Small, but powerful…Rebbetzin Jungreis brought the light of Judaism to thousands, including myself. By Laura Labovitz.
I turned on a recorded shiur (lecture) by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h while cooking for Shabbos this week. Just as every time I listen to her words, I was again brought to tears, with a new understanding and love for Torah.
I remember the first time I was introduced to the wisdom this wonderful woman, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, had to share. I was 12 years old and had just celebrated my bat mitzvah. My parents, who themselves had been oppressed in the anti-semitic Soviet Union, did not have the opportunity to learn Torah until they came to this country. Once we were here, they made sure their daughters learned properly before celebrating their bat mitzvahs. I was starting from the beginning. And though my teacher was a tremendously inspiring frum woman, I simply learned nothing more than aleph-bet and some basic brachot (blessings) at that time.
But I was thirsty, and my teacher sensed that. She gifted me with Rebbetzin Jungreis’s book, “The Committed Life” with a note saying “I know you are probably too young to be interested in this now, but maybe you’ll find it inspiring later in life.”
If anyone knew me at that age, they’d remember how I HATED being told that I was too young or immature for anything. So I read the book. And read it again. And again. I read it as I walked to the school bus. I read it on the school bus. I read it at school. I read it over and over, no matter where I was because it warmed my little 12-year-old neshama (soul) to take in the Rebbetzin’s words.
Among other things and other wonderful influences, I see that book as a massive stepping stone that helped me form my life into what it is now. And for that, I am eternally thankful.
“Five feet tall, but full of ambition. And what propelled her was her love of every Jew— never giving up on anyone,”
said her son, Rabbi Osher Anshil Jungreis, at his mother’s funeral.
He’s right. This tiny woman lived a large, seemingly impossible life. She was an eight-year-old survivor of the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. While most other children were gassed and burned, she was spared.
She did not waste the gift of life she was granted. She poured her life into Jewish outreach and wanted every single Jew to experience and live an authentic Jewish life. She launched Hineni, an international organization that awoke countless oppressed souls to the beauty of Torah Judaism. She inspired by loving with all her heart. She left us a legacy of teachings and an endless slew of brachot that we should strive to love Torah and Jews deeply and merit to see the peaceful coming of Moshiach in our time.
Few, if any of us, can say we have personally changed the lives of thousands across the globe. Few can say we have given new meaning and hope to generations.
The Rebbetzin’s legacy is as simple and powerful as her catchphrase, “words spoken from the heart will enter the heart.”
Editor’s Note: A wonderful biography about The Rebbetzin by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer has been published by Artscroll. Learn more about this amazing woman’s legacy and how she touched the lives of so many people in her unique style. Available at Artscroll or on Amazon.