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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘rebbetzin’

Missing My Mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Friday, September 9th, 2016

 These are most difficult words for me to write. Today I got up from sitting shiva for my beloved mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. For seven days I opened my mother’s front door, waiting for her beautiful smile to greet me. I walked into my mother’s kitchen where photos of all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren plastered the walls. I looked for her but her chair was empty. The pain is raw. Where is my beautiful Ema?

To the world she was The Rebbetzin. The Jewish soul on fire. Powerhouse, visionary, survivor of Bergen-Belsen, founder of Hineni, charismatic speaker who packed Madison Square Garden, trailblazer in the world of outreach, and a woman who fearlessly traveled the globe igniting the spark she believed lay dormant within every Jew.

While sitting shiva we met people who came from far to share their stories of connection. Some spoke of her blessings that brought children and healing; others of her Torah teachings that helped bring peace to their divided families. Couples who met through her matchmaking shared pictures of sons and daughters who bring joy to our people. Men and women recounted incredible tales of being inspired to discover Judaism and leave assimilation behind.

My tears joined with those who came to offer consolation. They tried hard to express their words but many simply could not speak. The grief was overwhelming. Over and over, I heard, “We lost our Bubby.” “We lost our Torah Ema.”

A great light has been extinguished. Our world has dimmed.

To me and my siblings the Rebbetzin was our Ema. She was my mother who was always there for me, loved me, guided me, and gave me life. After each baby I would return home where my mother rocked my newborns to sleep singing the Shema.

To our children and grandchildren, she was “Bubba.” Whenever we would visit, Bubba would insist on walking us to the door. We kissed Bubba and said goodbye. My mother placed her hands on our heads and gave us her blessing. She would always shed tears. Once outside she would call us back. “One more blessing,” she would say. “As long as I am alive, always come back for one more blessing.”

Down the driveway we would turn. Bubba was still standing there. Her lips were moving. She was whispering her blessings. She’d wave and we would wave back. A few more steps before her figure was just a dot. But we knew she had not budged. She was still watching us, not letting us out of her sight, constant prayer on her lips.

When my mother was a small child, before deportations to the concentration camps had begun, young Hungarian Jewish men were drafted for slave labor. Szeged, my mother’s hometown, was their stopover. Zaida, my grandfather, was the rabbi of the city so my grandparents’ home became their refuge. Soon after, they were shipped away.

These young men were forced to wear yellow armbands identifying them as hated Jews. But at my grandparents’ table they were transformed. They studied the holy books and were enveloped with love. Yellow badges of shame became badges of honor. When the hour would come for them to take leave, Zaida would place his hands on each young man’s head. He would cry and give his blessing. Then he would accompany them to the door and whisper blessings until they were out of sight.

Out of the ashes, my mother brought Zaida’s blessings home to us, the next generation.

My mother’s Book of Psalms is worn, the pages frayed, saturated with her tears. How many times we would call her with our burdens, asking my mother to shake the heavens above with her prayers. Each time a grandchild went into labor, it was Bubba whose number we dialed. “Ema, please daven,” we would ask, no matter the hour.

Who will pray for us now? Who will bless us? Who will see the hidden miracle that lies within each of us?

When my mother looked at you she saw beyond your body. She saw your soul, the pintele Yid. Though I was just a little girl I will forever remember sitting in Madison Square Garden with thousands of Jews from every walk of life. My mother passionately proclaimed, “within every Jew there lies is a spark, a flicker of a light, a tiny flame. And if you wish it that tiny flame can become a great fire from which the words ‘Hineni, here am I, my God,’ shall emerge. My children, shuvu banim, come home.”

My mother brought the Jewish nation home with her love and unwavering belief in God. The flames of the Holocaust that consumed our great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and infant cousins only strengthened her conviction.

As our children grew, all the cousins would sleep over my parents’ home for Shabbos. Friday night after the meal they would run down the stairs and quickly get into their pajamas. “Bubba, tell us a story from when you were a little girl.” My mother would share how she had stood in the freezing cold of Bergen-Belsen feeling frightened, eyes glued to the ground. She put her hand in her pocket and felt a crumpled piece of paper. Somehow her father had placed the words of the Shema in her pocket.

“It was only a piece of paper but it told me that I was not alone, that my God lived. Slowly, I lifted my eyes.”

My mother connected us to our roots. She made us understand that if we don’t know where we’ve come from, we cannot possibly know where we are going. She taught us how to live with hope. She created a legacy of emunah, pure faith. She embedded within me the understanding that no matter the darkness, we are a nation of miracles. God is watching over us. Never stop believing. Never be afraid. No matter how you have fallen there is no barrier between us and God.

Ema, my heart is full. I miss hearing your voice. Your seat at my Shabbos table is waiting for you. We ache for your blessings.

Thank you, Ema, for your footsteps. We will try to kindle your light and continue your mission.

And please, Ema, pray for us in the heavens above. Because we are all your children.

Slovie Jungreis Wolff

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

The Jewish Press joins with Klal Yisrael in mourning the passing of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h, who launched what became a singular worldwide outreach phenomenon rooted in the emotional desolation and despair of post-World War II Jewry.

An intuitive master of human psychology and emotion, she sought and was destined to reach and nurture the Divine Spark of the Covenant that has resided in every Jew since Sinai but that the Holocaust threatened to overtake and overwhelm. And although her message was deeply rooted in Jewish faith – that all of the horror and pain was part of God’s Plan – she was able to minister to the most cynical and vulnerable among us on their own terms.

Her soaring insight, creativity, and erudition drew untold numbers to her message. She provided the perfect accompaniment to the miraculous renaissance of authentic Judaism in our day wrought by the revolution in Torah study, and she worked heroically as its champion.

Rebbetzin Jungreis was perhaps most closely identified with Hineni, the organization she created in 1973 to provide form and structure to her outreach work. In an April 2015 interview with Jewish Press publisher Naomi Klass Mauer, she described how the Hineni project proceeded. She spoke of the encouragement she received from her father, who had been a renowned rebbe in prewar Hungary, and other prominent rabbinic personalities. She spoke of seemingly haphazard and episodic inspirations and disparate events at different colleges and organizations and anxiety-filled encounters with potential financial donors along the way. But for all the appearance of serendipity, the guiding hand of the Divine was manifest.

Rebbetzin Jungreis wrote a weekly column for The Jewish Press for more than 50 years – she started it a decade before she founded Hineni and became internationally known – and from the beginning it was one of the paper’s most popular features. We are proud to have been able to help deliver her vital message.

Her August 19 Jewish Press column exemplified much of what drove her:


It is not Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic State that I fear. Nor do I fear the United Nations, an institution notorious for its hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias. I do not fear the sophisticated intellectuals who camouflage their hatred of Jews behind politically correct pseudonyms that mislead all too willing ears.

What I do fear is our own people – yes, our own people who have forgotten who

we are, who no longer remember that we Jews stood at Sinai, that we heard the voice of God, that we belong to a priestly kingdom, a holy nation, and that everything that befalls us is choreographed by Hashem and is a reflection of our own deeds, our own hands.

Editorial Board

To Honor The Rebbetzin

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Rav Yosef Ber Soloveichik, the giant of Torah from the yeshiva of Volozhin, was accepted as rav in the city of Slutzk. That city well understood the importance of Torah and the great honor bestowed upon it when it was able to attract a rav of Rav Yosef Ber stature.

Thus, on the appointed day of his arrival, a large crowd gathered to wait for the horse and carriage. When, in the distance, they saw them approaching, a great shout went up and the people rushed forward. Unhitching the horses they, themselves, pulled the wagon with the rav and his rebbetzin inside.

The people realized that the rav was very weary from the long journey and did not ask him to deliver a Torah discourse. One of the men, however, who was bold, approached the rav and asked:

“Rebbe, it has been a privilege for us to give you so much honor and we are overjoyed to have done it. But there is one thing I would like to ask you.

“You are deserving of all the honor that we give you because you have struggled long and hard to acquire Torah. You give of your days and your nights to learn and we must honor you because of it.

“But why, I ask, must we also honor your rebbetzin? After all, while I am sure she is a fine woman, she is no greater than other women. Why do we have to honor her also?”

The rav smiled and replied: “It is my obligation to answer any questions that concern me but as far as any questions that concern the rebbetzin, that is up to her to answer.”


The Reply

“Very well,” said the rebbetzin, without hesitation. “I have always wondered why a rav deserves honor from his congregants. If, as has been said, it is because he has learned Torah, he will get a reward for that in the World To Come, in Paradise! This is not the place for him to be rewarded.

“The answer however, is that we honor him because of the other aspect of his role. No human being is perfect and each of us makes mistakes. We sin and we err and we always need someone to criticize and guide us. This is why we hire a rav. He sees our imperfections and guides us along the proper way.

“But the question arises: The rav is also only human. Who is to guide him and correct him when he makes a mistake?

“The answer is the rebbetizin. She sees his faults and tells him what is wrong. Because of this you honor her.”


An Interesting Custom

In those days it was the custom on every Yom Tov for the congregants to accompany the rav from the shul to his home.

One Shavuos, the people of Slutzk walked their beloved rav home and ate with gusto the foods that the rebbetzin had cooked. When they had finished they waited for the customary divrei Torah.

Rav Yosef Ber however, realized that the people were more interested in getting home and eating than in listening to Torah and he said: “Now is not the time for Torah discourses. I will just explain to you the reason for the custom of walking the rav home after davening on Yomim Tovim.

“As we all know, a yom tov should be divided into two parts – half for Hashem and half for ourselves. Thus, the first part of the day we devote to Hashem by going to shul and davening with a great deal of kavanah.

“Then we go home and spend the next part of the day for ourselves by making kiddush and eating delicious foods.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Video of the Day

Outreach Pioneer And Longtime Jewish Press Columnist Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis Passes Away

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

For the statement by the Rebbetzin’s family, please click here.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, pioneer in Jewish outreach, founder of the international Hineni organization, and Jewish Press columnist for more than fifty years, passed away Tuesday at the age of 80.

Rebbetzin Jungreis was born in Szeged, Hungary, in 1936, where her father, HaRav Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, was chief rabbi.

In 1947, after going through the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust, the Jungreis family arrived in Brooklyn, where the Rebbetzin married a distant cousin, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis. The couple settled in North Woodmere, New York, where Rabbi Jungreis was the spiritual leader of Ohr HaTorah.

The Rebbetzin and her husband embarked on a lifelong mission devoted to combating the ravages of secularization and assimilation in the United States.

It was in the early 1960s that Jewish Press publisher Rabbi Sholom Klass and his wife, Irene, met the Jungreises at the old Pioneer Country Club in upstate New York. Impressed by the Rebbetzin’s dynamic style and passion for helping others, the Klasses suggested she write a weekly column for the paper.

The column, Rebbetzin’s Viewpoint, soon debuted and became the longest running column in the history of The Jewish Press. Letters come to the Rebbetzin from readers all over the world who hoped to see their questions answered in the paper.

“I wanted the word ‘rebbetzin’ to be part of the column’s title,” Rebbetzin Jungreis said, “because I wanted young women to realize what a noble position it is to be a rabbi’s wife.”

In an interview last year with Naomi Klass Mauer, Rabbi Klass’s daughter and the current publisher of The Jewish Press, the Rebbetzin described her connection to the paper as a deeply personal one:

“Despite many offers from other periodicals,” she said, ‘I have only to picture your holy father and your very special mother, whom I loved, to know why I continue to write for The Jewish Press.”

Rebbetzin Jungreis’s interest in outreach – kiruv – went back to her girlhood years.

“The idea of bringing people back to Yiddishkeit was inside me from my childhood,” she told Mrs. Mauer. “It really started back when my father would encourage me to bring in the neighborhood children. But the older I got the more I realized how great the mission really was. I was asked to speak at a Young Israel collegiate convention. I looked out at the audience and told myself, ‘If I were to have an organization, I would speak to reach people, to wake people up. I would even speak in Madison Square Garden to students and young people. I would call it Rock and Soul, to wake up their souls.’

“From there the idea grew. My father was always encouraging me to reach out and before I officially started Hineni I asked him to take me to all the rabbanim for a berachah. He took me to chassidic rebbes and yeshivish rabbis, to Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, among others, and all gave me their blessings.”

Shortly after Hineni was launched in 1973, the Rebbetzin’s vision of speaking at Madison Square Garden became a reality, and Hineni became a worldwide movement, leading an uncountable number of Jews to Jewish observance.

Traveling the world to spread the message of Torah, the Rebbetzin somehow found the time to author several best-selling books including The Jewish Soul on Fire, The Committed Life, The Committed Marriage and Life Is a Test.

She was recognized by numerous world leaders for her work. She shared a mutual admiration with President George W. Bush – not only was she asked to deliver a benediction at the 2004 Republican National convention, President Bush also appointed her to serve on the honorary delegation that accompanied him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel in May 2008.

The Rebbetzin was not one to let advancing age prevent her from pursuing her outreach work, even a broken hip and a torn meniscus. Through her later years she lived life at a pace that would have exhausted someone half her age.

Asked about her vitality, she credited – what else? – Jewish Scripture.

“I take my inspiration from Tehillim,” she told Naomi Klass Mauer. “The psalm for the Sabbath day – Psalm 92, verses15-16: ‘They are vibrant and fresh even in ripe old age and proclaim how our Lord is right, His word inerrant.’ ”


Rebbetzin Jungreis is survived by her children Chaya Sora Gertzulin, Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis, Slovi Wolff, and Rabbi Osher Jungreis, and by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. (The Rebbetzin’s husband passed away in 1996.)

The levayah took place Wednesday morning at the Agudath Israel of Long Island in Far Rockaway.

Jason Maoz

Prayers for Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

The family of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis has asked everyone to say Tehillim and pray for a Refuah Shelaima for Esther Bat Miriam, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Rebbetzin Yemima’s Remedy For Unblocked Blessing

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

When I attend a shiur by Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi, I am inspired to repeat her divrei Torah to anyone who will listen. Recently, she spoke beautifully on the topic of honoring parents. She said that Hashem wishes to bestow blessings, but in order for them to flow, we must be at peace with our parents. If there is friction with parents, then the blessings are blocked. Make peace, avoid dissent. Simple? No. Worth it? Yes! When I came home, I received a heart-rending message from a dear friend of mine who is involved in a year-long, ugly, custody battle. She was anxiety ridden about a pending decision that would determine the parameters of visitation. Could I call her when I returned home?

To add to her distress, this close friend has a lifetime history of complications in her relationship with her mother, her only living parent. Thus, she struggles without the benefit of family support.

It seemed too much of a coincidence that this particular friend called me on a night that I had learned something new about the power of honoring parents. She needed blessing in her life and had gone to great lengths in seeking ways to increase her personal merits. Since I love her, I did not wish to increase her suffering by bringing up the sore topic of her mother/daughter relationship. So, I offered up a silent prayer request to Hashem and asked that if I tell her that I went to the shiur, and she specifically asks what it was about, I will relay the message of kibbud horim being the remedy to unblock blessing.

I told her that I had just walked in the door from a Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi shiur. She asked, “What was the class about?” (Ding!) I relayed the shiur in detail and respectfully added that maybe it was time for her to reach out to her mother.

Her next words were so agonizing. She told me that as far as her mother is concerned she is an invisible daughter, and doesn’t even rank on her scale of interest. Her mother invents grudges against her and holds onto them. At the last simcha that they were invited to, they were seated at the same table and her mother ignored her the entire evening!

Sadly, all of those things were absolutely true, as I had witnessed them myself.

I had a flash of inspiration. I told her that I will call her mother and prepare her for the phone call. My friend was skeptical and also annoyed at my persistence. So I challenged her. I said, “If something good comes from all of this and suddenly you see a yeshua, it will have been worth it. If nothing comes of it, we can both go to Rabbanit Yemima and give her a piece of our minds!” She thought this was kind of funny, and we hung up on good terms.

Then, I called her mother. Her mother knows me for years and had always made me feel welcomed, despite the fact that I was privy to her rocky relationship with her daughter.

I explained that I called because I thought that she should know what is happening in her daughter’s life and to be aware of her sorrow. I told her how devastating it was for her daughter to petition and battle for the time that she spends with her own children.

To my utter surprise, her mother was extremely receptive. At the conclusion of our hour-long conversation, she told me that she instinctively felt that if they were to make up with each other, it would bring blessing into both of their lives!

Tzippy Erblich

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/rebbetzin-yemimas-remedy-for-unblocked-blessing/2016/07/07/

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