Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Rebbitzen

Esther Jungreis became a rebbitzen when she married Rabbi Meshulum Jungreis in 1955. She became “The Rebbitzen” when she founded Hineni in 1973. Born in Hungary in 1936, Esther and her family survived Bergen Belsen and were rescued on the Kastner Train (link). They came to the United States and settled in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1947.

Jungreis survived the terrible physical destruction of the Jewish people in Europe, and as a young rebbitzen at the North Woodmere Jewish Center, she became concerned about what she would later call the “spiritual Holocaust” of assimilation.

Rebbitzen Jungreis began speaking to Jewish audiences about the significance of Jewish tradition, and her passion and oratory skills began attracting larger and larger audiences. She was also asked to pen a column for The Jewish Press newspaper, which she continued for over 40 years.

Encouraged by the people around her, Rebbitzen Jungreis created the Jewish outreach organization known as Hineni (which means “Here I am”). She launched the organization at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum, speaking to an audience of 10,000. In the 1980s, Rebbitzen Jungreis opened the Hineni Heritage Center in New York City. Through Hineni, Rebbitzen Jungreis made an impact on thousands of lives. Her weekly lecture on the Torah portion were often standing room only, and she was renowned for the singles functions and matchmaking at Hineni that led to hundreds of marriages and many young Jewish families.

In addition to her many speaking engagements, Rebbitzen Jungreis also published four inspirational books and had a regular show on a Jewish public television station. The Rebbitzen passed away from pneumonia in August 2016 at age 80.

This very brief bio of Rebbitzen Jungreis was written in honor of International Women's Day.

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