Upon her return to Cracow, Sara arranged a Shabbos gathering of girls whom she talked to about Pirkei Avos. It wasn’t long before her skeptical audience began to laugh and ridicule her. Sarah quickly recovered and altered her strategy; she’d need to start with younger girls whose souls were untainted and pure. In the meantime she wrote to her brother in Czechoslovakia, a Belzer chassid, who urged her to entreat the Belzer Rebbe for a bracha. The Rebbe’s blessing consisted of two words: “Bracha v’Hatzlacha”– all the impetus Sarah required to forge on and make her dream a reality.
She began with twenty-five children, in whom she infused a love of Yiddishkeit. When they evolved into model Bnos Yisrael, more and more parents began to believe in Sarah and to entrust their daughters to her. Soon she had forty girls, then seventy-five, and before long one hundred.
Her big breakthrough came when Agudath Israel undertook to be the mentor and guide of the Bais Yaakov movement. Within two years of when she first began her small group, other cities in Poland begged her to open a school in their vicinity to “save our girls.” The Rosh Yeshiva in Lublin, Rav Meir Shapiro, visited her school and convinced her to organize a seminary, eventually inaugurated with 120 girls.
When Sara Schenirer encountered resistance from Orthodox leaders who did not support the idea of a “yeshiva” or Torah school for girls, the Agudah wrote to the Chofetz Chaim, who was highly instrumental in helping her realize her lofty ambition.
The impact Sara Schenirer had on a generation of girls was discernible even in the darkness of the Holocaust. Holocaust survivor, author and historian Yosef Friedenson, a”h relates how Bais Yaakov girls stood in stark contrast to other inmates: “I saw how they starved and carried food to Jews who were ill and to lonely talmidei chachamim…They were the only ones who remembered when it was Shabbos and Yom Tov, when others forgot the sequence of days. Several candles were somehow lit every Friday evening in Auschwitz. Young women placed kerchiefs upon their heads and whispered a tefillah. Some no longer had for whom to pray. They no longer had their husbands or parents, and they wept in prayer for their tortured people.”
Sarah Schenirer passed away at the age of fifty-two. Though she was not blessed with children of her own, there were at the time about 35,000 girls attending close to 300 Bais Yaakov schools in Poland alone. Girls once again became proud of their heritage and Jewishness, and tznius had once again become the hallmark of the Jewish daughter. (Sarah had recurrently stressed the theme of personal modesty in behavior and dress.)
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the month of Adar was formed by means of the letter kuf, symbolizing kedusha – which springs forth from righteousness (the tzaddik of the previous month of Shevat).
Please note: The Tzemach Tzedek whose yahrzheit was observed on the second day of Shevat was Rav Menachem Mendel Krochmahl of Nikolsburg, a talmid muvhak of the Bach.
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