germany. Public school, where we participated in the songs and celebrations of the American holidays, was free for us. For limudei kodesh, the shomer Shabbos girls went to afternoon classes in Rabbi Newhouse’s Bais Yaakov building on Division Avenue in Williamsburg.
On Shabbos I went to Bnos Agudas Yisroel. Our leader encouraged us to go to the all-day Bais Yaakov parochial school. I told my leader that my father didn’t see the need for it since after public school finished for the day, I was attending Bais Yaakov in the afternoon. She told me to come to her house to speak to her brother, an active member of Zeirei Agudas Yisroel. Upon hearing that my family and I were Bluzhever chassidim who davened in his shul, he told me to express my wishes to the Rebbe.
That’s how I came to the Rebbe’s front steps on Taylor Street. The rebbetzin called me in and told the Rebbe that his chassid’s daughter had the major request of wanting to attend Bais Yaakov all day.
And so it came to pass. The Rebbe must have spoken to my father, who hired a private tutor for me over the summer. This enabled me to be ready for the seventh grade.
I thank Hashem for all of this, and I’m truly grateful to Rabbi Newhouse, z”l, for accepting me into Bais Yaakov. I cherish all those years in Bais Yaakov’s elementary school, high school and seminary. The zechus for me to have had Rebbetzins Kaplan, Bender, Wachtfogel and others as my teachers is tremendous. The hashgachah was evident in all ways.