Far Rockaway, NY - Dynamic Speaker, Dedicated Mother And Passionate Powerhouse: Heartfelt Homage To Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Far Rockaway, NY - It was an outpouring of love for a legendary figure whose life was all about that very same emotion at Agudath Israel of Long Island in Far Rockaway this morning as hundreds came to mourn Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis who died on Tuesday at the age of 80.
Known for her love of Torah, yiddishkeit and her fellow Jew, Rebbetzin Jungreis earned a place in the hearts of many, serving in the role of a mother to some and as a grandmother to others, her diminutive size belying her powerful messages that emphasized the importance of Torah true Judaism.
Considered by many to be a pioneer in the world of Jewish outreach, the seeds for Rebbetzin Jungreis’ work inspiring Jews to live observant lives were sown in her youth. Rebbetzin Jungreis learned by example from her father, Rabbi Avraham Halevi Jungreis, and her mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, and she made it her life’s mission to continue the traditions of her family and to transmit them to future generations.
A survivor of Bergen Belsen, the Hungarian born Rebbetzin worked together with her husband, Rabbi Meshulem Jungreis, to inspire others, taking her first tentative step into the public eye with an advice column in The Jewish Press titled Rebbetzin’s Viewpoint.
50 years later, the column has since become the longest running feature of the newspaper and Rebbetzin Jungreis spoke out often about the Holocaust and religious observance while challenging readers to push themselves beyond their limits on matters of Judaism and in their personal lives.
“Her answers were all about faith in Hashem,” Mrs. Naomi Klass Mauer, publisher of The Jewish Press told VIN News. “She was an exemplar of faith.”
Rebbetzin Jungreis further cemented her place in the public eye with the founding of Hineni, a Jewish outreach program that fought what she termed a “spiritual Holocaust” threatening the future of the Jewish nation with an unshakeable belief in the spark of Judaism that lay within every Jewish soul.
The Rebbetzin went to war against assimilation and religious indifference armed with the beauty of Torah lifestyle, warm words and a heart that spilled over with kindness. Her passion was evident in her speeches, writings and personal appearances and everywhere she went she attracted followers, many of whom were inspired to return to their religious roots.
“When she went to army bases she spoke right from the heart and she would have grown men, soldiers, crying,” said Mrs. Mauer. “She touched the core that exists in every Jewish neshama. As Rebbetzin Kanievsky said to her when she was alive, ‘I am the rebbetzin of Bnei Brak but you are the rebbetzin of the world.’”
The overflow crowd that flocked to Far Rockaway to pay their respects to Rebbetzin Jungreis reflected her universal appeal that transcended the boundaries that often divide the Jewish community. People from all across the religious spectrum, from every background and in every form of dress came to bid a final farewell to a woman who showered them all with love, kindness and respect no matter what their religious leanings.
Throngs of grieving followers packed the shul, with an overflow crowd outside listening outside on loudspeakers during the two hour long funeral. Among those who eulogized Rebbetzin Jungreis were her sons and sons and sons in law, Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis, Rabbi Osher Jungreis, Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin and Mendy Wolff as well as several grandsons.
Rabbi Osher Jungreis lamented that the entire Jewish nation lost a mother with the passing of Rebbetzin Jungreis, likening her to Queen Esther of biblical times.
“When a queen walks into a room she needs a crown so everyone should know she is a queen,” said Rabbi Jungreis. “My mother needed no crown. When she walked into a room everyone knew: there is royalty, there is a regal person.”
Short in stature, Rebbetzin Jungreis was larger than life in many ways, noted Rabbi Jungreis.
“When it came to the rebbetzin, you just had to say “The Rebbetzin,” remarked Rabbi Jungreis. “There was only one rebbetzin. You say “The Rebbetzin” and everyone knows who you are referring to.”
Rabbi Gertzulin described his mother in law as the inventor of Jewish outreach whose innate warmth was her most effective tool.
“Her loving kindness, that was her secret to success, that is how she was able to reach people,” said Rabbi Gertzulin.
In addition to being recognized for her groundbreaking efforts in kiruv, Rebbetzin Jungreis was remembered tearfully for her devotion as a mother and a grandmother.
Family members described a kitchen that was practically wallpapered with pictures of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and several mentioned that Rebbetzin Jungreis would be among the first at the hospital for the birth of each new baby, showering the parents with mazel tov wishes and greeting the new arrival with a heartfelt bracha.
In an interview with VIN News, cousin Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, noted that despite her hectic schedule, family was always a priority for Rebbetzin Jungreis.
“It was one of her maylos,” said Rabbi Jungreis. “Somehow she had time for everything. I called her many times during the day, in the middle of the night and she always responded to my calls. She always had enough time to talk and never rushed or told me she had to hang up.”
Rabbi Jungreis noted that the Rebbetzin rarely missed a family simcha and at every one, there were always people who lined up to ask her for brachos.
The outpouring of love for the Rebbetzin on social media echoed the somber faces of the many people who attended today’s funeral.
“The Rebbetzin is the spiritual mother, counselor, role model, inspiration of a multitude of Jews,” wrote Avi Dobuler on Facebook. “With no disrespect to one’s biological parents…I am sure that many feel orphaned and join with the greater Jungreis family in mourning.”
Rebbetzin Jungreis was buried at the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, Queens NY.
She is survived by her brothers, Rabbi Yaakov Jungreis and Rabbi Binyomin Jungreis, her children Chaya Sora Gertzulin, Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis, Slovi Wolff and Rabbi Osher Jungreis as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren and an innumerable number of followers.
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