Editor’s note: Rebbetzin Jungreis’s column has graced our paper for over 50 years. Filled with sagacity and empathy, it has always been one of The Jewish Press’s most popular features. Alas, the Rebbetzin is no longer with us, and no matter how great a person is – and Rebbetzin Jungreis was surely a spiritual giant – a newspaper cannot run a regular column with previously-published articles from someone who is no longer in Olam Hazeh.
We hope to soon introduce a new rebbetzin to The Jewish Press readership. In the meantime, we asked Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Jungreis Gertzulin – Rebbetzin Jungresis’s oldest daughter – to write something in honor of her mother.
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“Rebbetzin Jungreis? Rebbetzin Jungreis from The Jewish Press? From Hineni? The Rebbetzin is your mother? Wow! How fortunate you are. I read her article every week.”
Yes! I am truly very fortunate that Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis – Rabbanit Esther bas Harav Avrahom Halevi, a”h – is my mother. How many times have people expressed to me how blessed I am that I can have the Rebbetzin’s advice all the time. Somehow, I believed that the Rebbetzin – my Ima – would always be here to share her wisdom and understanding.
As her daughter, I am sharing with you, dear readers of The Jewish Press, a personal story. A story where the Rebbetzin’s insight and sensitivity was my anchor. May her memory be a blessing for all of us.
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It was 12 years ago, yet the memory is still fresh in my mind. It was Erev Shabbos, Friday afternoon, and my daughter was in the hospital anticipating delivery of her second child. I was saying Tehillim and waiting eagerly to hear “what’s doing.”
The phone rings. I run to pick it up, eager to hear the good news. It was my son-in-law, all excited. “Mazel tov! Mazel tov! It’s a girl.”
My youngest daughter was standing beside me, and together we started dancing and singing, “Mazel tov – It’s a girl…” I called my husband and my mother to share the good news.
Then the phone rang again. It was my son-in-law. But this time his voice had a much more serious tone. “Ma… There is a problem with the baby… I think you should come over now. Maybe you should pack something for Shabbos and stay with us. The doctors say it’s Downs Syndrome. They’ll do further testing to be sure.”
This was news we weren’t prepared to hear. Quickly, I packed up. There was a very uneasy feeling inside me.
It was a long Shabbos, and some tears were shed as we tried to give each other strength and encouragement. Yes, it was Downs Syndrome. I guess the doctors just wanted to ease the news upon us.
I remember my daughter saying, “It could happen to anyone, so why couldn’t it happen to me.” I admired her courage in saying that. My son-in-law was a pillar of strength.
That Shabbos morning, he went to shul as on any other Shabbos. Just this time, he gave a name to his new baby daughter… Aliza. Aliza – meaning joy, happiness. I felt that Hashem gave my daughter and son-in-law the gift of prophecy in choosing the name Aliza. They couldn’t have known it then, but Aliza would grow up to be a happy child, who is a source of joy to the family.
It wasn’t until Sunday that I called my mother to tell her. She sensed the anxiety and pain in my voice. It was my mother, a”h, who gave me the chizuk and strength to confront the challenge. My mother, with her wisdom and understanding told me a parable.
“Chaya Sarale,” she began. “Imagine you were expecting a guest. You cooked, you baked, you cleaned, and you prepared the house for your guest. Finally, the day arrives. Your long-awaited guest has come. There is a knock on the door. You run to open it, and upon seeing your guest you say, ‘But I was expecting someone else.’
“‘Please, please, let me in,’ your guest pleads. I traveled nine long months to get here.’”
My mother continued, “Your guest is waiting for you to say: Baruch Haba’ah. Welcome! Please come in! Welcome your guest and you will see that everything will work out.”
Aliza is our most special guest. Yes, it is a challenge, but with every challenge there are rewards.
So to Aliza, on the occasion of your bat mitzvah, I want to thank you. You made me a better person. You taught me to have greater kindness and compassion, patience and understanding. You taught me what true unconditional love is. You are a special neshama that will never utter a bad word, a neshama tehorah – a pure soul – who only knows how to love. With that love, you have brought our family closer together. Aliza, you gave added meaning to my life. Aliza, I thank you for all that you have done for me.
I remember how one year before Chanukah, I asked all the grandchildren what they would like for gifts. Everyone had their ideas. Dolls and doll carriages, jewelry and Lego sets. I had a list that I looked forward to filling. And then I asked Aliza, “What would you like for Chanukah?” Without hesitation, she answered: “big hug!”
That’s my Aliza. A pure soul who exudes joy, who radiates happiness and who gives over endless love.