Mrs. Pearl (Ita Perel) Benisch, A”h

Mrs. Pearl Benisch, a”h, an inspiring and sought-after speaker who authored immensely popular books in her later years and inspired a generation, was niftar at the age of 100.

Pearl Benisch was born in Cracow, Poland. Her parents, Reb Leib and Chaya Fraida Mandelker, were exceptional people who imparted strong Torah values to their children. Pearl’s brothers learned Torah day and night; even in Nazi labor camps, they learned at night after endless hours of backbreaking work.

The Mandelkers lived on the same street as the legendary Frau Sarah Schenirer. Mrs. Benisch would fondly recall how Frau Schenirer, walking with her seminary students on Shabbos afternoon, would say to her little neighbor, warmly, “Git Shabbos, Perela.”

As she grew up, Pearl became a talmidah of Frau Schenirer and they developed a close relationship. Pearl often accompanied her teacher when she went to raise tzedakah funds from members of the community.

During the darkest years of the war, spent in a series of labor camps, then Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, Pearl kept the image and teachings of Frau Schenirer in her heart always. Nine of her fellow talmidos were with her in Auschwitz, as well as their legendary teacher, Rebbetzin Tzila Orlean (later Sorotzkin). Together, they were moser nefesh for kedushas Shabbos and for one another’s well-being; time after time they saved one another’s lives.

After the war, in a German DP camp, Pearl married Reb Hershel Reichman, a survivor from a distinguished family of Planche Chassidim, who came from the city of Radomishla. They traveled to America and began a new life together in Boro Park, where they raised three wonderful children.

Reb Hershel passed away in 1968, shortly after the wedding of the couple’s oldest child. As a young widow, Pearl continued to be a loving mother and grandmother and to run the family business.

Several years later she married Harav Shimon Benisch, a survivor from Lodz who lived in Kfar Ata in Eretz Yisrael. An esteemed talmid chacham and Gerrer Chassid, Reb Shimon taught in Yeshivah Yagdil Torah.

For the first several years of their marriage, the couple divided their time between Boro Park and Bnei Brak. Before their marriage, Reb Shimon had established, in his home city of Kfar Ata, an extraordinary network of after-school learning programs in 22 different locations, geared toward children who attended public school. His wife now joined him as a full partner in the endeavor. Until they were well into their 90s they raised money to support this initiative, called Yeshivat Hamatmidim, and were directly involved in its operation.

At 70, Mrs. Benisch began to write her groundbreaking book, To Vanquish the Dragon, about her wartime experiences. Masterfully written, informative and evocative, the book had a tremendous impact on thousands of readers, and catapulted its author into the public arena. When she was past 80, she published her second masterpiece, Carry Me in Your Heart, about Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov movement, introducing the postwar generations to personalities and events totally unknown to them.

She became a popular speaker, inspiring audiences in many cities and several countries. The message she conveyed to her diverse audiences was the need to believe in their potential to accomplish and in the inherent greatness of a human being created b’tzelem Elokim. This woman, who had witnessed the depths of bestial brutality as well as the heights of human greatness, focused on what was good and noble, living with a magnificent simchas hachaim all her life. She was a brilliant melumedes and lifelong learner, dedicated to giving to others and to bringing nachas ruach to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Mrs. Benisch is survived by, ybl”c, her children, Mrs. Frieda Schwartz, Mrs. Mirel Eisenberg, and Reb Leib Reichman; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who follow the shining path of their holy ancestors.

Yehi zichrah baruch.


A more extensive tribute to Mrs. Benisch will, iy”H, appear in next week’s Hamodia.