Photo Credit: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

“I told my mother that if I go to Israel I want to take yarmulkes, so we ordered yarmulkes made of jeans material and my mother sewed the Hineni symbol on them. Now I was ready to go to Israel.”

The Rebbetzin’s first stop in Israel was at the country’s largest air force base.


“I started to speak and after each story I told I had the jazz musician playing. The air force men didn’t know what to make of this, but as I continued speaking, these tough men began to cry. Then I spoke in Jerusalem at Binyanei HaUmah, the convention center. A young man from Hashomer Hatzair [the far-left youth organization] was waiting for me at the end. He said, ‘You have to come to Tel Aviv.’ So I went and spoke at the Cinerama in Tel Aviv. Someone in the audience jumped on the stage and said, ‘You have to come to South Africa.’ And so it mushroomed.”

The message was getting out and Rebbetzin Jungreis was reaching people long disenfranchised. And she indeed traveled to South Africa – to Johannesburg and Capetown and Durban – and to other countries all over the world. Wherever she went, young people approached her with tears in their eyes and told her she’d awakened feelings they never knew they had.


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During these years the Rebbetzin was also raising her family and she is quick to give her mother credit for taking over the house on days she was traveling. Hineni was really a family project with her husband and her parents standing firmly behind her.

(Today her children also lecture in the Hineni Center.)

In the beginning Hineni met in her father’s shul but in the early 1980s the organization acquired a building in Manhattan at 232 West End Ave., where classes are given every week and shidduchim are frequently made.

Rebbetzin Jungreis teaches every Thursday night at 8:30 and everyone is welcome. After her lessons people wait to talk to her and it is from these discussions that many a successful match has been made.

The Rebbetzin’s stories and adventures are too numerous for these pages, so I will relate just one more and readers will have to go to the Hineni Center and ask the Rebbetzin to tell the rest.

A number of years ago the Rebbetzin was traveling back to New York from Portland, Oregon, where she had been invited to speak. On the plane a young man, noticing the very attractive Rebbetzin, asked her if she had fun in Portland. She replied that she had been in Portland to lecture. He asked, a little incredulously, “Lecture about what?” She then asked if he was Jewish. Very defensively he said, “Yeh, what of it?” and sat down.

Just then the stewardess came by with the meals. She gave two kosher trays to the Rebbetzin and her companion and asked the young man if he wanted a ham and cheese sandwich or some other item. He chose the ham and cheese.

The Rebbetzin quickly said, “No, you can’t have that; you are a Jew and that isn’t kosher.” The fellow said he didn’t keep kosher and ham and cheese was his favorite sandwich. She told him he had made a contract.

“With whom?” he asked.

“With G-d at Mount Sinai thousands of years ago,” she responded. “I saw you there.”

The young man looked at the Rebbetzin and said, “Lady, you’re crazy.” As he ate his sandwich he told her how delicious it was.

A few hours later at the baggage claim he went over to her and said, “Lady, you really should get help because you are really crazy.”

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Naomi Klass Mauer is the co-publisher of The Jewish Press.