Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

While rabbinic ownership stamps are widespread, stamps in books owned by rebbetzins are seldom seem. One such stamp I recently came across is that of a famed, heroic woman whose life took a tragic turn. The stamp is that of the Rachel Citron, the daughter of the Rogatchover Gaon. Interestingly, in an English portion of the stamp, it refers to her as Rev. Mrs. Rachel Citron. Much has been written about Rev. Mrs Citron and her devotion to publishing her father’s writings.

Her husband’s death left her childless and in a complicated halachic position regarding her halitzah, the ritual that releases a childless widow from marriage. One of the deceased’s two brothers was an apostate in Germany; the second was a communist, inaccessible in Soviet Russia. Her father’s ruling, which she abided by, was that she was in effect an agunah, obligated to perform a halitzah but unable technically to do so.

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When the Rogatchover Gaon passed away in 1936, Rachel Citron left the safety of her home in Petach Tikva, Israel, to return to Dvinsk, Latvia, for the purpose of assembling the Rogatchover’s many unpublished manuscripts and make them available to future generations of Talmud students. She worked with Rabbi Yisroel Alter Safern-Fuchs (her father’s devoted student and successor). They published two volumes before the Nazi onslaught prevented further publication in Europe. With utter destruction approaching, they hurriedly photographed onto microfilm thousands of pages of the Rogatchover’s Talmud and Rambam (containing the Rogatchover’s notes and comments on the sides of pages) and his correspondence files. They mailed these weekly in manila envelopes to Rav Alter’s granduncle, R. Zvi Hirsch Safern, in New York from 1940-1941. They begged him to be sure to deliver everything to the rabbinic authorities for publication.

Shortly after the last envelope was mailed, the Nazis deported the Jews from Dvinsk to Breslau, where they were all murdered on June 3, 1942, and lie together in a mass grave. Rebbetzin Rachel Citron was a childless widow, and Rabbi Yisroel Alter Safern-Fuchs was only 30 years old and unmarried at the time they were murdered. They spent the last five years of their lives (1936-1941) working feverishly to publish the invaluable writings of the Rogatchover and his correspondences from rabbis on all continents.

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.